An excellent block on the line by the Donegal rearguard from a 21 yard free kick at the death earned the side a historic first ever victory over Down.
Donegal 0-17 0-14 Down
The away side entered the game with a perfect record sitting top of the league, while Donegal lay in fourth position with one win in three games. The Mourne County were red hot favourites entering the clash.
But Donegal fought hard and resolutely and were well worth their victory. Lee Henderson and Danny Cullen were particularly impressive in fine conditions for hurling. The home side produced a tactically sound defensive performance, and were clever in attack, taking their chances when they arrived.
Neither side managed to gain a foothold early on, but Ciaran Mathewson fizzed over the first point of the game with a confident effort from thirty yards out. Down responded well, but elected to shoot from difficult angles with each effort drifting wide.
Donegal added a second seven minutes in. Lee Henderson split the posts with a free from the 45’ after John McManus got caught over-carrying whilst running out of the Down defence.
Declan McManus got Down’s first score of the game with a finely stuck effort, but Declan Coulter replied for Donegal within thirty seconds. Donegal were working well in defence forcing the Down frontline into difficult shots.
Joe Boyle added to Donegal’s lead finding space thirty yards out after some nice passing by the forward line. Sean McVeigh then landed a monster point on his home ground.
Danny Cullen and Lee Henderson gave Donegal a six point lead 20 minutes in. But Mark Fisher and Declan McManus managed to narrow the gap for Down with two quick scores.
Eoghan Sands was put through by Pearse Og McCrickard but Paul Burns pulled off a fine save to push the ball wide. Paul Sheehan knocked the resulting 65’ over the bar.
A further two points from Donegal meant the home side were 9-4 up after thirty minutes. Both sides traded further scores just before the half time whistle.
An excellent Joe Boyle pass set up David Flynn for the first score of the second half, but Down responded quickly with three consecutive scores of their own. Two Donegal scores sandwiched in the between by a Down score left it 13-9 ten minutes into the second half.
Three Down scores in a row reduced the margin to a single point, but Donegal made a strong and quick reply. Two Lee Henderson free kicks and a point from play off the MacCumhaills man put Donegal’s lead back to four.
Martin Fisher sailed an effort straight between the posts from the halfway line to leave an exciting finale with eight minutes left. Substitutes Oisin McManus and Enda McDermott traded scores but the away side were unable to convert a last minute 21 yard free kick following an excellent save on the line by the Donegal defence.
Donegal: Paul Burns, Padhraic Doherty, Christopher McDermott, Stephen Gillespie, Niall Cleary Ciaran Finn, 48), Declan Coulter (0-2), Joe Boyle (0-1), David Flynn (0-1) (Enda McDermott, 71’ (0-1), Lee Henderson (0-5 4fk), Gerard Gilmore (0-1), Ciaran Mathewson (0-2), Bernard Lafferty, Sean McVeigh (0-1), Ronan McDermott, Danny Cullen (0-3).
Down: Stephen Keith, Brook Bryers, Micheal Hughes, Peter McManus, Mark Fisher (0-2 1fk), John McManus, Matthew Conlan, Rian Branagan, Malachy Magee (0-1), Caolan Baile (0-1), Declan McManus (0-5 1fk), Pearse Og McCrickard, Paul Sheehan (0-4 3 Fk, 1 65’), Danny Toner, Eoghan Sands (Oisin McManus, 46’ (0-1).
Referee: James Clark (Cavan)Tags: