DONEGAL 2-16 QUEEN’S 1-08
BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT SEAN MACCUMHAILL PARK
DONEGAL coasted past Queen’s for the first win of the Rory Gallagher era.
In what was Gallagher’s first home game as the county’s manager, Donegal had a useful 70 minutes in difficult conditions, but spurred on by Odhrán MacNiallais, Christy Toye and Martin O’Reilly they eased to victory.
MacNiallais kicked six wonderful points, while Toye returned to give the side a powerful addition around the middle and O’Reilly helped himself to 1-2 as he looks to put himself in the frame for a berth when the National League rolls around.
O’Reilly and full-back Eamon Ward netted the goals in the first half and James McCartan’s students put up little in the way of resistance. Ward’s strike had Donegal seven in front at the interval and Donegal tuned the screw in the second half to win by eleven.
There were six changes to the team from that which lost by eleven points against Derry in Owenbeg last weekend, with Paddy McGrath, Frank McGlynn, Toye and MacNiallais in for their first starts of the year.
Toye’s stature around the middle third gave Donegal a significant boost and the 31-year-old St Michael’s man was in fine form throughout, beaten only to the Man of the Match award by MacNiallais, whose scoring really caught the eye on a terrible afternoon in Ballybofey.
The Gaoth Dobhair man recovered after dropping a third-minute free into Michael Cunnigham’s arms to score six magnificent points.
O’Reilly had popped over an earlier free and it was the MacCumhaills man who hit the game’s opening goal in the 7th minute. Fed by Daniel McLaughlin, O’Reilly drilled emphatically to the top corner, giving Michael Cunningham no chance.
The MacCumhaills man was another who certainly did his chances no harm, a fisted effort late in the half smartly taken when he might’ve been tempted to go for goal again.
Twice in quick succession, MacNiallais posted after O’Reilly’s goal, sailing over a ’45 after Cunningham thwarted Cory Gallagher, then slamming over from distance.
Queen’s took full advantage of a momentary lapse in the Donegal rearguard, Niall Delargy setting up Ciaran O’Hanlon, who could hardly believe the space as he shot beyond Michael Boyle.
Toye and Conor Hamill swapped points and McNiallais landed two in a minute, now clearly energised as he delightfully swept over from play after converting a free.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Donegal struck their second goal. Martin McElhinney’s powerful break made the chance and it was finished by full-back Ward, the Glenswilly player prodding home past Cunningham to give the hosts a 2-7 to 1-3 lead at the break.
Toye’s return came as a huge boost to Gallagher and he posted the first score of the second half to stretch the lead further.
Donegal kicked five-in-a-row then to put daylight between them after Ryan Murray and Tony Donnelly had registered at the other side.
MacNiallais cleverly played a ’45 short to McElhinney, before pointing on the return from 40 metres and Daniel McLaughlin, lining out for Donegal for the first time since the 2013 qualifier against Laois, neatly converted soon after.
Eoin McHugh, MacNiallais again and sub Gary McFadden had the home side ahead by eleven with 20 minutes to go.
Although Queen’s tacked on a few scores, Donegal finished with a flourish, Demot Molloy firing over a free with Ciaran McGinley and Hugh McFadden also on the mark late in the day.
Gallagher emptied the bench during the second half, giving debuts to Sean Hensey (St Eunan’s) and Ciaran McCaughey (Bundoran) in the process.
But it was, once again, the return of some stellar names that ensured Gallagher has a win under his belt heading into a joust with his native county, Fermanagh, in Ballybofey on Wednesday night.
DONEGAL: Michael Boyle; Eamon Ward (1-0), Eamonn Doherty, Paddy McGrath; Ciarán McGinley (0-1), Declan Walsh, Frank McGlynn; Martin McElhinney, Christy Toye (0-2); Cory Gallagher, Odhrán MacNiallais (0-6, 1f, 1 ’45), Eoin McHugh (0-1); Daniel McLaughlin (0-1), Hugh McFadden (0-1), Martin O’Reilly (1-2, 1f).
Subs: Gary McFadden (0-1) for Gallagher (half-time), Eunan Doherty for Walsh (50 mins), Sean Hensey for Ward (54 mins), Willie Gillespie for McHugh (55 mins), Dermot Molloy (0-1, 1f) for MacNiallais (58 mins), Ciaran McCaughey for McElhinney (65 mins).
QUEEN’S: Michael Cunningham; Brendan Burns, Greg McCabe, Gerard McGovern; Niall Delargy, Conor Hamill (0-1), Ruairi Wells (0-1); Ciaran O’Hanlon (1-0), Che Cullen; Ryan Murray (0-1), Tony Donnelly (0-4, 1f), Michael Monan; Donal Hughes (0-1), Sean Fox, Sean Warnock.
Subs: Marc Jordan for O’Hanlon (half-time), David Higgins for Hamill (45 mins),Barry McCann for Fox (48 mins), Mickey Donaghy for Monan (50 mins), Conor McCormick for Warnock (52 mins).
REFEREE: Dan Mullan (Derry).
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