By Frank Craig
EAMON McGee reckons Donegal have all the tools necessary to shape their championship season in the right fashion.
The 2012 All-Ireland winner believes their previous league win over Tyrone in Ballybofey not only answered some critics, but that the victory over the All-Ireland champions will have also provided the squad with a serious injection of belief.
Approaching round five of the NFL and another home clash in MacCumhaill Park – this time against Monaghan – the Gaoth Dobhair
man says the opportunity to consolidate their top flight status at such an opportune juncture has to be seized.
“Division One football is vital for any side now with real championship ambitions,” he told Gaelic Life. “Our backs were to the wall going into the Tyrone game. But they dug so deep – especially in that second half. It was two big points but there was much more value to the win that simply that.
“The hope now is that they kick on from it. In 2012 we just about managed to stay up in Division One. We got a result against Armagh on the last day. I often wonder what might have happened had we not done that – stayed in the top division. It would have felt like a massive blow and psychologically, I just wonder would we have scaled the heights we eventually did later on that season?
“I think it’s become an even more important platform now for teams in recent times, the league. It’s played at a bit of a higher pace. And there is only so much now teams can keep under wraps, or in the locker, ahead of championship. And with things tightened up this season in regards to the playing calendar, it’s perhaps even more relevant.
“The wee thing that maybe doesn’t change is the mentality shift. There is a gear there that players will move through nearer the time simply because championship is what it’s all about.”
If Donegal could get across the line on Sunday against their Farney opposition, McGee explains that it would render their last two outings, away to Dublin and at home to Armagh in Lettekenny, pretty meaningless in the wider scheme of things.
“Once you have safety secured, then your attention can start to immediately shift to championship. Going into the last game against Armagh needing a result wouldn’t be ideal. And our record in Letterkenny isn’t great. But if things are sorted before then, it would count for very little. It would be the ideal scenario for Declan (Bonner) and the lads.”
On Donegal’s vice-like grip on favourable league results in Ballybofey, a record that stretches back 12 seasons now, McGee has a pragmatic enough take on that considerable run.
“I’m not superstitious,” he insisted. “But the record is an interesting one all the same. Teams are protective of that kind of thing. And even for the opposition, they are aware of the fact even before they come to play in Ballybofey. And you could see that sort of play out the last night against Tyrone.
“They seemed to have a real upper hand at one stage, it didn’t look good. But once Paddy (McBrearty) teed up Conor O’Donnell’s goal, you could feel the tide turning.
“We grew in confidence and doubt crept in at their end at the same time.”
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