Wednesday 24 April 2019

Donegal win a game of two halves to leave Rebels on the brink of relegation to third tier

National Football League Division 2 Round 6: Donegal 1-19 Cork 1-12

Micheal Hurley of Cork. Photo by Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile
Micheal Hurley of Cork. Photo by Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile

Diarmuid Sheehan

Cork put in a competitive 70 minutes at home to Donegal in Páirc Uí Rinn last Saturday, but ultimately went down to the Ulster side and now look destined to drop to Division 3 next weekend.

Donegal got off the mark right from the thrown with Caolan McGonagle setting the visitors first attack on its way with a classy move converted by corner-forward Jamie Brennan. Cork responded well to the early Donegal score with a huge score from Mark Collins.

The sides traded scores till the 10th minute with Donegal's Michael Murphy (free) and Oisín Gallen keeping the scoreboard ticking over for the men in yellow, while a brace of scores from Cork's Michael Hurley raising the decibel levels amongst the local supporters.

Cork were opened as the game headed for the quarter hour mark with a slick move from the middle set McGonagle through however a last-ditch intervention from Kevin Crowley saved what looked like an almost certain goal. A big let off for the men in red.

Cork stuck to their task and managed to pull two clear by the 20th minute with Ruairí Deane and Knocknagree's Eoghan McSweeney slotting over a pair of very impressive scores.

A long range free from Luke Connolly put a small chink between the sides however Donegal hadn't had anything like a purple patch to that point and were playing against what was a strong, gusting wind.

Murphy cut the gap to two with a close-in free before points from Ciaran Thompson and corner-back Caolan Ward brought this one back to parity.

For one of the first time's this season the Rebels showed that they were up for the fight and a move that saw Deane burst his way through on goal was finished off to the net by Mallow's Mattie Taylor as Cork pushed three points clear heading into first half injury time.

Cork weren't done however and two points from McSweeney (his second and third of the half) sent Cork in leading by five 1-8 to 0-6.

Cork needed a solid start if they were to keep the Ulster side at bay and a big point from Collins on the resumption was just what the doctor ordered however Donegal started to get a handle on the home side and two scores in two minutes from Frank McGlynn and Murphy cut the gap to a more manageable four. Murphy's point was right out of the top drawer leaving two players on their backsides before a wonderful shot sent over from the right-hand side.

Points from Connolly and Donegal's Ryan McHugh kept the scorekeeper busy as Donegal heaped pressure on the home side without managing to do much in the way of closing the gap.

Some wayward shooting from Donegal played right into Cork's hands however two frees from Murphy and a Brennan point had alarm bells ringing. Connolly eased the suffering for a few moments, but Donegal started to turn the screw and were level on 57 minutes after another Murphy free.

The last 15 minutes were all about the visitors as they put Cork to the sword in a way many thought they might from the off. 1-7 to 0-1 was the score line in favour of the visitors late on as Cork felt the full force of Donegal's' scoring threat.

A 74thminute goal from Jamie Brennan sealed the deal here and Cork slumped to another loss in what may well become the season from hell for the Rebels. Next weekend Cork make the long trip to Armagh looking to first win, and then pray, to remain in Division 2 for 2020 - all things right now point to Division 3 football for the coming year.

DONEGAL: S Patton; L McLoone, S McMenamin, E Bán Gallagher; P Brennan, E Doherty, C Ward 0-1; H McFadden 0-1, C McGonagle; C Thompson 0-1, N O'Donnell 0-3, R McHugh 0-2; J Brennan 1-2, M Murphy 0-6 (4f, 1.45), O Gallen 0-1 Subs: D Ó Baoill 0-2 for Brennan (24); P McGrath for Ward (HT); E McHugh for Gallen (74); N McGee for Doherty (76)

CORK: MA Martin; S Ryan, Thomas Clancy, C Dennehy; K Crowley, K Flahive, M Taylor 1-0; I Maguire, C O'Hanlon; E McSweeney 0-3, L Connolly 0-4 (3f), R Deane 0-1; M Hurley 0-2, M Collins 0-2, P Kerrigan Subs: M White for Martin (42, inj); R O'Toole for Kerrigan; K O'Driscoll for Taylor (both 57); S Powter for Deane (62-64, bs); C Kiely for Dennehy (63); S Powter for Crowley (67)

Referee: D Gough (Meath)


The Game in 60 seconds

Man of the Match

Donegal's Michael Murphy is a genuine class act. The front man put in a serious shift last weekend from his starting berth at full to a roving position at centre-forward to the occasional intervention all the way back at the full-back line. Never stopped running, never turned away from the ball and always willing to go for scores. Brilliant display.

Turning Point

At half time Cork were up by five and while far from a certainty to go on and win the rebels looked pretty good. Donegal came out much the stronger after the break, but Cork still stuck to their task. Between the 54th and 74th minutes Donegal showed why they are a better side than Cork. They hassled, harried and scoring 1-7 to Cork's 0-1 in that time. Donegal gave Cork a footballing lesson in that time and Cork could only sit back and take it all in.

What's Next?

A trip to Armagh next week and the hope that things will go their way in other results is all that Cork can hope for now. Injuries to some key players won't help, neither will last Saturday's moral shattering result but where there is a will there's a way and Cork will do all that they can to avoid relegation - but the reality is that the drop is now the most likely outcome for the boys in red.