Inishowen League: 3
Donegal League: 1
THE Donegal League players were completely inconsolable as they made their way off the wonderfully manicured pitch at Maginn Park on Wednesday night after the Inishowen League fashioned three goals in the final ten minutes to move a step closer to qualification from the group stages of the Oscar Traynor Cup.
Steven Corcoran’s side grabbed the lead midway through the first-half when Glenn Gallagher angled a glorious long-range strike over the head of Inishowen goalkeeper Martin McLaughlin.
The visitors probably should’ve gone in at the interval nursing a more comfortable advantage, with striker Ryan Carlin, in particular, passing up a glorious opportunity to double their advantage after being played through one-on-one.
Nevertheless, they maintained their discipline and shape after the restart and produced a spirited defensive performance that frustrated the life out of their opponents for the majority of the second half.
Goalkeeper Christopher Sweeney and his defensive team-mates were heroic at times as they kept the home side at bay, but a lack of composure in the final third meant they were under constant pressure during a one-sided second period.
Inishowen were relentless in their pursuit of an equaliser and with nine minutes to go their territorial dominance was eventually rewarded when James Devlin restored parity.
The left winger grabbed two more – the second on 85 minutes and third in the 95th minute – to complete a fine hat-trick and all but seal his side’s progression to the knockout stages.
It came as a devastating blow to Donegal who ran their socks off for the 90 plus minutes, but they are not quite of it yet – they need a win against Sligo in their final game of the group and hope other results go their way.
Corcoran’s side, having opened up with a 2-2 draw against Mayo in Rathmullan several weeks back, took the game to Inishowen in the first half and were unlucky not to have found the breakthrough early on as Ryan Carlin shot straight at the ‘keeper, while Garth Gallagher curled a free-kick narrowly wide of the woodwork.
However, the deadlock was broken on 24 minutes following a breakaway down the right side by Paddy Collins and Colin Carlin. The latter pulled the ball back to Lagan midfielder Glenn Gallagher who had the vision and execution to fire a wonderful, curling effort over the head of the stranded McLaughlin from 30 yards.
The hosts responded well but were a little too hurried in their approach play and Donegal comfortably soaked up whatever was thrown at them. The one time the northeast contingent did find a way through the heart of the visiting rearguard Christopher Sweeney was at his very best to deny the lively Nigel McMonagle with his outstretched left leg.
However, the big turning point came ten minutes before the interval when Carlin was played in behind the Inishowen defence and with the goalkeeper seemingly making his mind up to go low, the striker fired a tame effort straight into his abdomen.
It could’ve been lights out but instead the home side were full of belief as they re-emerged for the start of the second half.
BACKS TO THE WALL
Eleven minutes in they were denied a leveller courtesy of a truly outstanding piece of defending by Donegal. Nigel McMonagle raced onto a through-ball from Paddy McDermott but was somehow thwarted by Sweeney, who managed to get a flick on the ball as the striker rounded him.
McMonagle then pulled the loose ball back toward Devlin who was then denied by a brilliant last-ditch clearance off the line by Paul ‘Yank’ Boyle.
Sweeney was to the rescue moments later to palm away a cross-cum-shot from McMonagle, while Devlin failed to find the target after cutting inside his marker.
Inishowen also thought they had a penalty midway through the second half but the assistant referee flagged for offside.
The equaliser finally came nine minutes from time when Terence Doherty beat the offside trap before pulling square for McMonagle. The striker rattled the inside of the post but Devlin was on hand to tuck home the rebound, although Sweeney was very unlucky not to keep it out.
Devlin put the home side in front four minutes later following a wonderful cross-field ball from Sean Doherty and deep into stoppage time the winger added a brilliant third after racing the length of the field to score a classic counter-attacking goal.
Inishowen League: Martin McLaughlin; Stephen McLaughlin, Ger McEleney, Michael Byrne, Matthew Byrne; Anthony Doherty (Sean Doherty, 63 mins), Shane Canning, Patrick McDermott, James Devlin; James Henry (Terence Doherty, 77 mins), Nigel McMonagle. Subs not used: Seamus Doherty, Michael Devlin, Conor O’Brien.
Donegal League: Christopher Sweeney; Redmond Doherty, Paul Boyle, Garth Gallagher, Declan McGarvey; Paddy Collins (Ryan Shields, 64 mins), Glenn Gallagher, Kevin Mulhern, Shane Barclay (Kevin Kelly, h.t); Colin Carlin (JP Mailey, 82 mins), Ryan Carlin. Subs not used: Ian Strain, Kieran Gorman, Marty Brogan, Eddy Moore.
Referee: Terence Moyne.