Neil Gallagher outjumps Owen Lennon as he gets straight into the action after being introdued from the bench mid-way through the opening half against Monaghan. Pic.: Gary FoyThe three-in-a-row dream died against a Farney onslaught yesterday but Donegal are still alive in this year’s quest for Sam – going by their display in the provincial showpiece though things need to improve quickly. It’s six short days until the back door is bolted shut for another year and the team face a tough task in ensuring they are still at the party come closing time.There can’t be any complaints about proceedings in Clones; the best team won on the day and there were no ifs, buts or maybes from the defending champions’ perspective. Mark McHugh going off injured was a blow but such was the lethargy and clumsiness on show from his team mates it didn’t make that vital a difference when the game is looked at as a whole.Two key chinks were exposed in the Donegal armoury yesterday and they have been worries for quite a time – but this was the first time under McGuinness that a team successfully exploited both. Firstly we were by and large wiped out at centre-field and this had already been a major problem against Tyrone and indeed in some of last year’s games. Thankfully Neil Gallagher’s introduction steadied the ship somewhat and only for his efforts things could have been a lot worse. Apart from Gallagher’s tour de force against Cork in last year’s All Ireland semi, this Donegal side have rarely dominated a team around the middle third and yesterday it was Monaghan who were doing the dominating. Coupled with the midfield platform they created, they then attacked Donegal in a way that few teams have – with direct high ball in on top of our full back line.Eamon McGee actually mentioned in an interview he gave earlier in the year that he had spent a lot of time doing extra training on high fielding – he and the management team were well aware that this was a potential weakness for the defensive unit and they had tried to correct it. Yet when someone like Kieran Hughes is in the sort of form he showed yesterday sometimes it’s just near impossible to cope. Hughes had a terrific game in Ballybofey in the McKenna Cup back in January and while that competition was disregarded by Donegal he left his mark that day and did so again with even greater aplomb in the biggest match of his life.It was so unusual to see both McGee brothers given the run around yesterday; they’ve been the embodiment of this current Donegal team with their strength, power and assurance yet Hughes along with Conor McManus were unmarkable yesterday. How many times over the last couple of years have we seen full-back Neil come storming out from defence to take man, ball and all? It just didn’t happen this time, he was close to McManus on a number of occasions but was never able to get a hand in or shove the Clontibret sharp-shooter off the ball.The tackling in general by the whole team was lazy. Monaghan players on numerous occasions side-stepped or wrong footed green and gold men with quick movement of the hips or shoulder and they created space easily. The game’s opening score was a case in point with Darren Hughes easily selling a dummy to Karl Lacey to get into a better scoring position. Normally the ferociousness of the Donegal tackle makes teams wilt and that’s why teams hit so many wides against us because they are forced to shoot when they don’t want to. Instead Monaghan took their scores when they were on and were supremely confident in their shot making ability. Monaghan got the early run on Donegal and the four-point lead they amassed, just like we did in the semi-final, was a crucial cushion. In a game where both sides are setup the same way and both trying to hit on the counter, a deficit like that is extremely hard to claw back. Down only once got inside the three point margin against Donegal in Breffni Park and in Clones yesterday we never got inside that margin at all.Aside from Gallagher in midfield there weren’t too many players who could be happy with their day’s work. Paul Durcan was excellent in goal, dealing well with almost every high ball that came into his square – and Ryan McHugh was on hand to give him a dig out for the one he didn’t manage to claim. The younger McHugh looked very composed when he came on and capped a good cameo with a wonderful score floated over with the outside of his right boot.Unfortunately such scoring feats were few and far between. Michael Murphy was largely anonymous with Vinny Corey giving an impervious display at full back. He rarely looked at or for the ball, his eyes were firmly fixed on the Glenswilly man-mountain and it made for a frustrating day for the captain. Even when Murphy appeared to be hauled down in the box approaching half-time it was he who was shown a yellow card by the referee, thus infuriating him even further.His strike partner Colm McFadden had a similar afternoon; twelve months on from shooting over booming scores from all angles in the 2012 decider he was thwarted time and again by Drew Wylie; there wasn’t anything too scientific about the man-marking jobs carried out by Wylie or Corey, just good old-fashioned staples of defending – stay tight on your man and keep him on his weaker foot.Of course everyone is now asking the question, why did this happen? Was it tiredness in the bodies, tiredness in the minds, hype getting to the players – the truth is nobody knows. The squad though are still supremely fit and well conditioned so the physical explanation doesn’t really wash. The hype issue and the three-in-a-row thoughts seeping into the player’s mindsets is the most likely reason. Of course with pretty much every one of us having written Monaghan’s chances off there was always a chance of that happening. If the treble bid is the reason for defeat then there’s still every chance of progressing further in the Championship; however if tired minds are at play then we could be near the end of the 2013 road – we’ll only find out if that is the case next Saturday. Whatever way you think about or analyse yesterday it wasn’t pretty from a Donegal viewpoint – yet we’re still there. We’re not out of the Championship and we are still the defending All-Ireland Champions. The six-day turnaround for beaten provincial finalists is usually the kiss of death for teams but after such a wretched performance it may be beneficial having a game so quickly to try to put things right. Carrick on Shannon holds a special place in the hearts of Donegal Gaels – it was in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada that the county secured a first ever national title, becoming All-Ireland winners at U21 level in 1982.More recently it was the scene of a young Murphy’s Championship debut in a senior jersey on a night when the then reigning National League Champions needed extra-time to shake off a dogged Leitrim team in a Round 1 qualifier. This weekend could be something similar – it’s all about grinding out a win, nothing more.All players and managers want to get to Croke Park for the August Bank Holiday weekend because that’s when the Championship starts in earnest. Donegal would have wanted to go there as Ulster Champions but instead that honour is now bestowed upon Monaghan. Its up to McGuinness’ men to earn their place amongst that last eight and if we get there anything is possible.Jim always maintains that his team competes in two different knockout competitions – the Ulster Championship and the All-Ireland Championship; it’s no different this year except that we’re starting the latter a week earlier. The road is a bit rockier but the journey and destination remain the same. We’ve heard so often in interviews with the players about the plans Jim and Rory have laid out for them before each game and the work that goes into preparing them for what the opposition will throw at them. That process was again meticulously followed before the Ulster Final as it will be before Saturday’s crunch encounter with Laois. However once they cross the white line its up to the players to determine the outcome. They were off-colour yesterday, no doubt about that; but these players have given us days of joy that we only dared dream of over the last couple of summers; they will know themselves that they didn’t perform yesterday and were well beaten. But they also know they’re still good enough and that they haven’t suddenly become a poorer side – now is the time to back these boys.CATHAL MacSUIBNE’S DONEGAL GAA BLOG: TIME TO BACK JIM AND THE BOYS was last modified: July 22nd, 2013 by John2Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:CATHAL MacSUIBNE’S DONEGAL GAA BLOG: TIME TO BACK JIM AND THE BOYS
Morata Did Kane lead Morata to snub Spurs? Chelsea striker has his say Chris Burton 16:04 12/30/17 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) Getty Morata Harry Kane Tottenham Hotspur Chelsea Premier League Mauricio Pochettino claimed in the summer that the Spaniard did not fancy competition in north London, but the Blues star says that was not the case Alvaro Morata insists he did not end up at Chelsea due to a reluctance to compete with Harry Kane at Tottenham.Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino claimed over the summer that the Spain international once turned down the opportunity to move to north London as he was concerned about the presence of a striking rival.The Argentine coach said: “Morata talked about myself, in the media he said ‘Mauricio called me’. That was two years ago or more. He said to me: ‘Why do you want me if you have Harry Kane?'” Article continues below Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player Morata eventually arrived in England at Stamford Bridge, with the Blues snapping him up in a £70 million agreement with Real Madrid.The 25-year-old maintains that Spurs were never an option for him and has sought to make it clear that he never shunned the opportunity to work with Kane.He told Sky Sports on Pochettino’s claims: “No it’s not true.”I spoke with him and he said he wanted both [of us] to play together, but there was no chance to come to Tottenham.“For sure I would like to play with Kane, he’s a big player, one of the best strikers in the world, but in this moment when I spoke with him [Pochettino] there was no chance to leave Real Madrid.”Morata has faced his own challenges at Chelsea, with Antonio Conte having acquired him to fill the boots of international team-mate Diego Costa.”He is a very good player and a good man too. I’m Diego’s friend and when I came here I knew that is was a big responsibility to replace him, but I’ve tried to do well,” Morata added.”Always when we are together in the Spanish team, we talk about football and life. We talk about everything and I always say thanks to Diego.”Morata has netted 12 times in 25 appearances for Chelsea this season and while he is happy with that return, he believes there is still more to come from him.He said: “I can score more goals. I had many chances in the Premier League and Champions League and I need to improve. It’s my first year here but I think I can do better and I need to do that.”Always I can improve something. I’m not perfect, if there’s one thing that I can improve then I try to look for that and work every day to do so.”Morata’s next opportunity to get on the scoresheet could come against Stoke on Saturday, with the Potters set to pay a visit to the defending Premier League champions.