Donegal under Rory Gallagher got their Allianz League off to a winning start with a good win over Derry in MacCumhaill Park on Saturday night.
In cold but perfect conditions, the game was very well contested with Derry looking the stronger in the opening half before a sizeable crowd of over 4,000.
They led by 0-9 to 0-6 at the break and the margin could have been greater with Mark Lynch supreme, but once Donegal got their act together at half-time they were a different outfit after the resumption, pushing up on Derry and it paid rich dividends.
It took Donegal less than five minutes to cancel out the half-time advantage and theylooked a completely different team thereafter.
Patrick McBrearty, in his first game in the Donegal colours this year, was outstanding, hitting some great points and also being a very good target man. McBrearty, along with Neil Gallagher and Christy Toye, were the leaders in this victory.
Derry had the Lion’s share of possession in the opening half. They were on top in most areas and the half-time scoreline of 0-9 to 0-6 was a good reflection of that.
Derry looked fitter and were able to hold on to possession and that was best reflected in their fourth point in the 14th minute. They held possession for fully 90 seconds before Benny Heron hit a great score with the outside of his boot. It put them in front 0-4 to 0-3 and from there to the half-time whistle, they completely dominated.
Mark Lynch was outstanding from placed balls, hitting four in the opening half, two from outside the ‘45’ and he added another from play.
Donegal had started well and led by 0-3 to 0-1 after eight minutes with Patrick McBrearty lively and Christy Toye and Martin O’Reilly also finding the range.
With Lynch punishing any frees given away, Derry pushed clear 0-9 to 0-5. Paul Durcan almost gifted a point to Emmet McGuckin after three minutes while Conor McAtamney blazed just over the crossbar midway through the half.
Before half-time Michael Murphy hit two frees to just about keep Donegal in touch.
The second half, however, was a different story. Martin McElhinney came in at midfield and made an immediate impact, pointing after 46 seconds.
Within eight minutes of the resumption Donegal were ahead by a point and even though Derry briefly got back on terms, Donegal pushed on.
They could afford to see a Michael Murphy penalty come back off the crossbar before Odhran MacNiallais finished a great goal to put them on their way.
The penalty was a talking point in the game as Michael Murphy contested a high ball in from Odhran MacNiallais but Niall Holly punched it away. However, referee Marty Duffy ruled that Murphy was held which seemed harsh.
By that stage, however, Donegal were beginning to get the upper hand and the goal, on 53 minutes, came quickly as the McHughs, Ryan and Mark were involved before Christy Toye put MacNiallais through and he fired low to the net.
From there to the finish they were completely on top as Derry ran out of steam. Christy Toye and Neil Gallagher were immense around the middle and young Martin O’Reilly and Patrick McBrearty hit some great scores. McBrearty’s final score from under the stand and hooked in his inimitable style was the score of the match
Derry brought in Eoin Bradley and he almost got in for a goal with his first touch after a slip by Donegal defender, but his effort went over the crossbar.
And just like the end to the first half, Donegal were able to call on Michael Murphy to point frees to keep them clear before Marty Duffy’s last whistle.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Eamon McGee, Frank McGlynn; Ryan McHugh, Karl Lacey, Ciaran McGinley; Neil Gallagher, Hugh McFadden; Mark McHugh, Odhran MacNiallais (1-0), Christy Toye (0-2); Patrick McBrearty (0-5,2f), Michael Murphy (0-5,5f), Martin O’Reilly (0-2). Subs., Daniel McLaughlin for McGinley 27; Martin McElhinney (0-1) for McFadden ht; Darach O’Connor for McLaughlin 69; Gary McFadden for O’Reilly 70
Derry: Thomas Mallon; Oisin Duffy, Niall Holly, John O’Kane; Kevin Johnston, Gerard O’Kane, Mark Craig; Mark Lynch (0-6,5f), Conor McAtamney (0-1); Benny Heron (0-1), Daniel Heavron, Enda Lynn (0-1); Sean Leo McGoldrick, Emmett McGuckin (0-1), Barry McGoldrick (0-1). Subs., Brian Og McGilligan for McAtamney 47; Liam McGoldrick for Holly 54; Eoin Bradley (0-1) for McGuckin 57; Terence O’Brien for B McGoldrick 58; Ciaran McFaul for Heron 64; James Kearney for Lynn 67.
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)