GAA Football

Sylvester Maguire: Donegal can go all the way but it's Dublin's to lose

Cillian O'Sullivan of Meath, is put under pressure by Donegal's Neil McGee, Jason McGee, Michael Murphy and Odhran Mc Fadden Ferry. Picture by Michael O Donnell.
Gerry McLaughlin

Donegal's All-Ireland 1992 winner Sylvester Maguire is upbeat ahead of his county's big date with “favourites” Kerry in Croke Park on Sunday.

The loss of star defender Eoghan Ban Gallagher through injury in training this week will have dampened spirits in Donegal but Maguire is optimistic for victory.

“Donegal can beat anybody and that includes Dublin on any given day,'' declares Maguire.

“On a given day they could win this year's All-Ireland, but of you were a betting man you would say no and it is still Dublin's to lose.

“On their day Donegal can beat anyone even as they are, but they are not the finished article.

“You would definitely be looking at an All-Ireland in the next two years, but the key is for Murphy to maintain his fitness until these younger lads fully mature.''

Maguire has never held back when it comes to taking a stand and is wary of the challenge of the Kingdom, but firmly believes that Tir Conaill will prevail, but they need to play for 70 minutes plus: “Donegal can beat Kerry, but they must curb David Moran in the middle of the field, and they must contain a potentially lethal Kerry forward line.

“If they can do that Donegal has the forward power to be victorious.

“David Moran was not contested against Mayo and Aidan O'Shea spent a lot of times with his hands on his hips.

“But Kerry had a bee in their bonnet and needed to set down a marker against Mayo - a team that are carrying a lot of injuries and Mayo looked flat.”

Donegal struggled when Meath ran through the middle at their defence, a thing that Kerry will surely exploit - and the loss through injury of Eoghan Ban Gallagher will not help either.

“There is not a team in the country that is not in bother if someone runs at them,'' stated Maguire.

“People say a full-back line does not like a ball but show me a back line that does like one.

“A lot of it is superficial and happens after the event.

“My concern is that Meath were getting in through the middle of our defence.

“Donegal are committing a lot of men forward and are covering both wings, but all it takes is one side step and Tir Conaill are wide open down the middle.

“They need to look at that as the damage is done for goals down the middle and not so much from the wings.

“You have options down the middle.

“Donegal had bodies back against Meath but seemed to be more concerned with blocking the wings instead of the middle, but two good sessions could put that right.”

The loss of Eoghan Ban Gallagher this week is a major blow but on the positive side, Maguire said that Michael Murphy showed real leadership and was there “every time Donegal needed him. He flicked on three great balls and Ryan McHugh's timing of his runs was brilliant.

“Jamie Brennan was quiet and still hit three points while Oisin Gallen showed great composure in taking that final goal and he has the sniper's eye.”

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