HIS OWN TEAM may embrace modern methods to make their mark in Gaelic Football but Jim McGuinness is impressed with the traditional traits practiced by their opponents in next Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
The Donegal manager has studied his opponents in recent times and has noted their ability to rule the skies around the middle, their man-to-man approach in defence and the physicality their entire team practices.
“They do play a traditional brand of football, they don’t tend to play a lot of sweeper and they have good faith in their full-backs. They can go toe-to-toe with most full-forwards in the country, fight their corner and do reasonably well. From that point of view, they put a big emphasis on fetching in the middle of the park. It is traditional in many respects but there are a lot of other things there that are very sharp, crisp and modern, things that are very hard to repel when you are on the back foot.
“Obviously kick-outs are going to be a huge part of the game. Conor has options in the middle of the park and with their physique, their fitness and their running power it would not make sense if you were not dying to take teams on. From our point of view it will be interesting to see how we deal with that, how we cope with that and can we stand our ground against them or can we get out of the road quick enough.”
Donegal are preparing for their second successive All-Ireland semi-final but McGuinness insists that last August’s defeat to Dublin was not down to fitness shortcomings in the second-half. He does admit the squad needed to evolve and develop this year.
“It definitely was not a fitness issue as there were things in the first half that we were not happy about as well. Ultimately what left us down was the scoreboard and we have tried to work very hard on that in the winter months to rectify that. Our scoring average is around 18 points at the moment after five games so it is a fairly decent average this far into the championship.
“Most of the things that we have laid down this year they have been able to take the information and still push forward in these other areas that let us down last year. That has been encouraging. If we stagnated and we were just doing what we did last year, I don’t think it would be good enough.
“Someone said to me before you are either moving backwards or forwards, nothing is neutral and for us it is very important to be moving forwards, particularly when you have got young players.”