DONEGAL 1-10 DUBLIN 0-13
By Chris McNulty in Ballybofey
PAUL Mannion’s landed the excellent point, 30 seconds from the end, that ultimately relegated Donegal and left the All-Ireland champions ‘shell shocked’ on a day of high drama in Division 1.
Their manager, Jim McGuinness, had an angered demeanour after the game, with his ire clearly pointed in the direction of the replacement referee, Michael Duffy, who had taken over the injured Padraig Hughes, stretchered off in the tenth minute of the second half.
Nine minutes from the end, Rory Kavanagh was pulled by Jason Whelan as he soared in on goal. Donegal felt they should have had a penalty; Duffy did not award even a free.
McGuinness did not specifically reference the incident, nor did he go into detail on what he called ‘a lot of stuff’ he felt ‘didn’t add up.
His feelings were kept condensed and while they were pointed, they were not without foundation.
“There were a lot of things going on near the end that had a major impact on the game and have relegated us as a result,” said McGuinness.
“The boys are a bit shell-shocked because they feel that they did enough to win the game.
“I’m very proud of the players, the way they played. We did enough to win the game and we should have won the game, but we haven’t won the game.”
While the grievances with those decisions were well-placed this was still a game that Donegal should have won, having spurned a host of good chances, with eight wides kicked and a fine second half goal chance also passed up on.
Donegal handed first NFL appearances to Eamon Doherty of St Eunan’s and Under 21 player Luke Keaney.
Colm McFadden got on the end of a clever over-the-top pass from Patrick McBrearty to score a crisply-taken 10th minute goal for the hosts that was the separator when the sides parted at the break. McFadden made way at the break (due to ‘cramp’ because of an increase in training intensity, McGuinness had said) and his loss was a big one for Donegal.
Ross Wherity made the initial play in the lead-up to the goal. The restored St Eunan’s player was back with a point to prove and early on here he outlined again that he is now a forward who must regarded as being within Donegal’s first-choice front six.
His edge must be sharpened as demonstrated when he was put in behind by Anthony Thompson for a 55th minute goal chance. With Stephen Cluxton advancing, Wherity shot at the ‘keeper’s legs and the opportunity to go five up was gone.
Mannion’s frees hauled Dublin back into it and ten minutes from time they were just one behind.
Hughes had to retire when he went over awkwardly early in the second half and his replacement, the Sligo native Duffy, did not endear himself to the locals after dismissing Kavanagh’s pleas for a foul.
It was bite-the-nails time when the results of the other games came through and showed that Kerry had won in Omagh and Mayo scored a win down in Cork. With that, Donegal had to win to survive.
After Paul Durcan magnificently saved from Whelan, Dublin got level when, first, Jack McCaffrey, and then Mannion, with his sixth of the day and first from play, arched over in stoppage time.
McGuinness, you fell, won’t be sleepless. He said: “It is about the summer for us, it’s always about the summer.”
Donegal: P Durcan; L Keaney, E McGee, F McGlynn; E Doherty, L McLoone, A Thompson; R Kavanagh, R Bradley (0-1); M McHugh (0-1), R Wherity, M McElhinney; P McBrearty (0-3, 2f), M Murphy (0-3, 3f), C McFadden (1-2, 2f). Subs: O MacNiallais for McFadden (ht), M O’Reilly for McElhinney (47), D McLaughlin for MacNiallais (69)
Dublin: S Cluxton (0-1, 1 ’45); K O’Brien, P McMahon, D Daly; J McCaffrey (0-1), G Brennan, J Cooper; MD Macauley, C O’Sullivan (0-1); P Flynn, T Brady, D Connolly (0-1, 1f); K McManamon, P Andrews (0-3), P Mannion (0-6, 5f). Subs: J Whelan for Flynn (ht), B Cullen for Brady (ht), D Bastick for Macauley (56), D Rock for Connolly (58), M Fitzsimons for Brennan (63).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).