MAYO 3-07 DONEGAL 1-14
BY CHRIS MCNULTY IN SWINFORD
DONEGAL came good in the second-half to record a narrow win over Mayo in their final challenge game ahead of the May 20th Championship meeting with Cavan.
First-half goals by Peadar Gardiner and Cillian O’Connor shot Mayo into a commanding lead, while Pat Harte netted a third from a penalty.
Colm McFadden kept Donegal in touch and his 54th minute goal from a penalty was the catalyst for the win.
14 days out from the championship, Jim McGuinness fielded a strong Donegal line-up, with anything up to a dozen of yesterday’s team likely to be in the starting XV in Breffni Park.
Achillies victims Neil Gallagher and Christy Toye as well as Karl Lacey (hamstring) and Rory Kavanagh (hip) were not risked against James Horan’s beaten National League finalists.
Early scores by Adrian Hanlon and Stephen Griffin got Donegal off and running, only for Mayo to stun their visitors with a seventh-minute goal.
Gardiner, Harte and Freeman were all involved in the build-up with wing-back Gardiner tapping home from close range.
Enda Varley (free) and Gardiner stretched the lead and, after McFadden landed a free, Mayo stole in for a second goal.
Much like Gardiner’s first, it is one that will have McGuinness and Rory Gallagher with plenty of questions for their defence when the video analysis takes place.
There appeared little danger when Cillian O’Connor picked up possession out on the right touch line.
However, the Ballintubber man scorched through the Donegal rearguard and cracked high into the net past Paul Durcan.
Donegal almost had further cause for concern when Mayo had a third sight of goal. This time, though, Jason Doherty got his wires crossed and he fired across the goal-face and wide.
Six down, Donegal came back into it, scoring four of the first-half’s final five points with in-form McFadden clipping three frees and his St Michael’s colleague Martin McElhinney having the final point of the half.
The second period was just 13 seconds old when Marty Boyle – one of three interval replacements in the Donegal side – popped over.
Still, Mayo came and they opened things up again as Alan Freeman’s effort cannoned off the crossbar.
However, Mayo did get a third goal, albeit in controversial circumstances in the 43rd minute.
Sub Danny Kirby and Neil McGee clashed after a full-blooded race for possession between the two.
Strangely, referee Michael Duffy deemed McGee to have been over exuberant in his efforts and awarded Mayo a penalty.
Freeman took control of the ball, but manager Horan ordered Pat Harte to take the kick.
The midfielder stepped forth and slammed past Paul Durcan to his customary penalty spot – high to the goalkeeper’s left.
Donegal found a new gear from here though with the attacking forays of Frank McGlynn and Leo McLoone a real positive.
They started to compete better at centrefield too and, after Griffin and McBrearty pointed, they were level with a goal of their own.
McBrearty took a pass from McGlynn, following a powerful surge forward by the Glenfin man, and was pulled down as he eyed up the bullseye.
McFadden’s kick wasn’t the most convincing, but it was enough to beat Robert Hennelly to draw Donegal level.
McGlynn shot Donegal ahead for the first time since the early minutes and with McGee and McFadden (’45) on the mark the tide had turned.
Mayo made Donegal fight to the finish as Kirby, Freeman and Varley all scored, but a fisted effort by McBrearty ensured Donegal head to Breffni on a winning note.
Mayo: Robert Hennelly; Michael Walsh, Shane McHale, Eoghan O’Reilly; Peadar Gardiner (1-1), Colm Boyle, Richie Feeney; Barry Moran, Pat Harte (1-0 pen); Aidan Campbell, Cillian O’Connor (1-1, 1f), Michael Forde; Enda Varley (0-3, 2f), Alan Freeman (0-1), Jason Doherty. Subs: Rory O’Connor for Boyle, Danny Kirby (0-1) for Doherty, Fergal Durcan for Forde (all half-time); Conor O’Shea for Campbell (50 mins); Kevin Keane for Gardiner (58 mins).
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee (0-1), Frank McGlynn (0-1); Anthony Thompson, Leo McLoone, Declan Walsh; Martin McElhinney (0-1), Ryan Bradley; Mark McHugh, Adrian Hanlon (0-1), Patrick McBrearty (0-2); Dermot Molloy, Colm McFadden (1-5, 1-0pen, 4f, 1 ’45), Stephen Griffin (0-2, 1f). Subs: Marty Boyle (0-1) for Bradley, Antoin McFadden for Hanlon, Thomas McKinley (all half-time); Gary McFadden for McGlynn (68 mins); Michael Boyle for Durcan (69 mins).
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.