GAA Football

Donegal v Kerry: all the big game analysis

Ryan McHugh's bursts from deep were key for Donegal yesterday. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

TACTICAL TAKE

Donegal

WITH the lack of a Kerry press for much of the afternoon, Donegal were able to build from the back and work their way up the field. In the first half they were often confronted by a green wall but that weakened as time wore on, with the Tir Chonaill men finding gaps – and nobody moreso than Ryan McHugh.

The Kilcar ace has been operating in a deeper role this year and has appeared subdued at times, at least compared against the previous heights he has scaled. Without the pace of Eoghan Ban Gallagher from deep, McHugh didn’t stop all afternoon, bursting beyond Kerry bodies and always looking such a threat.

Michael Murphy was the conductor of the orchestra, often spreading the game with probing passes when Donegal were in danger of being a bit too compact around a crowded middle and breaking the lines when opportunities came up.

Kerry

OBVIOUSLY wary of Donegal’s counter-attacking prowess, Kerry resisted the urge to go direct into Geaney too often – yet when they did, it worked. Donegal do look brittle at the back and in the first half Kerry were able to find space, and should really have been celebrating at least a couple of goals.

The decision to put Gavin White on Ryan McHugh looked a wise one but didn’t work out. Given his form, it’s hard to know who would have stopped him yesterday. Without David Moran, so influential in victory over Mayo, they lacked a real presence in the middle, allowing Murphy to dominate.

Stephen O’Brien’s probing runs from the left wing always looked the biggest danger, while Tom O’Sullivan’s pace from deep became more of a feature after the break.

KEY BATTLE

Ryan McHugh (Donegal) v Gavin White/Jonathan Lyne (Donegal)

GAVIN White is a flying machine but he wasn’t able to contain the forward thrust of McHugh, standing off him far too much and allowing the Kilcar ace to build up a head of steam. Once that happens, he’s very hard to stop.

McHugh has played within himself in a deeper role throughout the summer, but looked back to his brilliant best yesterday. White was eventually shown a black card for pulling his man down, and his replacement Lyne also struggled to get to grips his raids from deep.

REF WATCH

THE black card Paddy Neilan showed to Niall O’Donnell for an awkward trip on Paul Murphy looked harsh enough, while there could surely have been little argument about the black card shown to Gavin White after he dragged Ryan McHugh down.

There was no disputing the penalty after Daire O Baoill was impeded by Stephen O’Brien as he turned to face the Kerry goal midway through the second half.

TOP SCORE

HIS first one with his right foot was superb, but Oisin Gallen’s second score of the day was pure class.

After replacing the black-carded Niall O’Donnell, the Ballybofey teenager added to his burgeoning reputation when, with Donegal trailing by a point early in added time, he took one look at the posts from 35 metres out before sweeping the ball over the bar with his left.

That it caught the inside of the upright only added to the drama. Showed serious cojones at that stage of the game.

TURNING POINT

EOIN McHugh’s disallowed goal, just a minute after Michael Murphy had rattled the back of the net from a penalty to put Donegal a point ahead with 18 minutes left. Jamie Brennan had won possession from the Kerry kick-out and burst forward, feeding Frank McGlynn in acres of space to his right.

The Glenfin veteran thought about popping the ball over but instead fisted across the square, where McHugh had the goal at his mercy. Unfortunately, after the ball had taken a nick off a Kerry player, taking some of the pace off it, he found himself in two minds and caught the ball before palming to the net.

Had Donegal taken that chance, it would’ve been a long way back for the Kingdom.

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