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Stunning late James Durcan cameo yields 1-3 and salvages draw for Mayo in Ballybofey

Donegal 0-19 Mayo 2-13

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25 January 2020; A disappointed Ciarán Thompson and Conor Morrison of Donegal after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 1 match between Donegal and Mayo at MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey, Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

25 January 2020; A disappointed Ciarán Thompson and Conor Morrison of Donegal after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 1 match between Donegal and Mayo at MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey, Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

25 January 2020; A disappointed Ciarán Thompson and Conor Morrison of Donegal after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 1 match between Donegal and Mayo at MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey, Donegal. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

James Durcan was Mayo's hero last night as he came off the bench to score 1-3 in the last 11 minutes of action and secure his team an unlikely draw in the first round of the Allianz League.

Durcan scored a brilliant goal in the sixth minute of injury time, smashing the ball to the roof of the net when it seemed all of the Donegal team was between him and the goal.

It was what Mayo deserved for perseverance when it seemed the game was getting away from them. But how the home team will rue many missed chances, especially in the first half, and also letting Durcan get his shot away.

Michael Murphy had a superb game for Donegal, scoring eight points and converting the only mark of the match. He led by example and surely thought he had done enough to get Donegal's campaign off to a winning start.

But Durcan, perhaps with a touch off a Donegal hand, had the last Hours before the match the streets of Ballybofey were thronged with Donegal supporters and a huge travelling Mayo band.

"This is like an Ulster Championship day - except it's dark already," said one fan. If the 8,729 who paid through the turnstiles came to see how the advanced mark would work, then they would be sorely disappointed as the two teams ignored the tactic in favour of maintaining possession.

Donegal could have stationed Murphy on the edge of the Mayo square and had a go at lobbing a few balls in, but no, the Glenswilly man played his usual roving role. He often met Tom Parsons, the Mayo midfielder starting his first game for the county since suffering a horrific knee injury in 2018.

Donegal will be disappointed by a first half in which they shot seven wides and kicked four attempts for scores into the hands of Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke. They could have been out of sight but for the misses.

And the hosts were made to pay for their wastefulness, at least in the short term, when James Carr scored a fine goal in the 17th minute. The grin on his face afterwards suggested the Ardagh man might have been going for a point, but he caught Shaun Patton off his line and the ball just dipped under the crossbar.

It was the 31st minute before we saw a mark and, inevitably, it was Murphy who stuck his hand in the air to get a free shot at goal that he turned into a point. This rule is made for him, but to exploit it properly, Donegal would have to abandon their fast, possession-based, breakout of defence style of play and go more direct.

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Still, Donegal did well to recover from the concession of the goal, kicking five straight points to take a two-point lead into the half-time break. With a decent breeze to come at their back for the second half, they surely harboured hopes of downing the League champions.

Mayo manager James Horan felt he needed to act and he did ruthlessly, bringing Aidan O'Shea on for Parsons, with Kevin McLoughlin and Tommy Conroy introduced to the attack. Conroy got a point with his first touch, but Murphy was relentless at the other end, kicking frees as Mayo fouled.

It took a while for May's changes to have an effect, but gradually they did with Conroy and McLoughlin running at Donegal and O'Shea hoovering up possession. Mayo never reeled in Donegal in this period of supremacy and a cracking Ryan McHugh point gave Donegal a bit of breathing space.

Yet another Murphy placed ball eased Donegal clear again, but it was not over yet, not by a long way.

Scorers – Donegal: M Murphy 0-8 (6f 1m 1 ’45), C Thompson 0-4 (3f), J Brennan 0-2, M Langan, R McHugh, P Brennan, C McGonagle, A McClean 0-1 each. Mayo: J Durcan 1-3 (2f), J Carr 1-0, F Boland, K McLoughlin (2f), B Reape (2f), D O’Connor (2f) 0-2 each, B Walsh, T Conroy 0-1 each.

Donegal: S Patton; C Ward, N McGee, E Gallagher; O McFadden-Ferry, C O’Donnell, P Brennan; C McGonagle, M Langan; E McHugh, R McHugh, J Brennan; C Thompson, M Murphy, P Mogan. Subs: H McFadden for McGonagle (48), B McCole for McFadden-Ferry (58), A McClean for P Brennan (62), J McKelvey for R McHugh (64), C Morrison for McGee (66).

Mayo: D Clarke; O Mullan, B Harrison, C Boyle; P O’Hora, S Coen, P Durcan; T Parsons, J Flynn; B Walsh, D O’Connor, F Boland; R O’Donoughue, B Reape, J Carr. Subs: A O’Shea for Parsons, K McLoughlin for Carr, T Conroy for Reape (all h-t), K Higgins for Walsh (58), J Durcan for Boland (67)

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).


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