It was all too easy for Donegal as they swept aside a lacklustre Leitrim at the opening of Pairc Aodh Rua in Killygordon on Sunday.
Maybe it was fall-out from their win over Sligo on Sunday last but Leitrim just lacked their usual punch when faced by Donegal shirts.
Conditions were ideal and the fantastic playing surface was commented on by members of both teams.
Overall it was typical of inter-county challenge games but Donegal manager Jim McGuinness will be much the happier as members of his squad outside the starting 15 performed well, especially the likes of Stephen Griffin, Patrick McBrearty, Marty Boyle, Kevin Rafferty and Neil Gallagher. There were good workouts also for Christy Toye, Tomas McKinley and Jason Noctor.
There were quite a few names missing from the Donegal starting line-up, not least captain Michael Murphy who was in hospital over the weekend getting fluid drained off a leg injury, while Karl Lacey, Kevin Cassidy, Rory Kavanagh and Mark McHugh were rested.
The game was more like a training session with referee Pat McEnaney awarding just seven frees to Donegal in all, four in the first half. It was a day for forwards with young Patrick McBrearty impressing during his 35 minutes, scoring 1-3, while Stephen Griffin hit 2-3 in his 35 minutes in the second period, bringing his tally to 3-26 in eight days (1-10 v Naomh Brid; 0-13 v Aodh Ruadh)
Leitrim had a good opening 10 minutes with Emlyn Mulligan of Melvin Gaels heavily involved but after that Donegal were in total control with Patrick McBrearty giving the Leitrim defence a torrid time.
McBrearty was denied a goal afte three minutes before Michael Hegarty opened the account. Emlyn Mulligan levelled from a free but then Donegal had points from McBrearty (2) and Dermot Molloy. McBrearty and McElhinney created a goal chance for Colm McFadden couldn’t finish but McBrearty made no mistake on 19 minutes for the first goal.
Donegal added five more points by the 29th minute through Marty Boyle (2), Martin McElhinney, Colm McFadden and Dermot Molloy before Conor Beirne had Leitrim’s second point.
In the final minutes of the half Dermot Molloy and Patrick McBrearty had points while Fergal Clancy had Leitrim’s only point from play in the opening half.
Half-time: Donegal 1-11, Leitrim 0-3.
Leitrim made 12 changes for the second half while Donegal brought in Michael Boyle, Kevin Mulhern, Daniel McLaughlin, Dara Gallagher and Stephen Griffin.
Christy McGowan had a Leitrim point inside 40 seconds and Conor Kelly added a second, but Donegal responded with Kevin Rafferty lofting a high ball and Colm McFadden got a touch and Dara Gallagher was in behind the defence to fire home.
Brian McDonald had the Leitrim goal on 42nd minute after Michael Boyle had denied Conor Kelly and Tomas Beirne and Christy McGowan added points to reduce the margin to 2-11 to 1-7.
Stephen Griffin and Paul Brennan exchanged points before Donegal took control, hitting 1-3 in a four-minute spell between the 49th and 53rd minutes. Dermot Molloy and Christy Toye had points, while in-between Stephen Griffin hit 1-1.
Robert Lowe and Conor Beirne had Leitrim points while Kevin Rafferty reponded for Donegal. Beirne had Leitrim’s final point on 63 minutes while Stephen Griffin brought down the curtain on the scoring with four minutes left, polishing off some good approach work by Neil Gallagher and Paddy McNulty.
For the final 20 minutes local Red Hugh’s captain Kevin Melaugh was fittingly brought on to put the cap on a great day for the local club.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Jason Noctor; Marty Boyle (0-2), Frank McGlynn, Thomas McKinley; Kevin Rafferty (0-1), Neil Gallagher; Christy Toye (0-1), Martin McElhinney (0-1), Michael Hegarty (0-1); Patrick McBrearty (1-3), Colm McFadden (0-1,f), Dermot Molloy (0-4). Subs., Michael Boyle for Durcan; Kevin Mulhern for McGee; Daniel McLaughlin for Hegarty; Dara Gallagher (1-0) for McElhinney; Stephen Griffin (2-3) for McBrearty, all half-time; Paddy McNulty for McFadden 49; Kevin Melaugh for Marty Boyle 53.
Leitrim: Cathal McCrann; Ciaran Egan, John McKeon, Paddy Maguire; Daniel Beck, Barry McWeeney, James Glancy; Daniel Lowe, Darren Sweeney; Conor Sheridan, Emlyn Mulligan (0-1,f), Fergal Clancy (0-1); Adrian Croal, Conor Beirne (0-3,3f), James Glancy. Subs for second half: Philip Farrelly, Paddy McGarvey, Gary Reynolds, Tomas Beirne (0-1), Shane Canning, Robert Lowe (0-1,f), Brian McDonald (1-0), Paul Brennan (0-1), Christy McGowan (0-2), Colm Clarke, Conor Kelly (0-1)
Referee: Pat McEnaney (Monaghan)
Man of the match
A difficult choice with close on 50 players used over the 70 minutes. Marty Boyle, Patrick McBrearty and Stephen Griffin were excellent but only played one half. Of those who played the entire game Frank McGlynn and Kevin Rafferty were most consistent and the award goes to McGlynn, who was as efficient as usual.
There were a number of unusual incidents during the game with Pat McEnaney taking a spectacular tumble in the opening half while Leitrim substitute Robert Lowe performed one of the best give-and-takes ever witnessed while sitting on the ground receiving treatment in the second period.
Referee Pat McEnaney will be hoping for more matches like this in the championship, not having to reach for yellow and only having to blow for 21 frees in all, 14 for Leitirm.