Below-par Dubs still have too much quality for Donegal
Dublin 0-20 Donegal 0-15
All-Ireland champions Dublin chalked up their 50th win in Croke Park under Jim Gavin last night to maintain their perfect start to the 2018 Allianz Division 1 league campaign.
Donegal's Paddy McBrearty gave another outstanding performance, scoring 0-7 and singlehandedly dragging his side back into a contest in which they trailed by six points at the break in front of 21,469.
But though he narrowed the margin to a single point in the 60th minute with his fourth point from play in the second half, they failed to score again while the All-Ireland champions, despite being well below par, kicked four late points to maintain their perfect start to the season.
This was Donegal's fifth loss to Dublin since 2014 and their seventh since this phase of their rivalry kicked off with the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final. They are still without a point after three rounds of the league and although they will be encouraged by their second-half performance the reality is they face a battle against relegation when the competition resumes in two weeks' time.
The introduction of 2012 All-Ireland-winning captain Michael Murphy backfired badly for Donegal as he missed three key chances whereas Dublin's last two points came from substitutes Ciarán Reddin and Paddy Small.
Donegal's cause wasn't helped either by the wayward kick-outs of goalkeeper Peter Boyle. He kicked long but his outfield colleagues were unable to secure them and three of Dublin's 11 first-half points came directly as a result of turnovers from his restarts. Niall Scully was the star performer for Dublin in the opening half, kicking four points from play as Donegal were punished for their wayward shooting. Even though they had the advantage of the breeze they kicked seven wides into the Hill 16 end and landed two shots into the arms of Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton - who was making his 99th league appearance.
But though they played second fiddle Donegal should have had goals in their first and last attacks in the half. Their top scorer Paddy McBrearty had a chance straight after the throw-in but he hesitated and the opportunity was lost, though Ryan McHugh did score a point.
Then, in stoppage time a rare mistake from Cluxton saw his kick-out drift out over the sideline. A quick re-start from Hugh McFadden who combined with McBrearty opened up the Dublin defence but while Jamie Brennan's powerful shot beat Cluxton it hit the post and dropped wide. Dublin's best goal chance of the half fell to Colm Basquel after 15 minutes but be blazed over the bar from close range.
Leading by six at the break (0-11 to 0-5) Donegal fell further behind immediately after the re-start when Macauley touched the throw-in straight to Fenton who raced through and pointed.
But Donegal subsequently enjoyed their best period, outscoring Dublin 5-2 in the next 15 minutes with the McBrearty brothers scoring five points between them as their superior fitness levels told.
Paddy McBrearty's third free in the 52nd minute left the minimum between the sides and though Baquel replied for Dublin the introduction of Michael Murphy in the 55th brought the biggest cheer of the night.
But there was no fairytale return for their Glenswilly as he missed a straight-forward free second later and missed two other chances from play.
When Dublin went down the field and Basquel hit his fourth point it seemed a key moment but Paddy McBrearty was now the emerging as the most influential player on the field and he kicked two monster points to leave the minimum between the sides again. Dean Rock was introduced with five minutes of normal time remaining but immediately missed a free.
However, points from Paul Mannion and O'Gara stretched Dublin's lead to three points again before they wrapped up the scoring and the game with injury time points from Reddin and Paddy Small.
Scorers - Dublin: N Scully, C Basquel (1f) 0-4 each; B Fenton, C Kilkenny, P Mannion (1f) 0-2 each; P Andrews, E Lowndes, B Howard, E O'Gara, C Reddin, P Small 0-1 each. Donegal: P McBrearty 0-7 (3f), R McHugh, J Brennan, S McBrearty 0-2 each, L McLoone, M McHugh 0-1 each.
Dublin: S Cluxton; D Byrne, P McMahon, E Lowndes; J Cooper, J McCarthy, J Small; B Fenton, M D Macauley; B Howard, C Kilkenny, N Scully; C Basquel, P Andrews, P Mannion. Subs: E O'Gara for Andrews (46); C O'Sullivan for McMahon (46), D Rock for Macauley (65); C Reddin for Scully (73); P Small for Basquel (73).
Donegal: P Boyle; E Doherty C Ward, EB Gallagher; R McHugh, L McLoone, T McClenaghan; N Mullins, H McFadden; M McHugh, S McBrearty, C Thompson; P McBrearty, O MacNiallais, J Brennan. Subs: S McGonigle for Mullins (27); N O'Donnell for Thompson (43), M Murphy for MacNiallais (55), C McGinley for M McHugh (65), M O'Reilly for S McBrearty (68), P Brennan for R McHugh (72).
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).
Sunday Indo Sport