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Do Donegal Really Have A Serious Discipline Problem?

Do Donegal Really Have A Serious Discipline Problem?
By Paul McNulty
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Last Saturday night in Breffni Park, Donegal and Monaghan served up the best standard of football anyone has seen so far this year. It was a tight, bruising encounter where both sides can feel like they could have won, but coming into this Saturday's replay - a question has to be asked about Donegal's discipline.

Martin McElhinney's red card (admittedly a yellow card followed by a black card) was Donegal's second red card in a row in championship games and their sixth in all in league and championship.

When Donegal were winning the All-Ireland back in 2012 - they only had one man sent to the line (Colm McFadden in the Ulster semi-final against Tyrone) and in their run to the All-Ireland final two years later they didn't have a single player dismissed. So what has changed under Rory Gallagher's regime as opposed to the relatively well-behaved sides under Jim McGuinness?

It cannot be denied that Donegal have, for good or for ill, gotten involved in some baffling incidents this year alone. They seem to be trying too hard to prove they are not the side that got beaten by Mayo by eight points last August.

Neil McGee in particular has been a loose cannon. Only a few months ago in the league against Kerry he was involved in a shameful incident against Alan Fitzgerald of Kerry.


McGee clearly didn't learn his lesson after that judging by what happened in Donegal's championship opener against Fermanagh.


McGee is one of the finest defenders in the country on his day but these incidents can not be excused. Rory Gallagher has spoken about how he has not given hope of having successfully appealing McGee's ban ahead of Saturday's replay.


There should be no question of a reprieve for McGee as it was judged a repeat incident but red-cards are seen as a somewhat abstract concept in the GAA following the Diarmuid Connolly debacle last year - when he got a last-minute reprieve in time to face Mayo in the All-Ireland semi final replay after striking Lee Keegan.

Perhaps the most egregious of all the Donegal's disciplinary issues was the dive of Mark Anthony McGinley in last weekend's drawn game.

You can argue the red cards and McGee's sending off against Fermanagh were spur-of-the-moment indiscretions. But McGinley's feigning showed a cynicism that is a worrying sign for Donegal.


Even Pat Spillane, who admitted diving himself back in his own playing days on the Sunday Game, criticised McGinley:

That guy wasn’t injured, it was simulation. It’s not Donegal, it’s not Mark Anthony McGinley. A lot of them are doing it but maybe it’s about time we addressed where teams are feigning injury to get an opponent yellow or black-carded.

While McGinley is only the latest footballer to be embroiled in a diving controversy after the likes of Tiernan McCann (who received an eight-week ban, which like most bans nowadays, was subsequently overturned by the GAA), Aidan O'Mahony and Michael Shields; it shows the Donegal mentality this year.


John Fogarty is his always-excellent column in the Irish Examiner yesterday suggested that "Most if not all of the championship’s leading contenders are finding ways and means to circumvent or at least circumnavigate the rules as we understand them."

Fogarty was speaking about third-man tackles but it could be argued that Donegal under Gallagher seem to be attempting to circumvent the rules by playing on (or over) the edge. It certainly seems cynical.


Pete McGrath (above) is not a man known for crying wolf and he was genuinely enraged by what he saw as Donegal's gamesmanship in their championship opener against his Fermanagh side.

Donegal had a lot of gamesmanship out there today, whether you like it or not.

Let's call a spade a spade. I mean, the number of times Donegal players went down, in some instances feigning injury, just to stop the clock, to break the play up.  And the referee fell for it, he fell for it.

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