Friday 23 February 2018

Relief for Gallagher but 'wounded' Donegal fail to convince

Donegal 0-12 Longford 0-7

Michael Murphy attempts to get away from the massed ranks of the Longford defence. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Murphy attempts to get away from the massed ranks of the Longford defence. Photo: Sportsfile

All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers

Donegal were thankful for the home comforts of Ballybofey as they booked a place in the next round of the qualifiers.

Denis Connerton was left to ponder his future as Longford manager as Donegal steadied their wobbles to defeat the Midlanders.

For long spells, Donegal were sleepwalking but they shook their heads clear just in the nick of time.

Longford had James McGivney sent off in the 49th minute. There were growing signs that Donegal were coming on strong by then and when McGivney was dismissed for a foul on Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Patrick McBrearty put Donegal ahead for the first time.

Donegal haven't lost at Seán MacCumhaill Park since 2010 and their unbeaten sequence is now at 19 games after this largely forgettable encounter.

Donegal had five points to spare, but that only tells a part of the tale on an evening where the sides shared 33 wides.

Donegal, a fortnight on from a heavy loss to Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final, were far from cohesive in front of 9,915 supporters.

"We were coming very wounded and very hurt," Rory Gallagher, the Donegal manager, said.

"We were disappointed in ourselves as a group. We had to keep the chin up and it wasn't easy.

"There is a hangover. No matter what way you dress it up, it wasn't easy to get over it.

"We were very grateful for the two weeks. Until we win a few games, the smiles won't be as strong and won't be as natural as they should be. There is devastation when you don't win and we've had to deal with that. But it's all part of learning as a team."

Donegal - absent from the Ulstr final for the first time since 2010 - trailed 0-4 to 0-3 at the break, but the introduction of Martin McElhinney helped to give them an injection of life.

Longford passed up a host of scorable frees and Robbie Smyth could have caught a McGivney pass on the edge of the square but, in space, a fisted attempt failed to trouble Mark Anthony McGinley.

McBrearty, who hit five points in all, was Donegal's go-to man and the experience of McElhinney and Karl Lacey was vital.

Diarmuid Masterson briefly drew Longford level again after McBrearty had Donegal ahead, but the hosts hit the home straight with lively efforts by Jamie Brennan and Eoin McHugh.

Longford have claimed the scalps of Mayo, Monaghan, Derry and Down in recent years, but they were left rue their luck as Connerton confirmed he'll take time to consider the future.

Connerton said: "Well, it's time for me now to sit down and have a good look at my lifestyle. The players are fabulous young men who make many sacrifices in their lives. It's disappointing to see them out of the championship so early."

Scorers - Donegal: P McBrearty 0-5 (4f), M Murphy 0-3 (3f), M McElhinney 0-2, J Brennan, E McHugh 0-1 each. Longford: D McGivney, R Smyth 0-3f each, D Masterson 0-1

Donegal - MA McGinley 6; P McGrath 7, N McGee 7, C Ward 6; E McHugh 7, R McHugh 5, E Gallagher 5; M Murphy 6, J McGee 5; M Carroll 5, F McGlynn 6, M Langan 5; C Thompson 6, P McBrearty 7, M O'Reilly 5.

Subs: M McElhinney 8 for Carroll (28), H McFadden 6 for J McGee (49), J Brennan 6 for O'Reilly (53), M McHugh 5 for McGlynn (55), K Lacey 6 for Langan (56), P Brennan 5 for Gallagher (65).

Longford - P Collum 6; D Masterson 7, P McCormack 6, B Gilleran 6; D McElligott 6, M Quinn 7, D Reynolds 6; J Keegan 5, D McGivney 5; D Mimnagh 5, J McGivney 5, D Gallagher 6; R Smyth 6, L Connerton 5, B McKeon 5.

Subs: C Berry 6 for Mimnagh (BC, 26), L Moran 5 for Gallagher (BC, 41), A Farrell 5 for McKeon (65), R McIntyre 5 for D McGivney (65), J Kelly 5 for Connerton (70).

Ref - P Hughes (Armagh)

Irish Independent

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