Rory Gallagher got his first competitive win as Donegal manager with a comprehensive victory over Queen’s in Ballybofey.
Conditions were atrocious for any sort of football but both sides did their best to serve up a good game for the small attendance.
Stars of the show were Donegal seniors Odhran MacNiallais and Christy Toye, who both looked in great shape for the time of year.
It was a great day too for veteran Eamon Ward, who was drafted in to replace Conor Parke at corner back and had a goal to his name, hitting the target with the last kick of the first half.
Manager Rory Gallagher will have been happy enough with the outing with a number of players showing up well, not least Ciaran McGinley and Martin O’Reilly.
It was a game that did not have anywhere near championship intensity with just two yellow cards - one to each side, both in the final minutes - but the scoreline in the conditions gave the attendance plenty of entertainment.
Donegal had the elements in their back in the opening half and were in almost total control.
Odhran MacNiallais missed an early free before Martin O’Reilly pointed from a free after Ciaran McGinley was fouled when going for goal on four minutes.
O’Reilly found the net two minutes later after a turnover in the Queen’s defence and Hugh McFadden sent the MacCumhaill’s man clear to finish with aplomb.
Odhran MacNiallais added two points inside two minutes by the 10th minute, one from a 45 and a great effort from play to leave Donegal 1-3 to no score ahead.
Queen’s got an unexpected opening a minute later when Niall Delargy found Ciaran O’Hanlon in acres of space in front of the Donegal goal and he finished in style.
Christy Toye, dominant at midfield, added a Donegal point with his left before Sean Fox had the first point for the Students.
Then MacNiallais hit two points inside a minute, one from a 47m free and another from play to stretch the Donegal lead to five.
Tony Donnelly converted a free for Queen’s on 31 minutes before Ciaran McGinley sent Martin O’Reilly clear on goal. With the angle narrowing he elected to fist a point.
In added time Ruairi Wells hit the point of the opening half against the wind from close to the sideline on the stand side but the Donegal side hit back immediately with Ciaran McGinley powering through the middle to set up Eamon Ward to prod home and leave Donegal 2-7 to 1-3 ahead at the break. It was a moment to remember for the Glenswilly man, who made his senior intercounty debut last week against Derry at the age of 33.
The Donegal senior duo of Odhran MacNiallais and Christy Toye combined again at the start of the second half with Toye converting.
Ryan Murray and Tony Donnelly hit two long range points for Queen’s but Donegal replied quickly with MacNiallais hitting a delightful score off the outside of his left after a short ‘45’ with Martin McElhinney while Daniel McLaughlin finished a sweeping move involving Toye and Paddy McGrath.
Eoin McHugh added another point on 50 minutes while MacNiallais and Gary McFadden stretched the lead out to 2-13 to 1-5 with 53 minutes gone.
The final quarter was academic as both sides introduced a raft of substitutes. Queen’s added two points from Donal Hughes and Tony Donnelly but then Donegal hit back with three points from Dermot Molloy (free), Ciaran McGinley and Hugh McFadden.
The win puts Donegal in the mix for a semi-final spot in the Dr. McKenna Cup. They will need to defeat Fermanagh by a margin of two points more than Derry defeat Queen’s. Both those games are on Wednesday night.
Donegal: Michael Boyle; Eamon Ward, Eamonn Doherty, Paddy McGrath; Ciaran McGinley (0-1), Declan Walsh, Frank McGlynn; Martin McElhinney, Christy Toye (0-2); Cory Gallagher, Odhran MacNiallais (0-62f,45), Eoin McHugh (0-1); Daniel McLaughlin (0-1), Hugh McFadden (0-1), Martin O’Reilly (1-2,0-1f). Subs., Gary McFadden (0-1) for C Gallagher ht; Eunan Doherty for D Walsh 48; Sean Hensey for E Ward 54; Willie Gillespie for E McHugh 55; Dermot Molloy (0-1,f) for MacNiallais 57; Ciaran McCaughey for McElhinney 62
Queen’s: Michael Cunningham; Greg McCabe, Gerard McGovern, Brendan Burns; Ruairi Wells (0-1), Micheal O Muanain, Niall Delargy; Che O Cuilin, Sean Warnock; Donal Hughes (0-1), Sean Fox (0-1), Ryan Murray (0-1); Ciaran O’Hanlon (1-0), Conor Hamill, Tony Donnelly (0-4,2f). Subs., M Jordan for O’Hanlon ht; Barry McCann for Hamill 43; Jack Dowling for Fox 47; Mickey Donaghy for O Muanain 51; Caolan Daly for Warnock 55; Conor Kearns for Burns 56.
Referee: Dan Mullan (Derry)