GAA Football

Protagonists bear the brunt of Spillane criticism

Ryan McCann

PAT Spillane just couldn't wait to tear Ulster football to shreds at half-time in yesterday's Ulster Senior Football Championship clash between Derry and Donegal.

The Templenoe native was critical of Donegal's defensive approach and called for the Tir Chonaill men to produce an attacking performance in the second half.

The nine-time Allstar highlighted that, in the opening 35 minutes, the game featured 154 hand passes and just 33 kick passes. Shocking. How dare they?

The eight-time All-Ireland winner wasn't impressed with the standard of football on show. Donegal's manager felt the brunt of his controversial tongue. "Donegal are defending well and getting bodies behind the ball but Jim McGuinness (pictured) needs to realise that in order to win a football match, you need to show a bit of urgency in attack," remarked Spillane. "Donegal need to get Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden involved because so far, they have been non-existent. Murphy is playing around the middle and he's expected to win breaking ball but he needs to play further up the field."

Derry were 0-6 to 0-4 in front at the interval and the blanket defence approach deployed by McGuinness wasn't causing Brian McIver's side too much trouble. For many in Celtic Park, it looked like it could be Derry's day. Former Dublin midfielder Ciaran Whelan, meanwhile, was calling for consistency with the black card after Patsy Bradley blatantly pulled down Odhrán MacNiallais but escaped the incident unpunished. "I think the only thing managers have asked for is a bit of consistency with the black card," said the Raheny clubman. "Bradley clearly dragged MacNialllais to the ground. I don't want to see any player's day finished after just one tackle but if it is as clear as that then the referee needs to take action and play by the rulebook. They seem too timid when it comes to brandishing the card."

Spillane got his half-time wish and within the first 10 minutes of the second half, Michael Murphy produced an attacking masterclass. The Glenswilly powerhouse was

winning balls and kicking scores - the highlight of which was his Maurice Fitzgerald-esque sideline ball. Colm McFadden's 150th Donegal game was a poor one by his standards, but the 'Ten-minute Murphy Show' proved to be the defining period of the game and put Donegal on the front foot for the first time.

They were experienced and disciplined enough not to surrender their lead.

At full-time, Donegal players fell to the ground and celebrated like they'd won the Anglo-Celt Cup, but over in the BBC studios, former Oak Leaf ace Paddy Bradley felt the strength in squad depth proved to be the difference in the end. "Derry had no-one on the bench to bring on and seriously impact the game," said the Glenullin clubman.

"The big thing in Gaelic football at the minute is having depth in your panel. Neil Gallagher came on at the right time and ensured they won it around the middle.

"Derry have been labelled a League team in the past and the boys are trying to get away from that. But it showed today. When Fergal Doherty went off I felt Derry really lacked the leadership and experience to win the game."

Martin McHugh was adamant Donegal got out of jail and Derry should be kicking themselves. "Derry definitely could have won that game. Colm McFadden was poor, Patrick McBrearty poor and Murphy only played for 10 minutes in the second half so that was a Donegal team that were there for the taking."

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