Larry Tompkins: Mayo will have many regrets about this one
THIS was a fine game of football, with the contrast in tactics intriguing. The one thing Mayo didn't want was a bad start -- bearing in mind how poorly they got out of the blocks against Kerry in their previous two finals in 2004 and 2006 -- but it must be the sight of green and gold jerseys or something because, yet again, they allowed their opponents to sweep into a clear lead.
Conceding two goals inside the opening 10 minutes was a nightmare start, but the Mayo players deserve huge credit for the way they battled back and made a game of it.
However, both of the goals could have been avoided with more rigorous defending. While Michael Murphy's goal was a top-drawer finish, and worthy of any big match, the ball should never have got that far up the field in the first place.
Donegal centre-back Karl Lacey, who has been outstanding all summer, was allowed to solo up the field too easily and deliver a superb ball into Murphy without enough pressure being exerted on him.
To compound matters, Kevin Keane was left completely exposed by his defensive colleagues by being put in a one-on-one situation with the physically stronger Murphy, whose turn and finish to the roof of the net was top-class.
There was a significant slice of luck about the second one when Colm McFadden pounced.
At the start of the game, McFadden and Murphy were the two men that were going to win this All-Ireland if Donegal were going to come out on top, and they propelled their side into a seven-point lead after just 11 minutes. It wasn't quite an irretrievable situation for Mayo, but it was very close to it.
To their credit, Mayo rallied. First, Aidan O'Shea got on top at midfield, then Barry Moran followed to give them a platform. Michael Conroy got some joy and angled over a superb point, while Kevin McLoughlin was popping up everywhere.
They put pressure on Donegal and it seemed to be working for a while, but even when they were enjoying their best period of the game, you never felt they were going to get the goal they needed.
Their best chance came late on, when Seamus O'Shea couldn't get away a clean shot, but Donegal had already squeezed the life out of Mayo at that stage.
They kept trying but they didn't seem to have the physical strength to get beyond Donegal and really ask questions of their back-line.
The neutral would have liked to have seen Mayo with a three-point lead in the closing stages that Donegal would have to chase. That never materialised and Jim McGuinness' side did a good job of killing the final 10 minutes with sensible decision making and cool heads.
It's more disappointment for Mayo. There's nothing that will console them as they wake up this morning with that all too familiar feeling of having lost an all-Ireland final.
I remember coming out of Croke Park after we beat them in the 1989 final and Mayo people -- along with the Cork crowd -- came out of the pubs and applauded us. I've never forgotten that gesture.
And while they'll be sick this morning, when they sit down and analyse the game, they'll see that there is much to work with between plenty of good players and a good management team.
And there's no place that will give you more experience than an All-Ireland final. They'll be stronger for this.
But it was Donegal's day. The talk will soon start as to whether they can retain their title, but that is for another day.
They are a team that should be held up as an example considering they came from the lowest of bases after that defeat to Armagh in 2010. The sacrifices they made and commitments they gave mean they are an easy team to like in my eyes.
Along with that work ethic they have some footballers who would be comfortable on any team in the country.
McGuinness and his team deserve all the plaudits that will undoubtedly come their way.