Donegal drawing on the Ulster final positives

By Michael McMullan

THEY may have returned from Clones with empty hands but Donegal can take plenty from their recent Ulster final defeat.

Despite being underdogs, Donegal took Armagh to extra-time and they step into the All-Ireland arena on Sunday against Kerry in Ballybofey.

Amy Boyle Carr may be just 23 but the Naomh Conaill star is now in her seventh season with the county senior team.

After the experienced heads of Niamh McLaughlin and Katie Heron, she is one of the longest serving members of John McNulty’s squad.

“Obviously losing by a point (in the Ulster final) isn’t ideal, but there were a lot of positives we can take from it,” she told Gaelic Life.

“I know a lot of people didn’t really give us much of a chance going into it, but we showed everyone what we are capable of.”

On another day, the bounce of a ball could’ve favoured the reigning champions. There were a few missed chances but that’s in the past now.

Carr has been around the block long enough to know what to park and what to tap into.

“I think after the Ulster final, knowing that we did put in a good performance, at least we’re in a good place now going into the Kerry and Waterford (group) games,” she added.

“We have to keep the mood high and look forward to going into the next few games.”

In the world of sport, players and teams can often take as much from a defeat, especially a narrow one.

And when it’s a tight game, decided by one or two key moments, the analysis will ring louder.

“We were four points down in the last couple of minutes, and we got it back to level to take it to extra-time,” Carr said of their Clones clash.

“It just shows us, even ourselves, that we’ll keep going until the end of the game, and until the final whistle goes.

“It shows that we can be competitive. Armagh seem to be one of the favourites for this year, and it shows that we can go head-to-head with them. So, all in all, it’s good going forward, and there’s so much that we can bring from that game.”

Donegal have McNulty in as manager this season after former boss Maxi Curran called time on his tenure.

On the field, there has been change with many of the experienced players not on board this season.

The current group is littered with players in college with some still sitting their leaving cert this year.

The focus has been on finding a system that suits their young side with the older players giving them a steer.

“They’re full of enthusiasm,” Carr said of the Donegal young blood. “They love being about the place too, so it’s great to have that youth in the squad.

“After losing a lot of the more experienced girls, it gives a chance for everyone else to step up.”

Eva Gallagher came off the bench to kick two points in the Ulster final despite it being her first season with the seniors. Katie Dowds and Abigail Temple Asoko are some of the players moving into the established bracket.

“They’ve been massive players for us,” Carr added. “It just shows the younger girls are capable of stepping up and there’s great quality in the underage coming through.

“Growing up, there were so many girls that you could look up to. It’s such a privilege that there were so many of them girls.

“But once they step away and they leave, it’s up to the other girls now to step up and be them players for younger girls coming through.”

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