TWO weeks is a long time in Donegal hurling. Mickey McCann’s young side rose from the ashes of a heavy hammering from Wicklow to exact revenge and reach this weekend’s Division 2B final against Meath.
Saturday’s victory in Aughrim minus seven regualr starters, and with 14 men (minus captain Ronan McDermott) for nearly all of the second half must surely rank as one of their finest 70 minutes.
A delighted McCann said the spur for the two victories over Tyrone and Wicklow stemmed from deep hurt and a bit of anger at letting standards drop against the Garden county in the Letterkenny clash.
“This was a strong Wicklow team apart from John Henderson, who is a very good player, and then they had Luke Evans back, who is a very good player.
“The last time we met Wicklow it was as bad a display as we gave in my tenure.
“The backroom team and I just don’t like to lose, and we told the lads in the changing rooms after the match that it was just not acceptable again.
“We don’t mind getting beat but we do mind surrendering and lying down as we did in Letterkenny against Wicklow.
“I think we made them look better than they were in Letterkenny, for when you broke it down Tyrone were level with them after 70 minutes away in Aughrim as well.
“So we saw a few weaknesses and we set up with a sweeper who was very solid and they might have been a bit complacent after that big win in Letterkenny and that happens in sport.
“But we were a totally different team in terms of intensity and work-rate, and it got us through in Aughrim.”
McCann is doubly pleased that this big win was achieved in the face of some very significant absentees.
“I suppose it is an indication of the strength in depth.
“Most of those lads who came on have been with us for the past three or four years and the likes of Ciaran Bradley is only getting his chance now.
“It is a hard team to get on and once you have six or seven missing you start going down through the bench and you have to show faith in them.
“We do have big faith in them, and we told them to go out and play their own game and relax into it and the rest will come together.
“And that’s what they did. These boys carry no baggage, they went out and played off the cuff and that is what we wanted.
“Meath will be up another level next weekend, but it will probably be the same team again.
“It is going to be a great experience and it is unheard of for Donegal being in a Division 2B final and that will be some occasion.”
What pleased McCann most was the way they reacted collectively to the dismissal of McDermott early in the second half.
“That was tough, and Wicklow hit three points on the trot and it looked like that would be the turning point to get them back into the game.
“But we worked hard, and Luke White made a great save and Liam McKinney got the points when we needed them and we got a few breaks as well.
“This was a very good display all round and everyone worked very hard and that was most pleasing for us.”
McCann still believes that Wicklow will be the team to beat in the Nickey Rackard Cup.
“They are still a big player, but our focus is now on Meath and it will be a massive experience for us.”