McGuinness laments missed chances as Down eye promotion
DOWN 1-9 DONEGAL 0-10
Jim McGuinness was disappointed with Donegal's profligacy after they slipped to their first defeat of the campaign.
Donegal kicked 12 wides and also dropped a few efforts short in a dour struggle in Pairc Esler.
Neither side scored for 21 minutes of the second half but despite only mustering three points after the interval, Down clung on for a merited victory that moves them into promotion contention.
Down were denied a penalty after eight minutes when Paul Durkan appeared to haul down Conor Laverty, who was black-carded late on, but they led all the way from Conor Garvey's sixth-minute point.
"We're disappointed we didn't retain our composure, settle down and kick our scores when they were on," said McGuinness.
"It might have been a different result if we had, but you have to give Down the credit.
"They defended their lead well but you can't get away from the fact we had so many chances."
Both sides were guilty of poor distribution and spilling the ball in possession, but Down were more clinical in attack and deserved their 1-6 to 0-5 half-time lead. Niall Madine got the only goal after 13 minutes, drilling the ball through a crowded square and into the net.
Mark Poland was key to everything for Down and gave Leo McLoone a torrid time before Frank McGlynn was moved onto him in the second half.
He picked off two nice scores in the opening half and hurt Donegal with his direct running game.
Donegal were living off scraps and three of their scores came directly from Down errors.
Dermot Molloy got their first point after 18 minutes after Down defender Ryan Boyle turned the ball over.
Michael Murphy showed a glimpse of his class with the best point of the half from near the sideline, around 50 metres out, as Donegal stayed in touch despite hitting six first-half wides.
Down opened up a five-point lead and led by four at the break. Donegal came flying out of the blocks with two points in the opening two minutes of the second half from Martin McElhinney and McLoone.
But Donegal couldn't shake their wasteful ways. At one stage they hit three terrible wides in quick succession, Colm McFadden's free and David Walsh's effort being particularly poor as the game descended into mediocrity.
Neil Gallagher was lucky to avoid a red card for lashing out at Ryan Boyle, an episode that sparked a melee between the teams for a minute, but Down held on for an important win.
Scorers – Down: N Madine 1-1, C Garvey, M Poland, D O'Hare (2fs) 0-2 each, K McKernan, C Laverty 0-1 each. Donegal: M Murphy 0-3 (1f, 1 '45'), D Molloy, C McFadden (2fs) 0-2 each, L McLoone, M McElhinney, N Gallagher 0-1 each.
DOWN – B McVeigh 7; D McCartan 7, B McArdle 7, O Costello 7; R Boyle 7, A Carr 6, C Garvey 7; P Turley 6, K McKernan 7; C Laverty 6, M Poland 8, C Maginn 7; D O'Hare 7, N Madine 7, J Johnston 6. Subs: R Johnston 6 for J Johnston (56), B Coulter 6 for Madine (68), P Fitzpatrick 6 for Laverty (BC, 70).
DONEGAL – P Durkan 6; E McGee 6, N McGee 6, K Lacey 6; F McGlynn 7, L McLoone 6, A Thompson 6; R Kavanagh 7, M McElhinney 7; M McHugh 6, C Toye 7, O McNelis 7; C McFadden 6, M Murphy 6, D Molloy 6. Subs: N Gallagher 6 for Kavanagh (45), D Walsh 6 for McNelis (45), P McBrearty 6 for Molloy (45), D O'Connor 6 for Toye (60).
REF: C O'Hagan (Tyrone)