The Donegal minor team put in a very useful stint as they drew with Mayo in a challenge game at the Sligo IT grounds on Saturday.
The Donegal side should really have won as they squandered a number of goal chances in the opening half but despite that, they put in an impressive display against a big, physical Mayo side.
The Donegal management used just 18 players in a deliberate approach to give this bunch of players their opportunity this week, while they will give others the same opportunity next week against Sligo.
It took the Donegal boys a full 15 minutes to get their act together and by that stage Mayo had stretched 1-2 clear and seemed to be a much more clinical unit.
But once Donegal got going, they looked the better side in the second quarter. Conor Harkin had their opening point on 18 minutes and Conor McCormack, just on the field, added a second four minutes later. In between Jamie Brennan was denied at point blank range by the Mayo ‘keeper while Aodhan McGinley was unable to get the rebound on target. On 24 minutes Owen Ban Gallagher put Conor McCormack through but he was also denied by the ‘keeper.
Cian Mulligan also found the Mayo ‘keeper in great form after being put through by Jamie Brennan before Mayo stretched the lead to 1-6 to 0-3 by half-time (McGinley getting the third Donegal point from a free).
Donegal started the second half well with points from Cian Mulligan and Padraig Gillespie and they were back in the contest when Colm Kelly and Callum Gallagher combined to set up Aodhan McGinley who swivelled on to his left and found the corner of the net and reduce the margin to 1-7 to 1-6 with just nine minutes gone in the second half.
From there to the end, it was a ding-dong battle. A second goal from Cian Mulligan, created by a great interception by Owen Ban Gallagher, had Donegal ahead for the first time on 53 minutes.
When Darach O’Connor from a free and play and McGinley (free) pointed, Donegal went three clear, 2-10 to 1-10, by the 58th minute, but they were rocked by a second Mayo when a free dropped short and Cian Hanley punished a hesitant Donegal defence.
Conor Harkin edged Donegal ahead but Dara Keaveney levelled before Cian Mulligan found Darach ‘Jigger’ O’Connor. His effort for goal was stopped but Jamie Brennan was following up to find the net with four minutes left.
However, Mayo responded with Hanley getting his second and Mayo’s third goal to level matters once more. It looked as if Aodhan McGinley had clinched the tie with a pointed free, but with the last kick of the game, Liam Irwin pointed a free at the other end to tie it up for the last time.
There was plenty to be positive about. Owen Ban Gallagher, Colm Kelly, the midfield pairing of Harkin and Peter McLaughlin; the fielding of Padraig Gillespie; the pace of Cian Mulligan and the inside trio of Callum Gallagher, Darach O’Connor and Jamie Brennan were very industrious while Aodhan McGinley and Conor McCormack did well when introduced.
Peter McLaughlin’s physical strength at midfield could be a real bonus. He may have to work on quicker decision making, but he certainly showed that there is potential and it’s quite a while since we had someone of his physical stature in the county at underage.
Donegal: Padraig Byrne; Jack Scally, Bruce Waldron, Owen Scally; Lee O’Brien, Colm Kelly, Owen Ban Gallagher; Conor Harkin (0-2), Peter McLaughlin (0-1); Cian Mulligan (1-1), Hugh Yank Gallagher, Padraig Gillespie (0-1); Callum Gallagher, Darach O’Connor (0-2,1f), Jamie Brennan (1-0). Subs., Aodhan McGinley (1-3,3f), Conor McCormack (0-2), Jordan McBride.
Mayo: Mark Mulligan; Brian Walkin, Fintan Canavan, Stephen Brennan; Kevin Jordan, Stephen Coen, Ronan Finn; Pauric Prendergast (0-1), Val Roughneen (0-1); Thomas Waldron, Cian Hanley (1-3), Lee Noone (1-0); Tommy Conroy, Liam Irwin (0-3,2f), Dara Doherty. Subs., Conor Byrne (0-2), Dara Keaveney (0-2).
Referee: Gus Gilligan (Sligo).
Surgery for McBrearty
The Donegal minor management are keeping their fingers crossed that Stephen McBrearty may yet be available for their Ulster Championship with Tyrone on May 26th.
A scan on McBrearty’s knee early last week revealed that there was cartilage damage and he will undergo surgery, possibly this week. Minor manager Stephen Friel said they were hopeful that Stephen could be back in time for the championship clash.
McBrearty suffered the knee damage in the Donegal Minor Club championship semi-final back in November of last year and did play a part in the minor final and again for Carrick VS in the county VS final in January before the scan last week revealed that surgery was necessary.