Sunday 17 December 2017

Second half cruise steers Donegal home

Donegal 0-12 Down 0-7

Michael Murphy was on target with 0-6 for Donegal
Michael Murphy was on target with 0-6 for Donegal

Chris McNulty

DONEGAL came good in the second half last night to record their first win of 2013.

DONEGAL came good in the second half last night to record their first win of 2013.

The All-Ireland champions sprang Neil Gallagher off the bench at half-time and they took charge to delight the 5,500 Ballybofey crowd.

Michael Murphy kicked six points for Jim McGuinness's team who took control in the second period with Down scoring just twice in the final 37 minutes. With Gallagher in for his 100th appearance at centrefield, Donegal flipped a 0-5 to 0-4 half-time deficit on its head.

Down led 0-5 to 0-2 in the 32nd minute, but Donegal hit nine on the bounce to take a precious win, with rookie Ross Wherity also impressive as a third midfielder.

The latest of the McHugh dynasty, Ryan, was handed a first senior appearance in the half-back line. His brother Mark passed a late fitness test, as did Colm McFadden, but Down captain Benny Coulter failed a test of his own and was absent.

Michael Cunningham, the Down goalkeeper, saved his side with a strong eighth-minute stop that thwarted Neil McGee, the Donegal full-back who ghosted up to get on the end of a superb flowing move by the home side.

For all of Donegal's early territorial supremacy, they miscued a number of good openings and hit just two points in the opening 35 minutes – only for stoppage time frees by McFadden and Murphy to pull them to within a point at the interval.

Murphy and Donal O'Hare swapped frees in the first seven minutes and O'Hare levelled the scores again when he slotted over after a fine point. Ross Wherity then briefly regained the lead for Donegal.

Down hit the front for the first time in the 24th minute when O'Hare curled over his third free of the night after a cheaply conceded foul by Mark McHugh on Conor Laverty and Kevin McKernan boomed over a 45-metre free to put the Mournes ahead by two.

Down had to wait until the 32nd minute for their first score from play, but they went three in front thanks to a splendid O'Hare score.

The minimum was all that was between them at the break after Murphy tapped over a free with the final kick of the half, but once they took charge of the middle sector Donegal deservedly took the win.

Scorers – Donegal: M Murphy 0-6 (4f), R Wherity, C McFadden (1f), R Kavanagh, L McLoone, D Walsh, D McLaughlin 0-1 each. Down: D O'Hare 0-5 (3f), K McKernan 0-2 (1f).

Donegal: P Durcan; Declan Walsh, N McGee, E McGee; A Thompson, L McLoone, R McHugh; R Kavanagh, M McElhinney; M McHugh, M Murphy, R Bradley; C McFadden, R Wherity, P McBrearty. Subs: N Gallagher for McElhinney (ht), D Molloy for McBrearty (54), D McLaughlin for McFadden (62), O MacNiallais for N McGee (70).

Down: M Cunningham; D Turley, D McCartan, R Boyle; R Mallon, A Carr, B McArdle; K King, K McKernan; K Quinn, M Poland, P McComiskey; C Laverty, C Harrison, D O'Hare. Subs: P Turley for McArdle (ht), B Coulter for Harrison (48), D Rooney for Mallon (49), D Savage for D Turley (56), C Gough for King (57).

Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).

Irish Independent

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