Donegal and Galway have plenty in common heading into tomorrow’s make or break All-Ireland qualifier.
Both harboured aspirations of landing provincial crowns before suffering respective nine-point losses against Tyrone and Roscommon.
Donegal boss Rory Gallagher has guided his side past Longford (0-12 to 0-7) and Meath (1-15 to 1-14) but accepts this represents their toughest test of the backdoor route.
“There’s natural progression in who we’ve played,” Gallagher said. “From Longford to Meath and now onto Galway, who won Division 2, won Connacht last year and beat Mayo this year and last. In the Connacht final they would’ve been too happy with their own performance, no more than ourselves against Tyrone. In Donegal when you lose like we did against Tyrone, then the outside world questions you. We know we went out to give a big performance but it didn’t materialise.
“Roscommon were probably building towards the game against Galway all year — no disrespect to Leitrim in the Connacht semi-final. Galway maybe found it difficult to get up to the level they were at for Mayo. That can happen.”
Like Galway, Donegal have enjoyed success at minor and U21 level. In the macro, for Donegal to compete in the latter stages, there will need to be an incremental development over time; just like how they are evolving in the micro, step-by-step in the qualifiers — their first real run in the back door since 2009.
“Before the championship, I said that if we can get a good number of championship games under our belt — six or seven or more — then it would stand to these lads,” Gallagher said. “It’ll help their careers. If you only play a couple games, you don’t really get into the nuts and the bolts of it, but if we can win on Saturday, then we’re into the business end of the season at Croke Park. That would be a big step.
“The minute you go out of the provincial championship, you’re given a second chance and having experienced going into the qualifiers in the last 12, after provincial final defeats, I’d much prefer the way we are going in now. We’ve had time to get over Tyrone and work on a few things so now we’re relishing Galway.”
The aftermath of Donegal versus Galway will provide contemporary coordinates, although there’s talent continuing to grow underneath the surface. Tomorrow might be about more than just a qualifier game, in the broader sense, but right now Donegal and Galway are living for the moment — and playing for their championship lives.
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