Donegal lost out to Cork but will not be unduly worried after a good outing in an open game at Croke Park.
The game was a treat for spectators and was played more as an exhibition match than a seriously competitive game in the opening half. Both sides were willing to have a go and Donegal, in particular, kicked some great long range points, especially Odhran MacNiallais, Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty.
The free count in each half reflected the nature of the game - 9-5 to Donegal in the first half and 7-6 to Donegal in the second. No Donegal player was booked!
The big difference between the sides were the Cork goals, taken with aplomb, while Donegal had two good chances, but both Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty were denied by Ken O’Halloran.
Donegal started with Eoin McHugh and Hugh McFadden instead of Christy Toye and Martin O’Reilly.
Brian Hurley had the opening score with just over a minute on the clock which Donegal had three wides inside two and a half minutes.
Anthony Thompson, very prominent, equalised on four minutes and Michael Murphy almost had a goal as he took a pass from Odhran MacNiallais, turned and blazed just over (although Hawk Eye was needed to confirm).
Eoin McHugh, a surprise inclusion, was making an impression and he set up Patrick McBrearty for a third point before John O’Rourke and Fintan Goold levelled on seven minutes. McHugh was almost in for a goal later on and also made one great block back in defence in the opening half.
Donegal stretched four points clear by the 15th minute. Before that Colm McFadden was denied a goal by a last ditch tackle. Michael Murphy pointed the ‘45’ while McBrearty, Murphy (free) and Odhran MacNiallais hit a delightful strike from under the Hogan Stand.
Conor Dorman reduced the margin and Donegal were opened up for a goal when Colm O’Neill found corner-back in space in front of the Donegal goal and he slide home.
Donegal’s response was good with Murphy, Karl Lacey and Patrick McBrearty pointing, but Cork hit back with Fintan Goold (2) and Colm O’Driscoll.
Before half-time there was time for Colm McFadden to land his first point from 45m while Cork’s best player, Brian Hurley, set up Colm O’Neill to leave the sides level, Donegal 0-11, Cork 1-8.
The nature of the match didn’t change much in the second half but it was Cork who converted the goal chances they created. Colm O’Neill had their second inside three minutes when he was in place when the ball came back off a post.
Martin McElhinney hit a great point in reply but Brian Hurley got the better of Paddy McGrath to hit a great goal on 40 minutes.
Donegal did respond with three points from Michael Murphy (2) and Colm McFadden to reduce the margin to three - 3-10 to 0-16 but the goal they needed evaded them. Christy Toye, with his first touch, set up Patrick McBrearty on 50 minutes, but Ken O’Halloran got down to deny McBrearty.
After that the game fizzled to its inevitable conclusion with numerous substitutions on both sides, Patrick McBrearty and Michael Murphy got the final points for Donegal while Michael Shields and Colm O’Neill had points for the winners.
Overall, Donegal will be happy with the out and they can now get their heads down to prepare for the Ulster Championship clash with Tyrone on May 17th..
Donegal: Michael Boyle; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee; Frank McGlynn, Karl Lacey (0-1), Anthony Thompson (0-1); Odhran MacNiallais (0-1), Hugh McFadden; Eoin McHugh, Martin McElhinney (0-2), Ryan McHugh; Patrick McBrearty (0-4,1f), Michael Murphy (0-8,3f,245), Colm McFadden (0-2). Subs., Eamonn Doherty for Thompson 40; Martin O’Reilly for E McHugh 45; Christy Toye for McGrath 49; Stephen Griffin for C McFadden 60; Daniel McLaughlin for H McFadden 63.
Cork: Ken O’Halloran; Tom Clancy (1-0), Michael Shields (0-1), James Loughrey; Conor Dorman (0-1), Brian O’Driscoll, Tomas Clancy; Eoin Cadogan, Fintan Goold (0-4); Colm O’Driscoll (0-1), John O’Rourke (0-1), Kevin O’Driscoll; Colm O’Neill (2-2,1f), Mark Collins, Brian Hurley (1-1). Subs., Paul Kerrigan for Shields 55; Daniel Goulding for K O’Driscoll 60; Barry O’Driscoll for Brian O’Driscoll 63; John Hayes for Hurley 67; Donal Og Hodnett for O’Rourke 68.
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)