Gallagher delighted with early statement as McBrearty steps up
Donegal 1-15 Derry 0-12
RORY Gallagher hopes Patrick McBrearty can step out from the shadows this year.
McBrearty might only be 21, but the Kilcar man clocked up his 46th Donegal appearance on Saturday night as the Ulster champions scored a useful and encouraging win over Derry at Ballybofey.
McBrearty kicked five fantastic points in a reminder of his precocious talents.
Gallagher worked with McBrearty at Kilcar and also during his three years as Jim McGuinness's assistant so he knows him better than most.
"He has matured a lot," Gallagher said. "We threw him in very young, when he was only 17 and this is his fifth season. He's developing all the time. He's always trying to improve. Today was great for him."
Donegal powered to the win in the second half when they outscored Derry 1-9 to 0-3, turning a three-point interval deficit into a six-point win.
Odhrán MacNiallais netted the goal in the 52nd minute, drilling emphatically to the net after being put clear by Christy Toye. MacNiallais picked his spot to perfection from about 20 metres.
"The first thing on my mind when I got the ball was a goal," he said.
"I didn't realise that I was as far out. Thankfully, it hit the back of the net."
The goal came just 90 seconds after Donegal missed a penalty. Referee Marty Duffy harshly deemed Niall Holly to have dragged Michael Murphy to the ground. Murphy stepped up, but his thunderous penalty cannoned off the bar.
However, Donegal did get in for a major when MacNiallais applied the finish.
It completed the comeback for the hosts, who had trailed 0-9 to 0-6 at the break.
Inspired by captain Mark Lynch, Derry took control in the opening half. Paul Durcan almost had to revisit the horror of the All-Ireland final when a misplaced kickout was intercepted by Emmett McGuckin in the third minute, but the Magherafelt man's shot sailed over the bar when he ought to have shown better composure.
McBrearty, Martin O'Reilly and Toye responded for Donegal, but Derry were soon in control, spurred on by Lynch.
A superb point off the outside of Benny Heron's left boot had Derry ahead and Lynch aced two brilliant long-range frees.
Three scores in a row from Lynch had Derry four up, but Donegal came back to within a goal by the changeover through a Michael Murphy free.
With Murphy on the edge of the square and with Martin McElhinney into the fray, Donegal soon turned the tables. By the eighth minute of the second half, the hosts were in front after hitting four in a row.
Murphy rattled the bar from the penalty, but Donegal were toasting MacNiallais soon after and a wonderful effort by McBrearty pushed them clear.
Gallagher said: "We're delighted. It relieves a wee bit of immediate pressure.
"Points will be hard come by, but it's good to get off to a winning start in front of our supporters.
"At half-time we just said, 'Up the ante here lads'. We were allowing Derry to dictate the game and we weren't pushing out, getting on the ball. We were too defensive in our mindset, but in the second half we pushed out and turned over ball.
"Coming back here for the first time after the All-Ireland final, they wanted to make a statement. At half-time we hadn't done that. It was terrific in the second half to turn things around."
Derry ran out of steam as Donegal finished well with Murphy scoring twice, either side of a huge point from the majestic Toye.
Derry boss Brian McIver felt his side could have had a penalty when Enda Lynn went to ground under McElhinney's challenge.
McIver said: "We're disappointed. We played a lot of good, controlled football and should have been more than three ahead at half-time.
"I thought that we had a very good penalty claim, but didn't get it and Donegal go up the field, score a goal and it's game over." Man of the Match: Patrick McBrearty
Scorers - Donegal: P McBrearty (2f), M Murphy (5f) 0-5 each; O MacNiallais 1-0; C Toye, M O'Reilly 0-2 each; M McElhinney 0-1. Derry: M Lynch 0-6 (5f); E McGuckin, B McGoldrick, C McAtamney, B Heron, E Lynn, E Bradley 0-1 each.
DONEGAL - P Durcan 6; P McGrath 7, E McGee 7, F McGlynn 6; M McHugh 7, K Lacey 6, C McGinley 6; N Gallagher 9, C Toye, 8; R McHugh 6, M Murphy 8, O MacNiallais 7; P McBrearty 9, H McFadden 6, M O'Reilly 7. Subs: D McLaughlin 6 for McGinley (27), M McElhinney 7 for McFadden (h-t), D O'Connor 5 for McLaughlin (68), G McFadden 5 for O'Reilly (69).
DERRY - T Mallon 6; O Duffy 5, N Holly 5, J O'Kane 6; K Johnston 7, G O'Kane 6, M Craig 6; M Lynch 8, C McAtamney 7; B Heron 7, D Heavron 6, E Lynn 7; SL McGoldrick 6, E McGuckin 6, B McGoldrick 6. Subs: B McGilligan 6 for McAtamney (48), L McGoldrick 6 for Holly (52), E Bradley 6 for McGuckin (58), T O'Brien 6 for McGoldrick (58), C McFaul 5 for Heron (64), J Kearney 5 for Lynn (68).
REF - Marty Duffy (Sligo)