Maxi Curran: ‘Dublin aren’t afraid of us and we’re not afraid of them’

Maxi Curran, the Donegal manager, acknowledges that Dublin will be gunning for his side in the quarter-finals of the TG4 Ulster Senior Championship in two weeks’ time.

Donegal upset the Metropolitans in both league and championship last year and following their 1-10 to 0-12 win over Meath on Saturday, Curran says his side are more than willing to stand toe-to-toe with Dublin in two weeks time.

Dublin were 2-12 to 2-7 victors over Donegal in Carrick-on-Shannon two years ago at the same stage before Curran’s side flipped it last year to win 3-7 to 1-7.

“It’s the third year in a row and I’m sure Mick Bohan is licking his lips about another meeting,” Curran said of his counterpart in Dublin. “They’re not one bit afraid of us and we’re not afraid of them. They will be gunning for us. Going in as group winners and Ulster champions, if you had offered that to us three months ago, few would’ve believe it and people would’ve laughed.”

Donegal have got their campaign back on track in recent weeks, following on from their Ulster Senior Championship success and relegation from the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 has proved to be something to put down to experience.

“The team has endured a lot of hardship this year and it was a very tough league campaign,” Curran said. “We had to take a lot and deal with a lot, which made us stronger. Young girls who only experienced defeat after defeat in the league, appreciate the couple of wins. We just had to ask them to keep going. They dealt with adversity. Meath had their purple patch and we had to get through that.

“Even ahead of the game today, from the 19 players we used in the championship last year, there were 10 unavailable today. One or two came back but we’re still down a lot and we were deflated at one stage. In the long-run, Division 2 next year will be good for those girls. Relegation hurt at the time, but we’re still in the senior championship next year. We were competitive in a lot of league games but Niamh Hegarty and Karen Guthrie have brought us that little bit of guile. Experience is having been through the mill.

“Clare Friel, Katie Dowds, Abigail Temple Asokuh are all in their first year and you can’t look past what they have done. Katie Long is more of a fixture in the team, Amy Boyle Carr and Roisin Rogers are still young. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

Although Donegal and Meath, who have won the last two All-Irelands, were guaranteed a place in the last eight regardless of the result, winning in Navan was a huge boost. At half-time Donegal were three up, 1-6 to 0-6, with Niamh Hegarty scoring the goal and were expectant of a Meath onslaught in the second period, which would be wind-assisted.

“You can’t deny it was something of a free hit, although getting the result to ensure a home quarter-final was massive,” Curran added. “There was a buffer if we didn’t get over the line, we would still be in the competition. There was no need to play with any fear. We had to be brave and go after the game. We had to stick to the game plan.

“It was a mammoth task ahead of us against the double All-Ireland champions. They have some brilliant players and we had to get a lot of things right. We didn’t really affect the scoreboard in the second half too much so that meant we had to defend even harder. All credit to the girls. They put in a massive shift.

“We had three points on them and knew it was going to be a battle and they would be able to kick points from distance, which Vikki Wall did at the start of the second half. It was always going to make it difficult for us so we had to keep them out and not concede a goal. That was going to be a huge part of the game.”

In the end, Karen Guthrie’s splendid free from the right flank proved to be the winner. The former skipper has had to be used sparingly of late due to an ankle injury, and following a cameo in the first half was taken on late for an awkward free.

“The plan was to play Karen Guthrie in the last 10 minutes if we were still in the game,” Curran said “But with the big wind in the first half, we thought now might be the time. There’s a chance for her to swing the left. At the end, we managed to get her on for the free and she put it over the bar. To kick that with her first touch speaks volumes. We rolled the dice and it doesn’t always work, but it did today.”

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