Donegal sealed promotion back to Division 1 and booked a place in the Division 2 final after a lopsided win over Kildare in Ballyshannon.
Donegal 1-20 Kildare 0-10
By Chris McNulty at Fr Tierney Park. Pictures by Evan Logan
Jamie Brennan’s second-half goal helped ease Donegal to victory on a day when Declan Bonner’s men led from start to finish and were never threatened by a poor Kildare.
Brennan swept to the net in the 46th minute after a super Donegal move ended with a neat combination between Jason McGee and Brennan.
The Bundoran man netted Donegal’s goal in last weekend’s win in Cork and his goal here was like a dagger through already-aching Kildare hearts.
Kildare saw captain Eoin Doyle and Kevin Flynn black-carded in the opening seven minutes of the second half. Cian O’Neill’s men were down to 13 men for a time with Flynn sent off having previously been booked.
Donegal led 0-13 to 0-1 at half-time and had 13 points to spare at the end to confirm a Division 2 final spot against Meath at Croke Park next weekend. The bigger prize, though, for Donegal, is the place back in Division 1, which they relinquished in the dying embers of the 2018 League campaign.
Donegal had nine different scorers on the mark and began like an express train to race six points in front by the 12th minute.
With the aid of a fierce Ballyshannon breeze, Donegal made hay in the early exchanges.
After Flynn had a bad wide for Kildare in the first minute, Brennan opened the scoring after 80 seconds.
It set the tone for the early stages with Niall O’Donnell curling over two delightful points from distance.
Oisin Gallen is one of the emerging men to have made real inroads in attempting to force a way into Bonner’s Championship plans and an encouraging spring continues here for the Sean MacCumhaills man.
Gallen arched over a superb point after staving off the attentions of David Hyland. A great block from Flynn denied Eoghan Ban Gallagher, who momentarily sensed a big opening, with Michael Murphy converting the ’45.
Gallen, Hugh McFadden and the returned McGee – back from a suspension – stretched the margin to nine points before the 20th minute.
Kildare struggled not just with the breeze, but with a deadened Fr Tierney Park surface, on which it appeared virtually impossible to bounce the ball.
O’Donnell – another of those to have made an impression in recent weeks – landed a wonderful point off his lesser-used left boot with Kildare’s first point coming via Neil Flynn’s 24th minute free.
2012 All-Ireland winning defender Paddy McGrath made his first start of the year in one of four changes made by Bonner from the side that defeated Cork in Pairc Ui Rinn last weekend.
McGee reclaimed his midfield sentry with Brendan McCole and Daire Ó Baoill also in from the off as Donegal took a big step to the win in the first half.
Gallen, Ó Baoill and Ryan McHugh put Donegal 12 ahead at the changeover, the scoreboard showing a handsome advantage when they parted at the interval.
Donegal spurned a golden chance to put the game firmly beyond Kildare’s reach when McGee screwed wide after being put through by Caolan McGonagle.
Kildare’s woes were compounded when captain Doyle was black-carded just two minutes into the second half after referee Paddy Neilan’s attention was drawn to an off-the-ball incident.
Things got even worse for the Lilywhites when Flynn was sent off. Booked in the first half, Flynn was given a black card, swiftly followed by a red, after dragging Michael Murphy, the Donegal captain, to the turf.
When Brennan goaled, Donegal were already home and hosed and they managed to keep a clean sheet with Shaun Patton saving well from Chris Healy deep into added time.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Paddy McGrath, Brendan McCole, Stephen McMenamin; Daire Ó Baoill (0-1), Leo McLoone, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Hugh McFadden (0-1), Jason McGee (0-2); Niall O’Donnell (0-3), Ryan McHugh (0-3), Caolan McGonagle (0-1); Oisin Gallen (0-4), Michael Murphy (0-4, 2f, 1 ’45), Jamie Brennan (1-1). Subs: Neil McGee for McCole (57), Eoin McHugh for Ó Baoill (61), Paul Brennan for Gallen (63), Frank McGlynn for McLoone (67), Caolan Ward for R.McHugh (68).
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; David Hyland, Mick O’Grady, Kevin Flynn; Cian O’Donoghue (0-1), Eoin Doyle, Peter Kelly; Kevin Feely, Tommy Moolick; Fergal Conway, Paddy Brophy (0-2, 1f), Keith Cribbin; Neil Flynn (0-1f), Chris Healy, Jimmy Hyland (0-2). Subs: Adam Tyrell (0-4, 1f) for Cribben (half-time), James Murray for Conway (48), Aaron Masterson for Flynn (53), Tony Archibald for Brophy (57), Mark Barrett for O’Donoghue (62).
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).