JOHN BRENNAN says he cannot understand Donegal’s growing band of critics but claims his Oak Leaf team are now in a better position to defeat Jim McGuinness’ Ulster champions than they were last season.
Michael Wilson reports
Despite going into Saturday’s Ulster Championship quarter-final clash as underdogs and without the services of Cailean O’Boyle and Dermot McBride, the Derry manager believes last year’s controversial defeat to the Tir Chonaill in the Clones decider can stand to his team this weekend in Ballybofey.
Michael Murphy’s early second half penalty which proved pivotal in the final outcome remains a bone of contention with the Lavey man but Brennan is not one of those clamouring for the heads of McGuinness’ team for their defensive style of play.
So why exactly does the Derry manager believe this year will be different?
“Because we have gained a year,” he states emphatically, “Last year we had one player, Enda Muldoon, who had previously played in an Ulster Final. Then there was the added pressure of losing Eoin Bradley six days before the final. Those things add up but it transpired that, on the day, Donegal were cuter.
“I’m not going to criticise Donegal. If I could devise a system like Donegal where we played non-stop across the pitch and still won, then people could criticise me from morning to night but I would still have enjoyed it.
“Donegal have been criticised down the years for their hand-passing. They’ve been doing that from whenever. All they changed was to bring two or three extra people back in defence and play the same kind of football. You’re not going to develop that system in a few weeks.
“Very few players on the Donegal side were playing in their first Ulster final. They’d had one in his fourth final, several in their third final. Also they knew how to win more than we did and on the day they did that but listen, give credit to the team that wins. I hate losing but I give credit to the team that wins.”
Brennan should have both Bradleys back from last year’s final although Eoin is still working his way back to full fitness and the Derry manager is not expecting any major surprises in how Jim McGuinness lines out his team, even with major doubts hanging over Michael Murphy and Rory Kavanagh.
“They will have the same blanket defence but I have a plan better than last year because I have the spine of the team that I have already alluded to. I have the players who will hold their position,” he added.
The winner of Sunday’s game will face Tyrone in the last four with the game scheduled for Casement Park if Derry win.