Brian Barry reports from Croke Park as Dublin saw off a brave Donegal challenge, 0-20 to 0-15.
Donegal came to Croke Park this evening in bad need of a win to allay fears of relegation from Division 1 of the Allianz National Football League. After narrow losses to Kerry and Galway, Declan Bonner’s outfit found themselves point-less heading to HQ this evening, and that’s how they left, too. Nonetheless, one positive for the visitors was the return of Michael Murphy.
The Dubs opened up a four-point lead in the opening quarter, without moving out of second gear. They headed for the break, raising white flags with apparent ease, as Colm Basquel and Niall Scully picked up three points apiece.
Perhaps the most crucial moment of the opening half came when Jamie Brennan found himself one-on-one with Stephen Cluxton. However, his powerful shot evaded the net as it went too far to the left and rattled the post.
If the Tír Chonaill men were hoping for the Dubs to wilt, the tone was firmly set at the start of the second half, as Michael Darragh Macauley knocked the throw-in down for Brian Fenton, who careered down the field to tap over his second point of the game.
The Ulster side were well able to match it, however, as they cut the seven-point deficit to just one, trailing 0-14 to 0-13 with 18 minutes to go.
The introduction of Michael Murphy gave the visitors an even bigger lift as there was a real belief amongst the travelling support that this was a game there for the taking. Patrick McBrearty landed two beauts from wide on the left, as the game hung in the balance with ten minutes to go.
However, like all great teams, the All-Ireland champions were able to see out the win, as they claimed a five-point victory.
Scorers for Dublin:
Colm Basquel 0-04 (0-01 free) Niall Scully 0-03, Eoghan O’Gara 0-02, Brian Fenton 0-02, Ciarán Kilkeny 0-02, Paddy Andrews 0-01, Eric Lowndes 0-01, Brian Howard 0-01, Paul Mannion 0-01 (0-01 free), Ciaran Reddin 0-01, Paddy Small 0-01.
Scorers for Donegal:
Patrick McBrearty 0-07 (0-04 frees), Stephen McBrearty 0-02, Jamie Brennan 0-02, Ryan McHugh 0-02, Leo McLoone 0-01, Mark McHugh 0-01.
1. Stephen Cluxton
2. David Byrne
3. Philip McMahon
4. Eric Lowndes
5. Jonny Cooper
6. James McCarthy
7. John Small
8. Brian Fenton
9. Michael Darragh Macauley
10. Brian Howard
11. Ciarán Kilkenny
12. Niall Scully
13. Colm Basquel
22. Paul Mannion
17. Paddy Andrews
Eoghan O’Gara for Paddy Andrews (47th minute)
Cian O’Sullivan for Philip McMahon (47th minute)
Dean Rock for Michael Darragh Macauley (64th minute)
Ciaran Reddin for Niall Scully (72nd minute)
Paddy Small for Colm Basquel (73rd minute)
1. Peter Boyle
21. Mark McHugh
3. Caolan Ward
4. Eoghan Bán Gallagher
5. Ryan McHugh
6. Leo McLoone
7. Tony McClenaghan
8. Stephen McBrearty
9. Hugh McFadden
17. Eamonn Doherty
19. Nathan Mullins
24. Ciaran Thompson
13. Patrick McBrearty
14. Odhran Mac Niallais
15. Jamie Brennan
Caolan McGonigle for Nathan Mullins (27th minute)
Niall O’Donnell for Ciaran Thompson (43rd minute)
Michael Murphy for Odhran Mac Niallais (55th minute)
Ciaran McGinley for Mark McHugh (65th minute)
Martin O’Reilly for Stephen McBrearty (69th minute)
Michael Carroll for Ryan McHugh (72nd minute)