Saturday 21 April 2018

Wonder goal gives Donegal fresh impetus

Donegal 3-12 Galway 0-11

Donegal's Ryan McHugh scores his side's second goal
Donegal's Ryan McHugh scores his side's second goal
Michael Murphy, Donegal, under pressure from Finian Hanley, Galway, passes to team-mate Ryan McHugh to set up his side's second goal
Michael Murphy, Donegal, under pressure from Finian Hanley, Galway, passes to team-mate Ryan McHugh to set up his side's second goal
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

In the build-up to one of the great teams goals in Croke Park in recent times Colm McFadden's delivery was pivotal.

But how he went about executing that delivery was, arguably, one of the most insightful features of this 4B qualifier that propels Donegal back into an All-Ireland quarter-final for the fifth successive year.

In receipt of yet another exquisite Odhran MacNiallais kick-pass on 59 minutes McFadden, renowned for playing 'heads-up' football, didn't bother with the co-ordinates this time.

He pitched high and hard, oblivious to the pin position. Hitting the green was all he required.


McFadden knew what was on. He had watched Michael Murphy somehow grab an awkward ball that had sliced off Neil Gallagher's left boot and swivel for a point in the 47th minute and a 1-7 to 0-8 lead, a remarkable feat of timing and balance that provided one of the moments of the season so far.

He himself had driven a low ball in Murphy's vicinity just four minutes earlier, watched his captain control it, take the hit from Finian Hanley and win the free which McFadden converted.

So McFadden didn't need one glance, never mind a second one. With Murphy posted to full-forward since the start of the second half, these things take a natural course.

Murphy's tap-down and Ryan McHugh's subsequent deft finish -having travelled much the same route he took for his opening goal against Dublin last year - brought business in Croke Park to a conclusion with a 2-9 to 0-9 lead.

And inevitably it will intensify the debate about where Murphy, who has had a knee injury hanging over him, can serve Donegal best.

This was as offensive as he had been in any of Donegal's five championship games.

Afterwards his manager Rory Gallagher put it down to geography.

"You get us a move out of Ulster and you might see it a bit more. It's not easy when there are five or six men in around the D," he reflected.

"That's the way Ulster teams play. Out the field in Ulster he is going to get more touches. In other games over the years in Ulster he has got minimal touches when playing inside.

"Michael is a big man so you can just lump it in but he can play with the ball, he can win it low, he can win it high, he is very dangerous."

His positioning there gave Donegal a more orthodox set-up than they have had at any stage this year.

At times it was strange to look out on the field and see both teams formatted in conventional lines.

There was still plenty of heavily manned road-blocks erected by both sides but when Donegal attacked they committed plenty of resources to it.

McFadden has been enjoying something of a renaissance year and he revelled in the liberty to fill in between both attacking lines.

"It's a different role to inside especially in Ulster football when you've a man hanging out of you and two men in front of you and there's three or four ahead of them again. It's hard to get the ball," the 32-year-old admitted.

He had a hand in all three goals, directly setting up Patrick McBrearty on six minutes and then laying off for substitute Christy Toye near the end. He also contributed four points, three from play.

But even that contribution was marginally eclipsed by MacNiallais. He put ball to hand 35 times, scored three points from play and was involved in the approach work for the opening two goals but it was his work around the kick-out from which Donegal got most benefit.

With Neil Gallagher, substitute Martin McElhinney and Ryan McHugh driving through from half-back, MacNiallais gave Donegal a firm hold around the middle in the third quarter.

In this period they won six successive Galway kick-outs as they re-established control, having let a four-point lead slip to be just level at the break, 1-4 to 0-7.


They had failed to score for 21 minutes after McBrearty's 16th minute point and looked in real disarray, mirroring the lethargy of their first half against Monaghan, as Galway punched holes in their defence through Adrian Varley and Damien Comer's running.

But their second half was revitalising, maybe not enough to remove nagging question marks about their legs - Eamonn Magee picked up another knock and McBrearty looked a little troubled - but enough to give them much currency as contenders in the last eight.

For Galway it was disappointment to lose by 10 points and strips back some of the progress they have made over the last four weeks.

They were wiped out at midfield in that crucial second half spell and maybe Paul Conroy could have done a shift there instead of staying on at full-forward.

Shane Walsh came off the bench and scored a fine point but the game was gone from them by then.

Walsh said damage limitation was never part of their plan. "For the last few minutes we left ourselves exposed at the back, going out to try to get the game back.

"Maybe there are certain teams out there who stick to the process all day and are happy to lose by three or four points but that's not in this team.

"I think we needed to go out and try and win that game. We felt that we were going to win the game before the game, and there's no point going home with regrets."

Scorers­ - Donegal: P McBrearty 1-1, C McFadden 0-4 (1f), O MacNiallais, M Murphy (2fs) 0-3 each, R McHugh, C Toye 1-0 each, L McLoone 0-1. Galway: G Sice 0-4 (4fs), A Varley 0-2, D Comer (f), D Cummins, P Conroy, T Flynn, S Walsh all 0-1 each.

DONEGAL: P Durcan 7; N McGee 7, E McGee 6, P McGrath 7; R McHugh 8, F McGlynn 6, E Doherty 6; N Gallagher 8, H McFadden 6; M McHugh 6, M O'Reilly 5, O McNiallais 9; P McBrearty 6, M Murphy 8, C McFadden 9. Subs: M McElhinney 7 for Reilly (ht), A Thompson 6 for E McGee (ht), Declan Walsh 6 for McGrath (BC) (51), L McLoone 7 for McBrearty (54), C Toye for H McFadden (67). David Walsh for C McFadden (71).

GALWAY: B Donoghue 6; F Hanley 6, C Sweeney 7, J Duane 5; G Bradshaw 6, G O'Donnell 7, L Silke 6; F Ó Curraoin 5, T Flynn 6; G Sice 7, P Conroy 6, M Lundy 5; D Cummins 6, D Comer 6, A Varley 7. Subs: S Walsh 7 for A Varley (56), P Sweeney 5 for Conroy (56), P Óg Ó Griofa for Cummins (63), S Denvir for Lundy (66), M Martin for Flynn (69), E Tierney for Sice (69).

REF - E Kinsella (Laois).

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