Kevin Madden: Incumbent All-Ireland champions just don’t lose the way Derry did

We all know at this stage how important Conor Glass is to both Glen and Derry but on Saturday evening he looked completely jaded.

Derry manager Mickey Harte pictured during his side's defeat by Donegal last weekend. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Derry manager Mickey Harte pictured during his side's defeat by Donegal last weekend. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

I SUPPOSE the big question on everyone’s lips this week was how did it go so badly wrong for Derry at the weekend.

Of course there will be a narrative that Jim McGuinness had a masterplan, something new, that Mickey Harte and Derry didn’t see coming.

In reality there was nothing overly inventive or revolutionary about what Donegal brought to the table.

Donegal had a gameplan to create moments of anarchy on their own kickout but even McGuinness in his wildest dreams could not have predicted what would unfold.

The Derry management, from their time in Tyrone, were well aware of the potency of Shaun Patton when it comes to long kickouts.

Before we get into the tactical side of things, I think it is important to say, I could not believe how flat Derry were especially around the middle of the field in both competing aerially and make tackles.

We all know at this stage how important Conor Glass is to both Glen and Derry but on Saturday evening he looked completely jaded.

I pondered after a very long couple of seasons was Saturday night a culmination of that long road far travelled finally catching up with the Derry star.

There was a moment at 16 minutes when Michael Langan glided pass him.

He made an initial attempt to change his pace to go after him before realising there was no juice in the tank to do so or to back into his role in front of the full-back line.

I knew in that moment something wasn’t right about Derry.

In terms of their scoring efficiency Derry were miles behind their opponents and contrary to what they have been producing all season.

Shots dropped short, poor wides, kicks into blocks, it was like watching a different team.

But the damage was done primarily from the Donegal kickouts.

We all know at this stage statistics on their own never tell the full story particularly the goalie percentages.

Derry won more of their own restarts on Saturday night than their opponents but the Donegal ones that they lost proved costly as three goals came directly off them.

As Derry squeezed up with their goalkeeper far out of his goal, Patton knew he only had to get lucky once.

As it turned out he got ‘lucky’ twice – with sub goalie Gavin Mulready managing one as well.

I think Derry will reflect and wonder at halftime, only a point down, should they have adjusted their kick-out press and maybe set a trap or two and force Donegal to play through them or give them the kickout altogether and force them into slower plays.

Before people go off on one it is worth considering that Dublin also operate a similar approach to Derry in pressing kickouts, albeit their goalkeeper isn’t part of it.

Odhran Lynch has come in for a lot of flak and I think it is unfair to pin so much of the blame at his door.

People have to realise there’s a collective there in terms of instructions he is given and the players around him also doing their jobs.

Here are five areas that that need to be on the money when you press a Patton kick-out so aggressively:

Assume you are going to lose it or Scramble defence:

The players not involved in the immediate vicinity of the kick-out have to be on the back foot as the ball is mid-flight and heading back towards their own D area at pace. You could see as the ball was breaking, Derry stayed in their positions and when they did react it wasn’t with the same fervour to get back as Donegal had to get forward. This resulted in Donegal overlaps to the Derry goal.

Adapt your shape according to what the opposition are trying to do:

So your starting template might be 12 men pressed high in a staggered 4-4-4 type formation but this needs to adapt at times according to what the opposition are trying to do. If they pull everyone outside the ‘45′ what value is there in leaving 4 men inside? In the case of Donegal’s first goal they only had two men (spread wide) inside the ‘45′. Derry had four which included two central men a long distance away from where it was now clear Shaun Patton was going to plant the ball. Those men were 20-30 metres too far forward. This created a vacuum where Donegal now had an overload of players for the long kick-out. A kind break and it’s now inevitable the ball will be run to the net.

Have a loose presence behind the back line of your press:

Again, this works as a safety valve should the ball break the wrong side of your midfield or get flicked to an oncoming runner. A presence around the centre half back position offers a better opportunity to mop up anything flicked on or to meet the runner in possession. Derry didn’t seem to have that man positioned there.

Avoid the goalkeeper getting involved in contesting a kickout up the centre of the pitch:

This is car crash material as was illustrated by the fourth goal. It is worth noting Patton had actually gone off at this stage but Derry were desperately chasing the game. But in simple terms, if your goalie contests this, and you lose the break he just isn’t going to get back even if he’s Usain Bolt.

Tag the players cheating as the ball breaks:

Donegal left two up inside the 45 and pulled everyone else out. As the ball was leaving Patton’s foot one of those men would sprint out to leave Gallen the only forward inside the 45. As those balls broke in their favour the marauding Donegal players ahead of the break weren’t all followed.

DONEGAL must be praised for how well they executed what they were trying to do and their pace, energy and scoring efficiency was top notch.

If they weren’t previously, they now must be considered serious contenders for Ulster.

Derry on the other hand will learn an awful lot from this game and their game-plan will be the better for it. But the bigger question is, what longer term psychological damage has this defeat done to the Oak Leafers?

Incumbent All-Ireland Champions just don’t lose like that.

The road to Croker has just got a whole lot windier.