DUBLIN 2-10 DONEGAL 0-11
BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT CROKE PARK
DONEGAL’S away day blues in Division 1 continue.
Jack McCaffrey’s cracking goal, seven minutes from the end, handed Dublin a deserved five-point win over Donegal at Croke Park. Dublin turned over Donegal and McCaffrey surged right at Donegal’s heart before sending a stunning early contender for goal of the season to the top corner of the Hill 16 net.
Coupled with Cormac Costello’s fifth-minute goal, it was enough to give Jim Gavin’s Dublin their first League win of the year. Defeat is hardly the end of the world for Rory Gallagher’s Donegal, but it does mean their woes on the road continue.
In their last 13 away ties in Division 1 have Donegal won just once – in 2009 when they relegated Westmeath in Mullingar.
This one was there for the taking had they shown a little more sharpness in the final third.
Dublin played the final 25 minutes with 14 men after Kevin McManamon was sent off for collecting his second yellow card of the night. Already booked following a tussle with Neil McGee from the first half, McManamon was sent for an early shower because of a late hit on Mark McHugh.
Donegal fell in arrears when Dublin broke for a goal after five minutes. Eric Lowndes fetched a kick-out from Paul Durcan and, via a give-and-go with Kevin McManamin he transferred onto Costello.
The corner-forward side-stepped the advancing Donegal netminder and applied the finish, with a stray leg catching Durcan on the head and forcing him prematurely out of the action.
Donegal had begun well. Michael Murphy clipped over a left-footed point after only 23 seconds and the captain landed a magnificent free from 50 metres to double the lead.
Although the goal and the withdrawal of Durcan had an affect on Donegal, Murphy had levelled, but with Davy Byrne, Emmett O’Conghaile and Eoghan O’Gara on the mark Dublin were assuming control.
Patrick McBrearty kept Donegal in check and the minimum was all that was between them at the short whistle. A pair of deadball efforts from Dean Rock moved Dublin three ahead, but Christy Toye worked a superb passage with Ryan McHugh before converting and McBrearty arched over a splendid score.
In those late moments of the opening period, Donegal might well have got their noses in front, but they parted with five wides to their name, including one by Mark McHugh when a split second might well have brought the scampering Neil McGee into his vision.
160 days on from the epic All-Ireland semi-final clash of last August, the tension ran nowhere as deep as that famous Sunday. Jim Gavin played just four of those who lined out that day, while Rory Gallagher lined out with eight of the Donegal XV in his team.
Murphy was even quciker off the draw in the second half, taking just 13 seconds to level the scores after taking a pass from Odhrán MacNiallais.
Dublin did enough to keep in front and although Donegal had their moments they just couldn’t get back on level terms.
McBrearty and Toye brought them back to within a point, but Rock kept Dublin ticking over.
McCaffrey hit Dublin’s first score from play in 34 minutes and the flying wing-back won it for the hosts when he magnificently beat Michael Boyle with a stunning strike.
The stakes might have been considerably lower than when last they duelled at the great Cathedral on Jones’ Road, but there were still a few simmering niggles in the air and at times it was a feisty affair that Maurice Deegan, the referee, struggled to keep a lid upon.
Colm McFadden was in for his first appearance of the year – like Neil McGee who came on in the first half – and the St Michael’s man got on the mark late on, but Michael Murphy was black carded two minutes from the end and the zip had left Donegal.
DUBLIN: Sean Currie; Eoin Culligan, Michael Fitzsimons, Darren Daly; Jonny Cooper, John Small, Eric Lowndes; Denis Bastick, Davy Byrne (0-1); Tomas Brady, Dean Rock (0-5, 4f, 1 ‘45), Emmett O’Conghaile (0-1); Kevin McManamon, Eoghan O’Gara (0-1), Cormac Costello (1-0). Subs: David Byrne for Culligan (16 mins), Ciarán Kilkenny (0-1) for Brady (19 mins), Jack McCaffrey (1-1) for Lowndes (49 mins), Philip McMahon for Cooper (60 mins), Bernard Brogan for Costello (64 mins), Michael Darragh Macauley for Davy Byrne (70 mins).
DONEGAL: Paul Durcan; Eamonn Doherty, Eamon McGee, Paddy McGrath; Frank McGlynn, Karl Lacey, Mark McHugh; Neil Gallagher, Christy Toye (0-2); Ryan McHugh, Martin O’Reilly, Odhrán MacNiallais; Patrick McBrearty (0-4, 1f), Michael Murphy (0-4, 2f), Hugh McFadden. Subs: Michael Boyle for Durcan (7 mins), Neil McGee for McGrath (19 mins), Martin McElhinney for O’Reilly (45 mins), Colm McFadden (0-1) for H.McFadden (54 mins), Darach O’Connor for Doherty (64 mins), Daniel McLaughlin for Murphy (69 mins, black card).
REFEREE: Maurice Deegan (Laois)