THE National Football League got underway last weekend and just as expected, it started with a bang with a few very interesting results.
We know that going by last year, the league is no longer a slow burner for teams as now with the condensed season in place teams need to be at themselves from the very off.
I covered the Donegal and Cork game for TG4 and first and foremost I have to say that it was a very exciting game of football to watch. The game was open and end to end with some excellent patches of play, albeit the majority of that coming from the home side.
To anyone who was unsure of how Donegal would approach the season it was visibly evident on Sunday that their template this year will be to copy the likes of Dublin, Kerry and Mayo etc, with their high press and attacking style of football.
Having sat the last number of seasons out, Jim McGuinness is smart enough to know that if he doesn’t follow suit and adopt the same sort of tactics as all the big hitters, then he will have little or no chance of success.
The day of playing the ball methodically up the pitch and going over and back with the ball is no longer a runner because once teams drift back and set up they’re simply too hard to break down.
Nowadays when the big teams strip you of possession they are not ponderous anymore. The top teams like Dublin, Kerry Mayo and Galway etc, will go for the jugular.
In order to have any chance of success, Jim would have identified that as number one. This year his target will be to change the mindset of the Donegal players and enable them to press the ball hard and counter attack at pace.
On Sunday it was evident they have been working hard on this and in fairness to them, they were excellent at it.
On Sunday from the very first whistle, Donegal penned Cork in at every opportunity and pressed high up the pitch, turning the ball over continuously.
Then when they had the ball, they moved it at pace and they were not afraid to shoot.
Jim and his backroom team will be happy with the first outing. aalthough they will understand that there are tougher tasks ahead, but for the first day out you couldn’t have asked for much more.
From a Cork point of view, to say that I was disappointed would be an understatement, because being brutally honest, they looked more like a club team than a county team.
Obviously I am not privy to what is going on within the camp, but to me looking in from the outside, they looked like a team with no kick-out plan, no tactics or ability to adapt to what was happening in front of them.
Time and time again, they continued to take the ball into the tackle and turn over possession. Again, maybe they are in the middle of working on these things but you just knew on Sunday after five minutes that they were going to be in serious bother.
They struggled badly on their own kick-outs where they continued to bomb the ball out on top of Ian Maguire, even though Donegal had this sussed from the off, and Cork continued to lose kick-out after kick-out which sucked the life out of them.
Again I state we don’t know what is happening within the camp, but for me it looks as if there is a lack of serious modern day tactical knowledge and knowhow within the Cork set-up because I’ve seen club teams who are better prepared than what I saw on Sunday.
Before the league started, you would have put Cork up there with Donegal as one of the favourites to emerge from Division Two, but after Sunday’s display they definitely wouldn’t be in my top two or three anyway.
Donegal travel to Cavan this weekend, which will no doubt be a little bit tougher, but a win for Jim and his men will leave them sitting nicely regards the aim to make their way back to the top tier.
This weekend my TG4 duties take me to Celtic Park for the clash of Tyrone and Derry.
This game would be a blockbuster at the best of times, but when you add in the Mickey Harte factor I think that this is one that we are all looking forward to, and it should not lack for incident and excitement.