Late Oisín Gallen goal puts gloss on performance as Donegal eventually see Meath off
Donegal 2-19 Meath 1-13
IF Donegal are to be Dublin’s greatest threat this summer, they’ll require some improvement on their opening performance in this year’s Super 8s.
The Ulster champions eventually shook Meath off in Ballybofey on a baking hot afternoon for football but not before Andy McEntee’s men rattled them and briefly, threatened to turn Group 1 on its head.
In the end, Donegal won by nine points but an injury-time goal from substitute Oisín Gallen at a time when Meath were demonstrably stretched gave the scoreboard a deceiving gloss.
For their part, Meath can reflect on a positive debut in this exalted stage of the Championship.
On this showing, provided the exertions of the past couple of weeks don’t take too high a toll, they’ll give Kerry and Mayo problems this month.
Having trailed by five points ten minutes into the second half, McEntee’s team produced a stirring ten minute spell wherein they went a point up before Donegal again seized control.
In that period, Donegal were beset by poor decision-making but to their credit, they finished with an unanswered 1-6 to seal the two points with trickier tasks to come.
At half-time here, there was four points between the teams but it felt mich closer.
Meath attacked in waves but their shortcomings were in shot selection and a couple of poor kick-outs Donegal punished with scores.
At the other end, five Donegal forwards scored from play in the half but the most important one was Paddy McBrearty’s goal in the 26th minute when he rolled Conor McGill and galloped towards goal with all the time in the world to decide his method of dispatch.
Typically, he chose to roof his shot past Andrew Colgan and Donegal had their daylight.
They continued along that path early in the second-half, with Paddy McBrearty always threatening and typically, Ryan McHugh, launching attacks with his blistering pace.
But after 45 minutes, Donal Keogan raced through the cover and was hauled down by two Donegal players.
Mickey Newman buried the penalty and Meath followed it up with three points to inch into a lead when substitute Darragh Campion scored with his first touch.
But after Shane Gallagher was black-carded for a blatant foul on Eoin McHugh, Meath went scoreless for the final 12 minutes of the match.
Donegal had already put enough distance between themselves and Meath by the time Gallen rounded Andrew Colgan to confirm the win.
SCORERS – Donegal: P McBrearty 1-6 (0-3f), O Gallen 1-1, J Brennan, Murphy (1 ’45) 0-3 each, R McHugh 0-2, J McGee, N O’Donnell, M Langan, E McHugh 0-1 each. Meath: M Newman 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), B McMahon 0-3, B Menton, C O’Sullivan 0-2 each, S McEntee, J Conlonm J McEntee, D Campion 0-1 each.
DONEGAL: S Patton; S McMenamin, N McGee, O McFadden Ferry; P Brennan, E Gallagher, R McHugh; H McFadden, J McGee; C Thompson, M Murphy, N O’Donnell; P McBrearty, M Langan, J Brennan. Subs: D Ó Baoill for Brennan (43), E McHugh for Thompson (48), O Gallen for O’Donnell (48), F McGlynn for McGee (60), E Doherty for McFadden Ferry (68), C Ward for McMenamin (70)
MEATH: A Colgan; S Lavin, C McGill, S Gallagher; D Keogan, P Harnan, G McCoy; M Menton, S McEntee; E Devine, M McMahon, J McEntee; C O’Sullivan, M Newman, J Conlon. Subs: S Walsh for Conlon (43), D Campion for Devine (45), S Curran for Gallagher (57 black card), G Reilly for McMahon (62), A Flanagan for S McEntee (65), T O’Reilly for O’Sullivan (69)
REF: C Lane (Cork)