JOE BOYLE was Donegal’s saviour as he hit a late point to earn Tir Chonaill their first win of the season and a one point victory over Sligo in Donnell Park on Sunday afternoon.
And it could be one of the most valuable points the big Burt man has ever scored as the win means Donegal move ahead of Sligo in the Division 3A league table.
But of even greater significance, they are moving away from the automatic relegation berth and while there are two rounds of games still to be played, the win may be just about enough for Ray Durack and his men to retain their Division 3A status.
This was a low octane encounter that only sprang to life in the closing 15 minutes as Donegal stormed back into the contest after being behind for the opening three quarters.
Sligo, who were assisted by a stiff breeze, were the better side in the first half and deservedly led 0-9 to 0-6 at half time thanks to three points from Gary Cadden, two from Gary Waldron and one each from Damien Burke, Alan Cawley and Conor O’Mahony.
Campbell with four, three frees and a ‘45 and two delightful strikes from Lee Henderson just about kept the locals in touch.
Sligo extended their lead early in the second period before Campbell, Henderson and Enda McDermott all landed points to reduce the margin to the minimum.
And while a Derek O’Brien goal and point in quick succession restored Sligo’s five point advantage,
Donegal finally awoke to the challenge in the closing 20 minutes. Despite a second Sligo goal from Kevin Gilmartin, the home side’s tails were up and they finished much the stronger.
Rookie full-forward Stephen Gillespie scrambled the ball to the Sligo net to get the revival under way while Eugene Organ with one and Niall Campbell popped over three points to tie up the game, before Boyle split the posts in the third minute of injury.
The centre-back found himself in an advanced position and in acres of space and from 40 metres he made no mistake to find the target and the crucial winner.
Sligo finished the game with 14 men after Damien Burke picked up a second yellow card 12 minutes from the end.
Donegal: Paul Burns; Patrick Doherty, Conor McLaughlin, Benny Harrigan; Justin Browne, Joe Boyle (0-1), Ardel McDermott; Paul Sheridan, Enda McDermott (0-1); Eugene Organ (0-1), Kevin Campbell, Niall Campbell (0-10, 8,f, 1,45); Lee Henderson (0-3), Stephen Gillespie (1-0), Ronan McDermott. Subs: Michael McGhee for R. McDermott (50); Christopher McDermott for P. Doherty (58)
Sligo: Declan Loughnane; Donal Tobin, Jamie Kenny, Tomas Cawley; Derek O’Brien (1-1), Ethan McGowan, Niall McCadden; Alan Cawley (0-1), Keith Raymond (0-1); Gary Cadden (0-3,1f), Gary Waldron (0-3), Damien Burke (0-1); Kevin Gilmartin (1-0), Tom Conneely (0-1,1f), Conor O’Mahoney (0-1). Subs: Larty Cadden for C. O’Mahony (47); Patrick Quinn for T. Conneely (56).
Referee: Liam McCauley (Antrim).
Man of the match
For the second week in a row Niall Campbell was Donegal’s main scorer with ten points. He scored four of those points in the first half with one of them, a ‘65 into a strong wind, a brilliant strike and he kept Donegal hopes alive with his six second half scores.
Lee Henderson, Enda McDermott, Jutsin Browne, Paul Sheridan, Eugene Organ and Kevin Campbell were the other men to step up to the plate in a big way when the chips were down.
While Kevin Gilmarin netted Sligo’s second goal shortly afterwards, Stephen Gillespie’s goal on 52 minutes was the score that finally ignited the Donegal spark. Gillespie showed great alertness and no little fear when he pounced to scramble to the Sligo net after the ball broke from Kevin Campbell.
Antrim official Liam McCauley was a busy man in what as a stop start affair and he had a good enough game. He had little choice in the sending off of Sligo’s Damien Burke for a second yellow card offence in the middle of the final quarter.