Donegal boast all the hallmarks of a team set up to pose Kerry serious problems in Sunday’s Super 8s clash, says Kerry legend Kieran Donaghy.
Donegal overcame Meath by nine points last weekend and Donaghy predicts that the Ulster champions will cause "so many different problems" for the Kingdom.
And, nowhere will Donegal be more threatening, Donaghy said, than from their kick-outs.
The distribution of keeper Shaun Patton has enabled the county to establish a palette of different options which will start attacks against Kerry on Sunday in Croke Park, Donaghy said.
Equally key to the tactic is Michael Murphy in the middle of the pitch which gives them the effect of what Donaghy described as a “cheap counter-attack” without being caught in hacking battles in their own half.
“When Patton has the ball down there are a few things they are doing. The first thing they are doing is they will look if Murphy has a load of space either side of him.
“And he is working in tandem with Ryan McHugh and he's looking at Michael Murphy and he's looking at Patton and numerous times the last day he's pointing to hit Murphy long because he will be in a good position to come off him then.”
While the tactic is something Donegal have had in their arsenal for years now, Donaghy explained that its success lies in Patton and Murphy’s knowledge of when to best use it.
“Three or four times against Meath they spotted the opportunity and they nailed the execution of the kicks and Murphy is so good and so strong at holding his man off getting a little run and tapping it off to Ryan McHugh that's coming off his shoulder.”
Once the ball is in McHugh’s hands from that position it becomes like "open sesame", Donaghy described, with Mchugh then running into space and towards goal as he did against Meath several times late on.
Similarly, Murphy is key to one of Donegal’s other kick-out options, Donaghy said, where he jogs back into position after his side concede a wide or point but will then turn and nudge off his man dashing out to the wing and winning the ball into chest.
Donaghy warned that when Murphy is jogging into the middle from kick-offs it should immediately set off “alarm bells ringing” for the Kerry defence this Sunday.
“You need to understand he is going out there to go get the ball. Whether it's right or it’s left or it’s: ‘I've got space get it down to me’.
“Once it's long out the middle, it should be alarm bells. That means someone is going to go and they'll get the break and then someone will be through.”
While Donaghy was at pains to stress the danger of Murphy from the kick-outs he also highlighted that Paddy McBrearty’s goal from the kick-out against Meath last week didn’t even originate through Murphy but rather through McFadden acting as a leaping distraction to allow the ball into the half-back.
“When [Odhran] McFadden heads out to the sideline what they do is they hit him out a long one but what he likes to do is go up and spoil with his man and he knocked it out once and then another time he kind of just jumped into his man in the air. Neither of them touched it but it's hitting the halfback who is bombing forward.”
When asked for a prediction of the game, Donaghy said he would go for a draw but that his heart predicted Kerry while his head was leaning towards a Donegal victory by a point.