Wednesday 17 October 2018

Mullins stars as optimism builds around Bonner's Donegal

Donegal 0-20 Armagh 1-10

Patrick McBrearty led the way with eight points as Donegal pulled away in the second half. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Patrick McBrearty led the way with eight points as Donegal pulled away in the second half. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Chris McNulty

Declan Bonner vowed that Donegal would be more attack-minded under his watch and the new Tír Chonaill boss has been true to his word.

The Dr McKenna Cup mightn't be at the top of the agenda but January has nevertheless been encouraging for Donegal.

Ronan Lappin of Armagh in action against Stephen McBrearty of Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Ronan Lappin of Armagh in action against Stephen McBrearty of Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Even in the absence of the likes of Michael Murphy, Ryan McHugh and Odhrán Mac Niallais, Donegal managed to put up 20 points as they qualified for the McKenna Cup final for the first time since 2010.

Patrick McBrearty led the way with eight points as Donegal pulled away in the second half.

"In the second half I thought our attacking play was good," Bonner said. "We hadn't enough width in the first half but we got width in the second half and Niall O'Donnell and Stephen McBrearty came off the bench in the second half and contributed well.

"The long, diagonal ball into the square might've gone out of the game a bit in recent years with the running game but today you saw it can be a dangerous option."

Aaron Findon of Armagh in action against Jason McGee of Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Aaron Findon of Armagh in action against Jason McGee of Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Nathan Mullins again impressed and kicked two points in a man-of-the-match display from midfield.

A McKenna Cup final against Tyrone during the first break in the Allianz League next month wouldn't appeal to many, but Bonner isn't complaining about a fixture that will mean eight consecutive weekends in action for his side.

He said: "People have their own ideas about the McKenna Cup but I've been strong on this since the start.

"From our point of view, if we weren't playing McKenna Cup we'd have to go looking for challenge matches, so it's been brilliant preparation for the National League.

Eamon McGeown of Armagh in action against Stephen McMenamin of Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Eamon McGeown of Armagh in action against Stephen McMenamin of Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

"The McKenna Cup has been useful. Tyrone have taken the McKenna Cup seriously and it's done them no harm."

Donegal took some time to get to grips with this game, which was moved to Celtic Park due to unplayable pitches in Ballybofey and Armagh.

Bonner's side have a tough opening to the league with away games against Kerry and Dublin among their first three games, but optimism has lifted in the north-west.

The Donegal manager said: "The big picture for us is May 13 and the championship but we now enter phase two and the National League.

Oisin MacIomhair of Armagh in action against Eoghan Ban Gallagher of Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Oisin MacIomhair of Armagh in action against Eoghan Ban Gallagher of Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

"It'll be a serious test but what better place to learn than in Killarney against Kerry?"

Scorers - Donegal: P McBrearty (3f) 0-8, N O'Connell, S McBrearty, D O'Connor (1f) 0-3 each, N Mullins 0-2, C Thompson 0-1. Armagh: E McGeown (1f) 1-3, M Stevenson (1 '45) 0-3, E English, C White, S Sheridan, O MacIomhair 0-1 each.

Donegal - MA McGinley; E Gallagher, S McMenamin, C Ward; E Doherty, P Brennan, T McCleneghan; J McGee, N Mullins; C McGonagle, C Thompson, L McLoone; P McBrearty, D O'Connor, M O'Reilly. Subs: N O'Donnell for McCleneghan (31), C McGinley for McMenamin (h-t), S McBrearty for Thompson (42), K McBrearty for McGee (56), D Ó Baoill for O'Reilly (65), B McCole for P McBrearty (68).

Armagh - P Morrison; J McAlinden, O Lappin, J Cosgrove; J McElroy, R Kennedy, D McKenna; A Findon, S Sheridan; R Lappin, A Duffy, C White; M Stevenson, E McGeown, O MacIomhair. Subs: R Owens and R McQuillan for Sheridan and Cosgrove (h-t), C McGeary and E English (0-1) for McKenna and White (51), D McQuaid for Lappin (51), S McCoy for MacIomhair (61).

Ref - N McKenna (Monaghan)

 

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