Preview: Donegal’s Rebel mission

All-Ireland SFC
Cork v Donegal
Saturday, Páirc Uí Rinn, 2.30pm

By Michael McMullan

GROUND zero. That’s where Donegal manager Jim McGuinness took his side in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s win over Tyrone.

On the face of it, their 0-21 to 0-14 win and the efficiency in front of the posts was matched by their attacking waves from deep via Peadar Mogan.

But McGuinness had a different focus. Joe McQuillan’s final whistle was the start of another week. Saturday night was all about recovery and managing the bodies ahead of this weekend in Páirc Uí Rinn.

Before getting the chance to shower, the players were on the bus with the Garda motorbikes opening the traffic jams all the way to their training base in Convoy.

Ice baths. Food. Rubs. All without the frenzy of their fans. Getting back down to earth was far too important. Winning in Cork needed a full six days of preparation. Recovery couldn’t wait until Sunday.

As the clocks ticked towards 11 o’clock, the Donegal players filed out of Convoy with an ice cream cone to match their smiles of satisfaction.

Beating Tyrone was another box ticked in their next mission. The group stages is their penultimate dance ahead of wherever the knock-out stages may bring.

Is top spot in the group important in the overall big picture of a race for Sam? McGuinness agrees but doesn’t entertain the statement any more than that. Yes, the two-week breaks between games is perfect.

“For us, we’re not thinking that (finishing top) way really,” McGuinness quickly added. “We’re thinking about the next game.

“I don’t remember coming out of Cork too many times with a victory and it was the same as a manager.”

The laptop was open and Cork were dissected before morning. Getting as much out of their two field sessions was paramount.

“We have to go in now and before we go to bed tonight, we have to look at Cork, that’s the reality,” McGuinness pointed out.

A glance will tell them of Cork’s use of their bench. Stephen Sherlock, Eoghan McSweeney, Ruairi Deane and Mark Cronin all come in when defenders begin to tire.

Brian Hurley will be their focal point. Con O’Callaghan’s 6-26 from play is the only tally from play higher in the All-Ireland pack than Cork’s Chris Óg Jones on 5-26.

Jason McGee and Michael Langan’s midfield partnership will come across Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan who have played side by side in the engine room in Cork’s last 11 games.

Manager John Cleary has confirmed Luke Fahy’s hamstring injury will keep him out of action. On the plus side, the Rebels will have Rory Maguire at the heart of defence after missing four games in mid-season.

His role will be crucial when Cleary and his management saw Mogan, Ryan McHugh, Caolan McGonagle and Eoghan Bán Gallagher make incisive runs into the scoring hot spots.

When the sides met in the league opener on a wintry and blustery Ballybofey Sunday, Donegal’s aggressive kick-out press troubled goalkeeper Patrick Doyle.

Aside from Micheál Aodh Martin getting a run in the last league game, Christopher Kelly has been their regular man between the posts since.

Cork had zero points from their first three league games despite winning the McGrath Cup. Their warm weather training camp then ignited some consistent form. Only Kerry, after a bright Cork opening, have beaten them since. There was a 2-16 all league draw in a dead rubber with Armagh.

It all points to Saturday being a tricky fixture for Donegal. You soon realise why last weekend’s rush to Convoy was more important than any sort of basking in the aftermath of a complete performance.

Running repairs following Bruce Springsteen’s appearance at Páirc Uí Chaoimh means Páirc Uí Rinn is the venue this weekend. Jamie Brennan bagged 1-2 when Donegal were 1-19 to 1-12 winners under Declan Bonner’s watch in 2019.

Brennan has been one of the impact men for Donegal this season with his hard running and eye for goal. Odhrán and Aaron Doherty have also been used from the bench.

Donegal under McGuinness has been all about defending narrow, using their big men at midfield and hitting teams with blistering pace from defence.

Cork will be waiting. Donegal have been in the spotlight. With success brings more prying eyes on what makes the bandwagon engine purr.

Donegal are contenders for Sam Maguire. That’s not up for debate. But Saturday is only a step on the road. That’s why Convoy and ground zero last weekend was so important.


2024 Donegal 1-20 Cork 2-6 – NFL Division Two

DONEGAL began their promotion chase with victory at home to Cork at a windy MacCumhaill Park.

A Cork goal against the run of play threatened to spoil the party early on but Donegal had a six-point lead at the break and never really looked like losing despite conceding a second goal midway through the second period.

Eoghan McSweeney palmed home the first goal after 14 minutes but the home side were 0-13 to 1-3 ahead by half time thanks to scores from Odhrán Doherty, Ciarán Thompson and a first career score from Brendan McCole. Chris Óg Jones got Cork’s second goal but captain Patrick McBrearty capped off a Donegal win with his goal late on.

Donegal: G Mulreany (0-1f); M Curran, B McCole (0-1), K McGettigan; R McHugh (0-1), D Mac Giolla Bhríde (0-1), Peadar Mogan (0-1); C McGonagle (0-1), C Moore; C Thompson (0-1), O Doherty (0-3), S O’Donnell (0-1); D Ó Baoill (0-2), P McBrearty (1-6, 6f), J Brennan (0-1)
Subs: EB Gallagher for McGettigan, O Caulfield for S O’Donnell, J Mac Ceallabhuí for Doherty, L McGlynn for Brennan, A Doherty for Ó Baoill

Cork: P Doyle; M Shanley T Walsh, S Meehan; L Fahy, R Maguire, M Taylor; I Maguire, C O’Callaghan; E McSweeney (1-0), D Buckley, B O’Driscoll (0-2); R Deane, B Hurley, C Jones (1-2)
Subs: D Cashman for Shanley, S Sherlock (0-f) for Hurley, F Herlihy for Deane, M Cronin (0-1) for Buckley, D O’Mahony for McSweeney

2024 Donegal 1-20 Cork 2-6 – NFL Div 2
2019 Cork 1-12 Donegal 1-19 – NFL Div 2
2016 Donegal 2-14 Cork 1-7 – NFL Div 1
2016 Donegal 0-21 Cork 1-15 – All-Ireland SFC Round 4
2015 Donegal 0-12 Cork 1-8 – NFL Div 1



Donegal 3-16 Armagh 1-6
Tyrone 1-10 Donegal 0-15
Monaghan 0-11 Donegal 4-14
Derry 0-12 Donegal 0-6

Donegal 1-20 Cork 2-6
Cavan 0-12 Donegal 0-13
Donegal 2-16 Fermanagh 0-8
Armagh 1-9 Donegal 0-12
Donegal 1-17 Louth 0-15
Kildare 1-8 Donegal 0-17
Donegal 1-18 Meath 1-10
Donegal 0-15 Armagh 0-14

Donegal 4-11 Derry 0-16
Donegal 0-18 Tyrone 0-16
Donegal 0-20 Armagh 0-20 (6-5 on pens)
Donegal 0-21 Tyrone 0-14


Clare 0-8 Cork 2-14
Cork 1-20 Waterford 0-6
Cork 1-14 Kerry 1-14 (Cork won on pens)

Donegal 1-20 Cork 2-6
Louth 2-9 Cork 0-13
Cork 0-16 Cavan 0-17
Fermanagh 0-16 Cork 1-14
Cork 2-15 Kildare 3-9
Meath 1-11 Cork 1-15
Cork 2-16 Armagh 2-16

Cork 3-13 Limerick 0-11
Kerry 0-18 Cork 1-12
Clare 1-11 Cork 1-13


Oisín Gallen 4-57 (25f, 2-0pen, 5m, 1 45)
Patrick McBrearty 1-40 (29f)
Dáire Ó Baoill 4-13

Chris Óg Jones 5-26
Brian Hurley 0-38 (23f)
Conor Corbett 3-11 (1m, 1 sideline)


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