Oisín McConville says Donegal need to change their system to accommodate ageing players

Donegal will face Fermanagh in the Ulster quarter-final tomorrow

Oisín McConville says Donegal need to change their system to accommodate ageing players

©INPHO/Cathal Noonan 

When Jim McGuinness steered Donegal from anonymity into All-Ireland winning territory, the reaction was conflicted.

Many celebrated the fact that the nucleus of All-Ireland contenders had expanded, while others lamented the introduction of blanket defence football. 

Irrespective of one's stylistic impression of Donegal's approach, the successful output of their system cannot be disputed. Four provincial Ulster championships and an All-Ireland title are prizes that are worth the grief that came with their triumph. 

After all, Pat Spillane accusing Tyrone of inventing 'puke football' did not deter them. Entertaining the crowds should not be at the forefront of a team's objectives when they are seeking success.

But in recent years, Donegal have failed to fully impose themselves on the championship. And Armagh's Oisín McConville has outlined what he believes to be the cause of their apparent downfall. 

Writing in the Irish Examiner, he said that the high volumes of fitness used in maintaining their defensive system, has left them looking spent.

"The reason, I’m pretty certain, is the rigours of that same defensive system that brought them success in the first place. Rory Gallagher has tweaked a little but it has largely remained as was. I watched Donegal towards the back end of the league and and they remained committed to The System."

"The problem Donegal have is that the system no longer suits the ageing individuals operating it. They have real problems in breaking out of defence at pace, a problem with getting enough players ahead of the ball to create enough meaningful attacking options."

"Neil Gallagher and Karl Lacey have not become bad players overnight but under the stringency of the way they play it is proving more difficult to effect the game. Ryan McHugh is the one player who can play that way all day."

"Not only is his conditioning superb but he has great awareness and the ability to read the game, allowing him to do his job but also get up and get crucial scores, in particular goals. I do think of all the teams capable of causing an upset, Donegal are right up there."

"They are, however, a team that need to change the way they play, not because their blueprint isn’t something to admire, but because it has served its purpose and is now past its sell by date. The players need a new challenge to reinvent themselves, to change their identity and rejuvenate the squad."