14-man Dublin gain vengeance against Donegal in bitter encounter at Croker
Dublin 2-10 Donegal 0-11
REVENGE was a dish best served up cold - literally - when 14-man Dublin beat Donegal in the national league in their first big re-match since last year's All-Ireland semi-final.
It was always expected to be feisty and unfortunately lived up to that with both sides too keen to get involved in shaping up to each other at times than concentrating on football and referee Maurice Deegan struggled to keep control of it.
But a goal after just six minutes by Cormac Costello and a second-half wonder-goal by substitute Jack McCaffrey proved the difference as the Dubs took their first league points of the season.
As is their wont they made late changes to their line-up right before throw-in, bringing in Michael Fitzsimons at corner-back, Eric Lowdnes at wing-back and Ballymun's Davy Byrne at wing-forward, in place of Rory O'Carroll, Jack McCaffrey and Shane Carthy.
That meant they fielded only four of their starters from last August's big clash compared to seven for Donegal.
The visitors went two points clear, both from Michael Murphy, before the Dubs did what they couldn't in last year's All-Ireland semi-final and bagged a goal.
Paul Durcan has spent all winter trying to erase the memory of the goal he handed Kieran Donaghy last summer and while it wasn't as big a gift a bad kick-out after six minutes ultimately resulted in that first Dublin goal which saw Kevin McManamon slip a great pass to Lowdnes who put Costello through to finish.
To add to Durcan's woes he then went off with an injury after colliding with teammate Karl Lacey while trying to make the save.
Cormac Costello, Dublin's best forward early on, had another good goal chance after 20 minutes but just couldn't get his finger-tips to it and minutes later Eoghan O'Gara danced around two defenders and had a third goal chance but opted for a point.
Denis Bastick also a goal chance late in the first half but shot from too far out and sub-keeper Michael Boyle tipped it out for a '45 which Dean Rock slotted for a three-point lead.
But good points from Christy Toye and Paddy McBrearty left just a point between them at half-time (1-5 to 0-7) and Dublin, who shot seven wides to Donegal's five, had more reason to regret their profligacy by the break.
They also lost Tomas Brady early on to a heavy (accidental) knock on the head but none other than Ciaran Kilkenny, making his long-awaited return from a cruciate injury, was his replacement.
But an even bigger loss was Kevin McManamon to a second yellow card in the 45th minute at a point when the game was threatening to boil over.
As the sides traded points both brought in more familiar names in Colm McFadden and Jack McCaffrey and the latter had the much greater impact, scoring 1-1, including that 64th minute wonder-goal to give the Dubs a five-point lead.
Donegal didn't help themselve by shooting five wides to Dublin's one after the break and any hope of recovery went when Michael Murphy was black-carded in the 68th minute.
And in the dying minutes the Dublin fan in the 22,968 crowd had another reason to cheer when Bernard Brogan made his first appearance of the season.
Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-5 (4f, 1'45), J McCaffrey 1-1, C Costello 1-0, E O'Conghaile, D Byrne (Ballymun), E O Gara and C Kilkenny 0-1 each. Donegal: M Murphy 0-4 (2f), P McBrearty 0-4 (1f), C Toye 0-2, C McFadden 0-1.
DUBLIN - S Currie; M Fitzsimons, E Culligan, D Daly; J Cooper, J Small, E Lowdnes; D Bastick, E O'Conghaile; T Brady, D Rock, D Byrne (Ballymun); K McManamon, E O'Gara, C Costello. Subs - D Byrne (St Olaf's) for Culligan (inj, 16), C Kilkenny for Brady (inj,19), J McCaffrey for Lowdnes (48), P McMahon for Cooper (60), B Brogan for Costello (64), C Reddin for Byrne (70).
DONEGAL - P Durcan; E Doherty, E MCGee, P McGrath;, F McGlynn, K Lacey, M McHugh; N Gallagher, C Toye; R McHugh, M O'Reilly, O MacNiallais; P McBrearty, M Murphy, H McFadden. Subs - M Boyle for Durcan (7, blood), N McGee for McGrath (20), C McFadden for H McFadden (54), D O'Connor for Doherty (64), D McLaughlin for Murphy (black card, 68).
Referee - M Deegan (Laois).