Posted by Mickey Harte

Donegal can expect to take a month to absorb what they have achieved before turning to face the challenge of defending their titles

2012 Donegal champions 520x280

I was surprised that Mayo allowed, or at least failed to prevent Donegal getting the storming start that ultimately saw them prevail at Croke Park last Sunday.

One of the things I said before the game was that there would be an early onslaught from Jim McGuinness’ side. And after Mayo’s recent All-Ireland final history I expected them to park the bus for at least the first 20 minutes, to make sure they were still in contention after that period.

We don’t know their plans but maybe the placing of Kevin Keane on Michael Murphy was with a view to the latter playing further out the field. They had a bit of an insight from the Kerry game when Colm McFadden was the out-and-out front man and Murphy was the one withdrawn deep.

I thought Ger Cafferky may have had more success in containing Murphy but, as it turned out, once again the very thing they didn’t wanted to happen happened again inside the first 10 minutes. That was a big pity but the fact that they could easily have been 10 points down and got away with it when McFadden broke through again gave them some impetus to work away on Donegal’s lead.

But with 60 minutes still to play Mayo were chasing their opponents and as we’ve seen all summer that hasn’t been a profitable exercise for anyone.

For Donegal it's almost like they’ve never won it before. There is a whole generation who won’t have experienced anything like this. It is quite emotional for them and I’m sure it’ll take at least a month or so for them to get through everything. They’ll be visiting schools and attending functions but that’s a necessary part of the success you enjoy.

You can’t work hard for your success and then take no enjoyment out of it. I know Jim McGuinness will soon have next year in mind but then again what’s the point of achieving something if you can’t enjoy it when you do?

The question is when should they leave the enjoyment behind and that’s something they have to decide for themselves. I think it will take a month for them to fully absorb what they have achieved and to set their minds towards defending their title.

There’s no doubt that they can do it again and there seems to be no fear of the hard work it took to get them there. That has been the main ingredient in what they have achieved to date.

They know that the formula is: if you work hard enough you get your rewards and they have to decide whether they want more of these rewards or not.  And they will need to work even harder if they want to achieve the same thing next year.  

They have youth on their side and they know what it’s like to arrive at a good place. That will give them the incentive to get back there.

But it will not be easy because with the exception of Kerry in 2006 and 2007 it hasn’t been done since Cork in 1989 and 1990. That suggests it’s very difficult to defend a title. And, having won it for the first time in 20 years, it may make it even more difficult for Donegal to retain it.

It may be the case that because it’s such a novel event for them it may take them longer to get back to looking at what’s required to win it again.

There has been a lot of talk since the game about the post-match press conference but I don’t have enough information to make a judgment on the situation between Jim McGuinness and Declan Bogue. All I know is that obviously the Donegal manager feels very strongly about it.

People might read the book and not be able to see what he was talking about but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something there. I think we need to be careful in making judgments and concluding that someone was 100 percent right in their course of action.

There is no doubt that Jim McGuinness feels it was the right thing to do and maybe in due course we will find out in more detail why exactly he felt so strongly about it. Until that happens I certainly won’t be judging the rights or wrongs of it.

I’ve often looked out from my seat at a press conference and saw people from a news establishment I would have had difficulty with. It’s not necessarily the person at the press conference but someone from their organisation who has acted in an unacceptable fashion.

That has happened to me on occasion and there are certainly individuals working for particular organisatons whose behaviour wouldn’t endear me to them.