GAA Football

Brendan Devenney urges Donegal to tighten up at the back for Galway visit

Caolan McGonagle will hope to provide the drive as Donegal look to get some points on the board when Galway visit Letterkenny Picture by Glenn Murphy
By Gerry McLaughlin

Allianz Football League Division One round four

Donegal v Galway (Sunday, O’Donnell Park, 12.30pm, live on TG4)

IT'S time to go back to the blanket. When Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher managed title-winning Donegal teams in the past decade, they had the meanest of defences.

But these days, it’s the defence that is causing them their greatest problems as they welcome All-Ireland finalists Galway in a crunch tie in O’Donnell Park tomorrow.

And it is a tad ironic that Brendan Devenney, one of the most exciting attackers the county has produced, is calling on Tír Chonaill to start minding the house.

After a heart-warming win over Kerry, misfiring Donegal lost by eight points to Tyrone and by another eight points to Monaghan, a game they were targeting to win.

This was a game in which they led by two points in the 44th minute, but a late fade-out saw the home side ease to a comfortable victory.

For Devenney, Donegal simply must shore up the defence if they want to avoid another defeat.

“It’s time to go back to the blanket. It is obvious that we are a bit light at the back,” said the Letterkenny man.

“The display against Kerry showed a lot of guts, but it meant nothing other than that one-off kind of a game because Kerry were out of sorts.

“The Tyrone game was a bit of a wake-up call, but it was expected as you had an experienced Tyrone side at home needing the points and they were physically stronger and better than Donegal.

“Last week’s game against Monaghan was promising at the start, but then we conceded 1-14.

“We had some of our midfield and forward talent back with Michael Langan, Oisín Gallen, Peadar Mogan and Eoghan Bán Gallagher.

“But we conceded six points in a row and that was a killer.

“Monaghan had the edge in experience and the home venue also helped them.

“If we were at home, I reckon Jamie Brennan puts that in the net. Darren Hughes, Jack McCarron and Conor McManus really hurt us.

“You can say that Jamie Brennan was unlucky to hit the crossbar just before that turnaround and would it have been enough to keep us in the game?

“But something should have been done to stop that flood of scores, either on the line or on the pitch, to slow down that Monaghan stampede.”

Galway are the visitors to Devenney’s home patch tomorrow, fresh from a dogged win over Tyrone in Tuam last weekend. The Red Hands showed some defensive shortcomings in that game too, conceding six points in a row to the home side and Devenney is hoping Donegal can enjoy similar home comforts in O’Donnell Park.

“There is a thing about the home team and the only thing that we can hope for now is that the Letterkenny crowd will get behind our boys against Galway,” he said.

“But they proved too much for Tyrone last week.

“Home venue is huge and we hope the fans can lift Donegal. The support was not great in Clones and so it is down to staying in the game.

“We are just going to have to protect our defence and go back to the blanket defence.

“You must be able to cope with man-for-man and then try and clog up the space against Galway.

“If we are exposed at the back, then we are exposed and while we have some good young lads, if we are isolated one-on-one against one of the better forwards, we are in trouble.

“So we need to sit tight – it does not matter how it looks – and then break at pace on the counter.

“We need to stay in the game until the last quarter and then let the crowd get behind the team in those final minutes.

“Look, it does not matter how it looks, how we play, we need the two points so sit tight, clog up the space and then let Langan, Gallen, Mogan and Conor O’Donnell go at Galway and get us the scores that we need.”

He added: “Let them run and we have players like Jamie Brennan who can open up defences.

“And I am not blaming the team or the management, but it is just where we find ourselves.

“But certainly, our strength is from midfield up and we have big men like Caolan McGonagle, Jason McGee, Michael Langan and Hugh McFadden to push us forward.

“So we can cause them problems if these lads get going.”

GAA Football