Agony at the Garden as Donegal hurlers edged by Wicklow

Ten points from Lee Henderson weren’t enough to inspire Donegal’s hurlers to a first Division 2B win of 2019. Donegal 0-15 Wicklow 2-13 By Chris McNulty at O’Donnell Park Second-half goals by Eoin McCormick and Jonathan O’Neill turned the tables on Mickey McCann’s team, who looked for long spells as if they were set for victory. The roof caved in on Donegal when Wicklow scored 1-4 in a five-minute spell from the 47th minute to take command. McCormick’s goal in the opening minute of the second half rattled Donegal and their fingers were prised off the lead when O’Neill got under a high ball to fire in Wicklow’s second goal in the 49th minute. McCormick and Warren Kavanagh – from inside his own half – had scored points to bring Wicklow level before O’Neill, just moments after his introduction, struck gold. On-song Henderson kept Donegal in check, but Donegal’s challenge fell agonisingly short. Donegal were 0-8 to 0-5 in front at half-time, but were rocked right back on their heels when Eoin McCormick riffled in a goal, finishing after taking a pass in from Kavanagh. McCormick clipped home to bring Wicklow within a point after Sean McVeigh slammed Donegal four ahead. Donegal were dealt a hammer blow with top scorer Declan Coulter forced to sit out through an injury. Coulter clipped nine points in the 3-18 to 0-12 loss to Derry in Ballinascreen two weeks ago having posted 0-7 in a battling 1-13 to 2-16 reversal at Kildare’s hands last month. Henderson stepped into the void with his six-point tally in the opening half giving them something to cling onto – only for those goals to prove the ever-so-narrow difference in the teams. Henderson stroked over from 47 metres to give Donegal the lead. Somehow, Danny Staunton found an inch of space under severe Donegal pressure, to level the sums, but Henderson hit the game’s next three points, from all sorts of angles. A routine 20-metre tap-over was followed by a majestic hit from wide on the stand side, some 70 metres from goal. The Sean MacCumhaills man was a little closer when he drilled over from around 55 metres to put Donegal three ahead. However, Wicklow were level within seven minutes, Enda Donohue, Christopher Moorehouse and sub Andy O’Brien, with his first involvement, getting the visitors onto an even footing again. Wicklow led for the first time when Moorehouse kept his cool from a free, but a brace from Henderson – the second of them another beauty from the left flank – put Donegal back in command. Donegal’s tails were up when Ciaran Matthewson curled over a classy point from the shadows of the stand, with Danny Cullen prodding over to give Donegal a three-point lead at the changeover. Wicklow pounced for the big scores as, first, McCormick and then O’Neill prodded in the goals that earned them a win they had to work for. Donegal: Paul Burns; Christopher McDermott, Pádraig Doherty, Stephen Gillespie; Gavin Browne, Sean McVeigh (0-1), Jack O’Loughlin; Joe Boyle, Danny Cullen; Ciaran Matthewson (0-1), Lee Henderson (0-10, 9f, 1 ’65), Conor O’Grady; Ciaran Finn, Ronan McDermott, Dillon Duffy (0-1). Subs: Sean Anderson for Browne (half-time), Conor Parke for O’Grady (54), Oisin Rooney for Finn (65), PJ McCarron for Anderson (70). Wicklow: Robert Fitzgerald; Brian Kearney, Billy Cuddihy, Martin O’Brien; Garry Byrne, Ronan Keddy, Warren Kavanagh (0-1); John Henderson, Stephen Kelly; Eoin McCormick (1-1), Danny Staunton (0-1), Jack Doyle; Enda Donohue (0-4, 2f), Christopher Moorehouse (0-3f), Michael Boland.  Subs: Andy O’Brien (0-2) for Keddy (25), Luke Evans (0-1) for Boland (45), Jonathan O’Neill (1-0) for Moorehouse (48), Ronan Byrne for Doyle (62), Ciaran Breen for Kearney (70). Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway).

Sports writer from St Johnston, now based in Letterkenny, with ten years' experience covering sport in Donegal. Was a nominee for NUJ Sports Journalist of the Year in 2010. Honoured by the Donegal Boxing Board in 2016 for his coverage on the sport.

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