Corofin defeat still felt in Gaoth Dobhair

Their All-Ireland defeat to Corofin may have happened four months ago, but the repercussions are still ringing out for Gaoth Dobhair.

The Donegal and Ulster Champions lost to the Galway team by 2-13 to 1-12, but they learnt an important lesson, and manager Mervyn O’Donnell and his team decided that they had to change their approach because of it.

“When the game was over you looked at the Corofin physique you could see the difference. It was boys against men. There was a massive physical difference.

“We thought that we should look into that. Corofin are the model for club teams after all. Everyone wants to replicate what they are doing.”

They turned to their coach Michael Boyle who worked on a programme of gym work designed to increase the physical size of the team.

While club teams in Ulster have left the gym work behind months ago, at the start of the league, Gaoth Dobhair have been in pumping iron, trying to get bigger.

“We missed out on a pre season because of the All-Ireland. When we came back we dedicated ourselves to the gym,” O’Donnell said.

“I am not saying that it is going to make a difference, it is just going to make us a lot stronger.

“Our game has suffered a bit.”

They only returned to pitch-based training a few weeks ago.

Perhaps that’s the reason why they are not out in front in the league this season.

Or perhaps it’s due to how teams have been setting up differently against them.

O’Donnell said: “Teams are playing slightly different against us after last year.”

Gaoth Dobhair sit in third place in division one behind St Eunan’s and Naomh Conaill.

Last year they were the pace setters in division one, but this time around, dominating teams is more difficult.

But the fact of the matter is, winning the league is not Gaoth Dobhair’s priority this year. They want to defend their Donegal championship, and that goal remains very much an achievable one for O’Donnell.

“We are 11 weeks out from the Championship. We are back on the pitch training. Our goal is to get out of the groups (in the championship).

“It is a mental thing more than anything else. It is about the desire to want to win it again.

“It is hard to gauge where we are at at the moment. The boys are all very dedicated. We know where we need to be at. We can’t be too hard on them though after last year. I think it will all come together come championship time.”

The team has some personnel changes at the moment. Ronan MacNiallais has come back in to play this year, however he has been sidelined with a hamstring pull. Peter McGee, brother of Neil and Eamon, is also sidelined with a calf problem and that duo’s departure has left the midfield area light.
Ciaran Gillespie has had an ACL issue that has kept him out of action since last year’s Championship, but O’Donnell revealed that the county man could be back to action very soon. He is doing his rehab with the county, but could be fit to play in July

“If we could get him back it would be huge for the team,” O’Donnell said.

They also have something of a boost with Odhran MacNiallais playing full time with the club, having decided to step away from the county for a season.

“You can’t blame some of the players from stepping away. County football is a way of life. It is a massive commitment. So I can see why some young players might not want to commit.”

Two men who know that commitment well are Kevin Cassidy and Eamon McGee. Both have retired from county football, and both are committed to the club.

“Their roles have changed over the years. We are not trying to kill them. They play one game on and one game off. We realise that we will need them later in the year.”

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