Recovery key for Donegal

By Michael McMullan

CIARÁN Thompson is one of three Donegal players to have played in every game of their progressive season to date.

The Naomh Conaill man knows about the week on week approach to preparation and will be at the forefront of Donegal’s plans when they make a Celtic Park return against Tyrone in Sunday’s semi-final showdown.

After having six months to plan their precise assault on Derry, Donegal have just a week to plot the downfall of another Ulster rival.

“It’s mad,” said a content Thompson after Saturday’s win over reigning champions Derry.

“It’s hard to believe it’s only eight days now and we’re out again. It is crazy, but the first, the most important thing is just getting the bodies right now.

“It’s 100 per cent about getting in the recovery now, get the bodies right and then we’ll probably dive into them on Monday,” Thompson said of their next step, running the rule over their next assignment – Tyrone after their extra-time exploits against Cavan.

Only Caolan McGonagle has been on the pitch longer than Thompson this season with Jamie Brennan the other to have played in all 13 games.

Thompson’s run of games is all the more remarkable given his central role with Naomh Conaill well into the Ulster Championship, a campaign that saw him selected in the Gaelic Life All-Star team.

“It’s just about getting the body right, you know,” Thompson said of the secret to being in prime shape when Jim McGuinness slotted him into the Donegal engine-room.

“We had a long season with Naomh Conaill, I suppose. We came into that pre-season in good enough shape, we came in fresh then, we got a few weeks off.

“It’s just about getting the body right, doing the right things in the gym, doing the right things in training, really just managing your own body.

“I’m one of the elder statesmen now, would you believe it, but listen, thankfully I’m injury free and it’s great.”

Saturday’s win over Derry was built on maximising the speed and trajectory of Shaun Patton’s kick-outs with Odhrán Lynch pushed into the empty pockets.

“I suppose a lot of teams press on the kick-out, you know,” said Thompson, a key cog in the Donegal middle third.

“We have one of the best ‘keepers in the country and we know that and we used that to the good effect,” he said of Patton’s impact.

“We got a one or two over the top and we got players with great speed running on to it and just finished one or two there.”

It didn’t end with Patton. It was Gavin Mulreaney’s kick that led to fellow substitute Jamie Brennan netting a fourth goal after injury forced a change between the posts.

“Gavin probably has a bigger boot than Shaun, so it’s an unbelievable back-up ‘keeper that we have there,” Thompson said.

“When you need someone to come in and do a job, that’s what the panel’s there for and we’ve seen that there today with a lot of boys coming off the bench and showing their hand as well.”

Despite hailing from the same club as manager Jim McGuinness, it’s the first full season Thompson saw him up close.

There was a cameo role when Martin Regan invited McGuinness to help give Naomh Conaill’s 2022 Donegal title bid a final steer.

“He came in with us for a few weeks there before a county final and we got over the line there and I saw a small snippet there of what he was capable of,” Thompson said.

“There’s no stone unturned there with him and he thinks of everything,

“We came in there (for the win over Derry) the best prepared we possibly could have. That (with Naomh Conaill) was my first kind of taste with him and now this year, so it’s just brilliant to have him on board. He’s a good, true Donegal man and that’s what we want.”

Also speaking after victory over Derry, Peadar Mogan had a smile of joy as he posed for photos with family and fans.

He referred to McGuinness as an “absolute gentleman” and hailed his input into the last Donegal victory.

Looking at their next task, Mogan knew what was coming down the tracks.

“The beauty of the Ulster Championship is every single game is as hard as you can get,” said the St Naul’s man.

“Every single game is a battle, no matter who it is, first round, second round, semi-final…every game is a battle and any team can beat anyone.”

Mogan, an Ulster Minor winner alongside Mulreaney, Niall O’Donnell, Jason McGee, and Mark Curran in 2016, had an excited tone in his voice as he spoke of the change of fortunes in the county.

Last season was about relegation and doom in many circles and now an Ulster final appearance is 70 minutes away.

“People want to talk about Donegal football which is great and it gives a bit of a buzz back in the county again,” Mogan said of the difference 12 months has made,

“You can see all these young kids and it puts a wee bit of a smile on their face and that’s all we can do.

“You go out every day, you put on the badge and you just want to make young kids and adults, boys and girls, you just want to make them smile and make days like this year a bit memorable so that they can keep coming out. That’s always great.”

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