A BLEND OF Donegal’s old and new overcame Down in Ballybofey as Rory Gallagher’s men got 2016 off to a winning start.
Donegal 1-11 Down 0-11
Frank McGlynn’s goal, after just 68 seconds, was the difference between the teams at the close of a useful afternoon before a crowd of around 2,000.
It was a fairly noteworthy day for Donegal with Michael Murphy coming off the bench for his 100th appearance on an afternoon that saw the first score of Paddy McGrath’s Donegal career.
Picture caption: The Donegal team stand to attention for the national anthem prior to the game. Picture courtesy of Geraldine Diver.
On an encouraging first run-out of the year, Gallagher gave six debuts from the off and there were encouraging displays particularly from Jack O’Brien, Caolan Ward and Ciaran Thompson, who was named as the Man of the Match.
A late cameo was given to St Eunan’s forward Cillian Morrison, who has decided to concentrate on Gaelic football having played League of Ireland soccer with UCD and Derry City in recent years.
Morrison, a member of the Donegal Under-21 squad in 2010, had played for St Eunan’s in their Ulster club campaign last year and has been in training with Donegal in recent weeks.
McGlynn, playing at centre-forward, didn’t put a foot wrong and there was plenty of energy from McGrath with Martin O’Reilly another prominent figure at centre-back.
Just past the opening minute, Donegal opened the scoring with a majestic goal from McGlynn.
Odhrán Mac Niallais’ ball into the pocket was fetched by McGlynn and the Glenfin man tidily spun onto his left foot.
A sweet effort looped over Stephen Kane, the Down goalkeeper, into the far corner.
Thompson marked his first appearance for the Donegal seniors with a brace of points, the first of them that culminated a move in which MacNiallais curled a delicious pass around the back for McLoone to tee up his club colleague.
Stationed at full-forward, McLoone picked out the rampaging Eoghan Ban Gallagher for a chance that deserved a goal in the 15th minute.
Gallagher got his co-ordinates slightly askew at the vital moment after a flowing burst involving Martin O’Reilly and Frank McGlynn.
McLoone leapt to steer into the path of Gallagher, but the Killybegs man prodded wide.
An O’Reilly free ended a 15-minute scoreless spell by the hosts, who were 1-3 to 0-4 in front at the break with Gareth Johntson, Arthur McConville and Ryan Mallon – with a brilliant hit from the stand side – on the mark for Down.
As the game headed for its final quarter, Donegal were five up.
O’Reilly, Hugh McFadden, Thompson and Ward popped over points while McGrath ventured forward for his first Donegal score in what was his 63rd appearance.
Mac Niallais beautifully curled over and when Murphy – given the biggest cheer of the day when he was taken on as a 52nd minute replacement for Micheál Carroll – slotted over they were 1-10 to 0-8 ahead.
Ballybofey could have got the goal it really craved when Murphy fetched ahead of full-back Conaill McGovern only to lose his footing at the vital moment.
Donegal had been inches from another goal when corner back Jack O’Brien found himself with a sight of the bullseye in the 47th minute.
The Naomh Muire man crashed his attempt off the crossbar and the follow-up, from Mac Niallais, was blocked on the line.
Down stayed in touch, but the game ended how it had begun, with McGlynn on the scoresheet, this time clipping a point to seal a three-point win.
Donegal: Danny Rodgers; Jack O’Brien, Éamonn Doherty, Paddy McGrath (0-1); Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Martin O’Reilly (0-2, 2f), Caolan Ward (0-1); Hugh McFadden (0-1), Ciaran Thompson (0-3); Micheál Carroll, Frank McGlynn (1-1), Stephen McBrearty; Odhrán Mac Niallais (0-1), Leo McLoone, Eoin McHugh. Subs: Michael Murphy (0-1) for Carroll (52), Cillian Morrison for McHugh (69).
Down: Stephen Kane; Malachy McGee, Conaill McGovern, Ryan Boyle (0-1); Ryan Mallon (0-1), Aidan Carr, Darragh O’Hanlon (0-2, 2f); Peter Turley (0-1), Cathal Doyle (0-1); Joe McDermott, Caolan Mooney, Joe Murphy; Gareth Johnston (0-2), Arthur McConville (0-1, 1f), Sean Dornan (0-1). Subs: Damien Turley for McDermott (45), Barry O’Hagan (0-1) for Murphy (59), Mark McKay for McConville (59), Conor Harrison for Dornan (59), Packie Downey for P.Turley (66).
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).Tags: