DONEGAL MADE AN impressive start to their Allianz League campaign with a resounding 17-point away win over Down in Newry.
Down 0-07 Donegal 3-15
Two goals in a deadly two-minute spell in the second half from Ryan McHugh and Patrick McBrearty handed Donegal a first away win in Division 1 in almost seven years.
McHugh – the Man of the Match – later hit his second goal of a fine opening night for the Tir Chonaill men, who saw Rory Kavanagh mark his return from retirement with an appearance in the final ten minutes.
Not since a win over Westmeath in March 2009 had Donegal tasted a win on the road in Division 1 and this was only a third away win in the top flight in 19 attempts.
But this one was never really in doubt.
With Michael Murphy on song in the first half, Donegal led by six at half-time and they didn’t look in danger of getting stuck in the Marshes.
Peter Boyle, making his first League start in five years, saved a first-half penalty from Donal O’Hare and when Donegal rattled the net twice in quick succession, the win was safe.
Both teams finished with 14 men as O’Hare was shown a straight red card for his part in a late altercation with Eamon McGee, for which the Donegal defender was black carded. With the full complement of substitutes already used, Donegal had to play the final four minutes a man down.
Donegal had their work long since completed though, their opening goal coming in the 41st minute.
After playing a quick-fire one-two with Thompson, Ryan McHugh finished beyond Stephen Kane.
Less than two minutes later, Kane was beaten again. Ciaran Thompson’s raking ball in was fetched by McBrearty, who held off Gerard McGovern and lethally fired past the helpless goalkeeper.
12 minutes from the end, Donegal added goal number three. From Murphy’s ball in, McBrearty lobbed across goal and O’Reilly quickly transferred to McHugh, who had the simple task of palming to the net.
Rory Gallagher handed League debuts to Micheál Carroll and Ciaran Thompson and it was the latter who opened the scoring with a well-placed third-minute effort
Murphy, with a beyond-the-45 free that is now a trademark of his, and McBrearty extended the lead and, while Arthur McConville converted a Down free, the traffic flowed in only one direction for the most part.
However, Down did have a glorious chance when they were awarded a penalty with Neil McGee black carded for a sliding tackle on Ryan Johnston as he dribbled goalward having intercepted a short kick-out from Boyle.
It had been five years since Boyle’s last League appearance for Donegal when he played in a drawn Division 2 game against Sligo in Ballybofey – a game that was Jim McGuinness’s first League game as Donegal boss.
The emigration of Paul Durcan and the injury to Michael Boyle has opened up the possibilities for Peter Boyle, Mark Anthony McGinley and Danny Rodgers and it was Aodh Ruadh’s Boyle who got the nod.
Boyle dived low to his right to keep out O’Hare’s penalty.
Down suffered a double blow just ten minutes later when, within seconds, they lost both Joe Murphy and Johnston, with Johnston going off injured and Murphy black carded for a deliberate pull on Thompson.
By then, Murphy was on fire and a majestic sideline free, on the left-hand side of the 20-metre line, soared Donegal three ahead.
Three late frees, two from Murphy and the other from McBrearty, sent Donegal into a 0-9 to 0-3 interval lead.
When McHugh and McBrearty netted within two minutes of each other, Donegal were on their way to a deserved win and were able to hand Stephen McBrearty and Caolan McGonagle their first League outings during the second half.
Down: Stephen Kane; Darren O’Hagan, Gerard McGovern, Malachy Magee; Michael Hughes, Conaill McGovern (0-1), Ryan Boyle; Peter Turley, Henry Brown; Joe Murphy, Mark Poland, Kevin McKernan; Ryan Johnston, Arthur McConville (0-2, 1f), Donal O’Hare (0-4, 4f). Subs: Darragh O’Hanlon for Murphy (28, black card), Connaire Harrison for Johnston (28), Mark McKay for Turley (48), Aidan Carr for McGovern (57, black card), Sean Dornan for Poland (57).
Donegal: Peter Boyle; Eamonn Doherty, Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath; Ryan McHugh (2-0), Frank McGlynn (0-1), Anthony Thompson; Ciaran Thompson (0-1), Michael Murphy (0-8, 8f); Micheál Carroll, Odhrán Mac Niallais, Eoin McHugh; Patrick McBrearty (1-3, 1f), Hugh McFadden, Martin O’Reilly. Subs: Eamon McGee for Neil McGee (19, black card), Leo McLoone (0-2) for Carroll (46, black card), Stephen McBrearty for Mac Niallais (53), Neil Gallagher for C.Thompson (59), Rory Kavanagh for O’Reilly (62), Caolan McGonagle for R.McHugh (65).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).Tags: