Donegal face relegation but ‘know that they’re better than that’, insists Paddy Carr

NFL Div 1: Mayo 1-17 Donegal 0-9

Mayo's Jordan Flynn in action against Hugh McFadden and Caolan Ward of Donegal. Photo: Sportsfile

Chris McNulty

Mayo won for the first time on Donegal soil to plunge Paddy Carr’s men into the relegation quick sand.

After an 11-point loss in Ballybofey, only a mathematical miracle can extend Donegal’s top-flight stay into a fifth year.

Just two minutes into the second half, Ryan O’Donoghue cut a swathe through the home defence and slipped beyond Shaun Patton and put the game out of Donegal’s reach.

“We are totally dependant on something that is very unlikely to happen,” a forlorn Carr acknowledged.

“Momentum goes one way or the other and confidence is linked to that. Lads will be disappointed because they know that they’re better than that.”

O’Donoghue’s goal put Mayo 1-11 to 0-6 in front and Donegal, who took Oisin Gallen into the action at half-time, were staring into the abyss.

Remarkably, this was Mayo’s first win on Donegal soil. A wretched and somewhat peculiar nine-game streak, including four draws, stretching back to a 1984 defeat in Ballyshannon, was ended emphatically here.

“There was no need to get swanky but it was excellent how we got there,” Mayo manager Kevin McStay said. “The conditions were heavy but it was just a matter of getting the ball and giving it to a fella with the same coloured jersey.”

Patton’s save from Fionn McDonagh in the eighth minute to keep his sheet clean and prevent Mayo from grabbing an early boost.

Goalkeeper Colm Reape clipped over a ‘45 and when the majestic Aidan O’Shea popped over soon after, Mayo led 0-4 to 0-2.

Donegal hauled themselves level as Ciaran Thompson converted two frees in the space of a minute. Yet, Mayo kicked seven points to Donegal’s two across the last 20 minutes of the first half.

Matthew Ruane was in splendid form and a monster effort by the Breaffy man had Mayo 0-9 to 0-5 ahead in the 31st minute.

With O’Shea and O’Donoghue points sandwiching Donegal’s sole riposte, a Michael Langan free, Mayo’s 0-11 to 0-6 half-time advantage felt handsome.

When O’Donoghue struck gold on the resumption, it was confirmation.​

Carr said: “The reality is that, for a lot of these lads, their best football has yet to be played. There is talk about transition and it is a work in progress and a work in creation.

“Sometimes you need a few knocks back before you can move forward. How we deal with that is the key challenge.”

Scorers – Donegal: C Thompson (2f), M Langan (2f) 0-3 each, E Gallagher, J Brennan, O Gallen 0-1 each. Mayo: R O’Donoghue 1-3 (1f), A O’Shea 0-4 (2f), M Ruane 0-3, P Durcan, J Flynn 0-2 each, C Reape (‘45), J Carney, P Towey 0-1 each.

Donegal: S Patton 6; M Curran 6, C Ward 5, C McColgan 5; C Thompson 7, B McCole 5, E Gallagher 7; C McGonagle 5, J McGee 6; M Langan 6, D O Baoill 6, C O’Donnell 6; H McFadden 6, J Brennan 6, P Mogan 6. Subs: O Gallen 5 for McColgan (h-t), J Mac Ceallabhui 6 for Mogan (43), R O’Donnell 6 for Thompson (52), J Bradley-Walsh 5 for Brennan (60), K Barrett 5 for Gallen (62).

Mayo: C Reape; J Coyne 7, D McBrien 7, S Callinan 7; S Coen 7, C Loftus 7, P Durcan; M Ruane 8, D O’Connor 8; F McDonagh 7, J Carney 7, J Flynn 7; A O’Shea 8, J Carney 7, R O’Donoghue 8. Subs: T Conroy 7 for Carr (46), K McLaughlin 6 for McDonagh (52), P O’Hora 6 for Coyne (62), B Tuohy 5 for O’Connor, P Towey (0-1) 6 for O’Donoghue (both 69)

Ref - S Hurson (Tyrone).