Allianz NFL Division Two - Laois 1-15 Donegal 1-11
Jim McGuinness took his men to Portlaoise needing keep their noses in front to claim promotion to the top division. And it was mission accomplished even if it was one of their less inspiring performances in the seven game campaign.
In many ways Sunday’s performance was a carbon copy of the opening night display against Sligo in Ballybofey.
This was certainly the case in the first half when they struggled against the power and pace of Laois, who also troubled the Donegal rearguard with their diagonal ball to the front men in attack.
Laois led 0-9 to 0-3 at half-time and were full value for their six point margin even if they were the benefactors of a number of frees of the softish variety.
To Donegal’s credit and despite going eight down and losing Michael Hegarty to a second yellow in the middle of the secondh half, they dug deep to turn in a battling performance.
They, in fact, won the second half on the scoreboard as they hit 1-8 to Laois’s 1-6, with their goal and all but three of their points coming from play. Laois, on the other hand, scored four of their points from frees off the trusty white boot of Micheal John Tierney.
Laois opened in whirlwind fashion with two points inside three minutes with Colm Begley firing over inside 20 seconds with Tierney converting the first of his seven opening half points.
Anthony Thompson got Donegal off the mark on five minutes when he polished off a good move involving Rory Kavanagh, Michael Murphy and Michael Hegarty.
But with the locals winning the bulk of possession around midfield Tierney from another free and the powerful John O’Loughlin (from play) extended the Laois lead out to three points 0-4 to 0-1.
Murphy struck for Donegal’s second on 14 minutes from a quick free and swift transfer from Hegarty.
Tierney and Martin McElhinney traded points, McElhinney just back in the fray after a time out for running repairs on a hand injury. The closing first half exchanges were dominated by Laois and they punished on the scoreboard courtesy of a number of softish frees
Tierney split the posts three more times in the closing five minutes of the half to give his side a 0-9 to 0-3 half-time lead.
Dermot Molloy reduced the margin within a minute of the restart while 60 seconds later Peter O’Leary charged up the left wing to shave the top of Paul Durcan’s crossbar.
With Donegal looking a little hesitant and leaden legged, Paul Durcan did well to deny Tierney from point blank range before Rory Kavanagh made it a four point game once again taking a good lay off from Colm McFadden.
Shortly afterwards Molloy missed a glorious opportunity for a goal. With Marty Boyle free to his right Molloy, following a charging run by Neil McGee and inch perfect pass from McFadden, drew a good save from Eoin Culleton.
To make matters worse 30 seconds later Durcan was taking the ball out of the Donegal net. The Four Masters man was beaten by Tierney who was set free by an equisite diagonal ball from Ross Munnelly.
Trailling by eight points and Tyrone winning in Navan meant it was jangled nerve time for the green and gold clad supporters in the O’Moore Park sunshine.
But two rapid fire strikes from Murphy from a 35 metre free and McFadden from play followed by a Molloy goal had the visitors smack back in the tie by the 47-minute mark.
The margin was down to two by the end of the third quarter courtesy of a superb Kavanagh strike on the run.
Mark Timmons and McElhinney, now operating at full-forward in a direct swap with Murphy, kept the scoreboard ticking.
The margin was still two with McFadden and Tierney trading scores before Tierney posted two late frees to secure victory for the O’Moore County.
Laois: Eoin Culleton; Denis Booth, Kevin Meaney, Mark Timmons (0-1); Darren Strong (0-1), Shane O’Sullivan, Peter O’Leary (0-1); Padraig Clancy, Brendan Quigley; Colm Begley (0-1), John O’Loughlin (0-1), Niall Dooner; Ross Munnelly, Billy Sheehan, Michael John Tierney(1-10,7f). Subs: Donal Kingston for B. Sheehan (52); Pal Cahillane for R. Munnelly (67).
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn; Marty Boyle Kevin Cassidy, Anthony Thompson (0-1); Rory Kavanagh (0-2), Martin McElhinney (0-2); Mark McHugh, Michael Hegarty, Ryan Bradley; Colm McFadden(0-3,2f), Michael Murphy (0-2,1f), Dermot Molloy (1-1). Sub: Adrian Hanlon for M. McElhinney (59)
Referee: Martin Higgins (Fermanagh)