Donegal edge past Mayo in gripping Ballybofey encounter
Donegal 1-14 Mayo 1-12
Leo McLoone's 57th minute goal gave Donegal a hard earned Allianz Division 1 win over Mayo at a packed Ballybofey.
It was Donegal's first win over Mayo in five matches (league and championship) since their All-Ireland triumph and a third in succession to rejoin Dublin at the top of the table.
A gripping match, watched by 11,000 in near perfect conditions for the time of year, saw the lead change hands three times in the second half before Donegal made their winning surge.
Manager Rory Gallagher may feel it's too early for Division One status to be assured but one more point from their remaining four games will surely guarantee it.
They had to dig deep and come from three points down in the second half after Diarmuid O'Connor's 45th minute penalty and a subsequent point from Conor Loftus gave Mayo a 1-10 to 0-10 lead.
Michael Murphy was hugely influential in the last quarter while the powerful running from deep of the McHughs cousins Ryan and Eoin, both operating as wing-backs, and Paddy McGrath was Donegal's most obvious threat.
A combination of Christy Toye and Rory Kavanagh set up McLoone, a second half substitute, for one of his trademarks goal to tilt the balance back in the home side's favour.
Donegal were able to police Aidan O'Shea better in the second half too.
O'Shea was a handful in the opening half, turning his first marker Eamonn McGee for a fine (and rare) point off his right foot for a 0-3 to 0-1 while also winning converted frees for Evan Regan (two) and Rob Hennelly.
Keith Higgins was restored to attack where he spent much of the 2013 championship and was very lively and creative early on before injury forced him out in the 24th minute.
Mayo's dominance from kick-outs was also quite pronounced in that first half, Paul Durcan's loss being felt more than it has been up to now for the understanding he has with his outfield colleagues.
Twice Mayo led by two points in the opening 20 minutes but once Kavanagh, starting for the first time since he came out of retirement, levelled to make it 0-4 to 0-4 after Michael Murphy's short free they were level three more times until Brendan Harrison kicked Mayo into a 0-8 to 0-7 lead.
The defeat leaves Mayo, who got Seamus O'Shea, Chris Barrett and Andy Moran back into action for the first time this season, scrambling for points as they prepare to head to Clones to play Monaghan next week.
Scorers - Donegal: M Murphy 0-5 ( 2fs, 2 45s), P McBrearty 0-4 (2fs), O MacNiallais, R McHugh 0-2 each, R Kavanagh 0-1.
Mayo: E Regan 0-4 (4fs), D O'Connor 1-0 (pen) R Hennelly 0-2 1f 1 45), B Harrison, S Nally, S O'Shea, C Loftus, A O'Shea, L Keegan 0-1 each.
Donegal: P Boyle; E O'Doherty, N McGee, P McGrath; R McHugh, E McGee, E McHugh; M Murphy, R Kavanagh; H McFadden, F McGlynn, O MacNiallais; M Carroll, P McBrearty, M O'Reilly. Subs: M McElhinney for Carroll (19), A Thompson for O'Doherty (ht), N Gallagher for McFadden (45), C Toye for Gallagher BC (47) L McLoone for E McGee (50), C Ward for O'Reilly (71).
Mayo: R Hennelly; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, M Hall; L keegan, C Boyle, S Nally; T Parsons, J Gibbons; D O'Connor, A O'Shea, K McLoughlin; E Regan, C O'Shea, K Higgins. Subs: C Loftus for Higgins inj (24), A Moran for Regan (49), D Vaughan for O'Connor (53), C Barrett for Hall (59), S O'Shea for Gibbons (63), J Doherty for D O'Connor (69).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)