Donegal ended 2018 by starting their 2019 campaign off with a ten-point win over Queen’s University.
Donegal 0-21 Queen’s University 0-11
By Chris McNulty at Sean MacCumhaill Park
There was as much encouragement in the late December air as could be expected as Donegal’s defence of the McKenna Cup they won in February began with a fairly routine win.
Donegal had nine different scorers on a day when Eoin McHugh and Jason McGee made their returns to the county colours, with Michael Langan top scoring, with four points for Declan Bonner’s men.
The heavy artillery of Michael Murphy, Ryan McHugh, Frank McGlynn, Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Paddy McGrath – not to mention the Gaoth Dobhair contingent – will be kept in reserve for some time yet, but there was plenty for Bonner to be upbeat about on the first outing of the new campaign.
McGee had a solid first half with McHugh showing up well, Hugh McFadden soldering strong alongside McGee in the engine room and Ciaran Thompson – pictured – pipping Langan for the Man of the Match gong.
Langan and McHugh fired Donegal into an early two-point lead before Ryan Treanor got Queen’s off the mark in the seventh minute.
McHugh and McGee were making their competitive comebacks, having opted out of contention in 2018; McHugh deciding to play his summer’s football in Boston with McGee electing to play for the Under-20s.
Even in spite of several high-profile absentees, it was a strong Donegal side that took to the field, with no debutants among Declan Bonner’s first XV.
Donegal included Shaun Patton, McFadden, Langan, Ciaran Thompson and Jamie Brennan, who had played in the 2018 Ulster final win over Fermanagh.
Donegal showed their strength with McFadden, Langan and Caolan McGonagle landing points from distance to open up a four-point gap.
The game might well have been sewn up by the midway point of the first half, but Langan thundered against the Town End’s crossbar after getting on the end of a Lorcan Connor knock-down.
Donegal had a second sniff of a goal, but Jamie Brennan – after picking up a loose pass across the ‘D’ – lobbed wide after spotting Andrew Hasson, the Queen’s goalkeeper, off his line.
McHugh arched over a stylish left-footed point and the Kilcar man won a free for Langan to convert and put Donegal nine in front.
Right on the blow of Niall McKenna’s half-time whistle, Shaun Patton did well to beat away a point-blank effort from Treanor, who did well to fetch a high ball in. Treanor reduced the margin to eight, 0-13 to 0-5, when he flicked over Kieran Hughes’ ‘45.
Hughes, Matthew Loughran and Emmett Deane brought Queen’s back into it, but McFadden – Donegal’s captain in the absence of Michael Murphy – clipped over a neat point to have Donegal eight up with 15 minutes remaining.
Queen’s introduced St Eunan’s man Niall Hannigan early in the second half, but Shane Mulholland’s side couldn’t quite get close enough to make their hosts sweat.
Langan made an unwanted entry into the history books, becoming the first Donegal man to be sent to the sin-bin, having pulled down Aidan Rushe in the 59th minute.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Brendan McCole, Caolan Ward, Conor Morrison; Eoin McHugh (0-2), Eamonn Doherty, Peadar Mogan (0-1); Hugh McFadden (0-2), Jason McGee; Ciaran Thompson (0-4, 2f), Niall O’Donnell, Caolan McGonagle (0-2); Lorcan Connor (0-3, 1f), Michael Langan (0-5, 3f), Jamie Brennan. Subs: Ciaran Diver for O’Donnell (half-time), Paul Brennan (0-1) for Mogan (42), Tony McClenaghan for Doherty (44), Martin McElhinney for McGee (48), Martin O’Reilly (0-1) for Morrison (56).
Queen’s University: Andrew Hasson; Aidan Rushe, Oisin Lappin, Conor McCloskey; Matthew Loughran (0-1), James Rice, Conor Cox; Emmett Deane (0-1), Ruairi Campbell; Ryan Treanor (0-4, 1f), Conor Martin (0-1), Callum O’Neill (0-2); Conor O’Neill, Kieran Hughes (0-1f), Daniel Guinness (0-1). Subs: Niall Hannigan for Loughran (44), Brendan Gallen for Cox (50), Rian Connery for Campbell (56), Patrick O’Connor for Martin (58), Niall Allison for Deane (60).
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan).