DONEGAL 2-06 LAOIS 2-09
BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL suffered a second National League defeat of the year yesterday as Laois gunned down a disjointed Tir Chonaill in Letterkenny.
Second-half goals by Anthony Thompson and Neil Gallagher took the bad look of things for Donegal, but they failed to mask a poor performance from the hosts, who played second fiddle for long periods of the contest,
The three-point gap at the end was, in truth, kind to Donegal, who took the poor decision making that cost dearly last weekend against Down into the game, with Laois punishing some poor turnovers in possession
While the League might still be at an embryonic stage, it might not have been over the top to suggest that yesterday’s was a must-win clash for Jim McGuinness’s side. In the quest for survival on the top rung of the League, that the next four games are against Cork, Kerry, Mayo and Dublin (the 2010 All-Ireland champions and the other three semi-finalists of last year) meant that points yesterday were vital.
With that in mind, McGuinness rang the changes in a misfiring attack from Newry with Martin O’Reilly, Dermot Molloy and Adrian Hanlon all elevated into the starting line-up in a bid to ignite the sparks, with Conor Classon, David Walsh and Stephen Griffin the men to miss out as Neil Gallagher was started at full-forward.
The big Glenswilly man was a peripheral figure inside however, as Donegal didn’t launch near enough darts his way and he was more effective when around his natural habitat in the middle third.
Thrown in again for a late salvo, Gallagher scored the second Donegal goal, but Laois deserved their win and for Donegal there are worrying signs and plenty of issues for McGuinness to address over the next three weeks. Anthony Thompson netted the first goal seconds earlier when his shot just crossed the line despite Lillis’ best efforts on the line.
The next series of matches see Donegal out four weeks running with opposition in the form of the 2010 All-Ireland winners Cork, and the other three semi-finalists from last year, Kerry, Mayo and Dublin, hardly providing feet-up exercises.
Indeed, Donegal will go into those games without a win in six competitive outings and on the back of their poorest display of the McGuinness reign – making the return of those absent stars so important with yesterday’s outing only enhancing their importance to the cause.
“Ah, disappointed definitely,” said Jim McGuinness.
“I suppose we’d be very disappointed with the performance and our energy levels. Obviously we missed Michael and Colm from the full-forward line, from the point of view of having a point of attack in the first-half.
“Neil Gallagher was in there. When he was in there in the first-half with the breeze at our backs we didn’t kick it into him. When Laois got bodies back then we started to kick it in. We were a bit better at it the second time around, but overall it’s just very disappointing.”
Donegal: P Durcan; F McGlynn, N McGee, P McGrath; A Thompson (1-0), K Lacey, L McLoone; R Kavanagh (0-2), R Bradley; M McHugh, P McBrearty (0-4, 2f), M O’Reilly; D Molloy, N Gallagher (1-0), A Hanlon. SUBS: D Walsh for Molloy (half-time); S Griffin for Hanlon (45 mins); E McGee for McGrath (57 mins); D Walsh for Bradley (66 mins); E Waide for Lacey (70 mins).
Laois: E Culliton; C Healy, K Lillis, P O’Leary; D Strong (0-1), J O’Loughlin, C Boyle; K Meaney, B Quigley; R Munnelly (0-3), C Begley (0-1), D O’Connor; P Cahillane (1-0, 1pen), P Clancy (1-1), D Conway (0-3, 1f). SUBS: C Kelly for Cahillane (57 mins); MJ Tierney for Conway (68 mins); J Kavanagh for O’Connor (70 mins).
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).