The importance of Michael Murphy to Donegal was never more evident as in MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey, as he led his side to their first win of the campaign.
His return to the edge of the square was signalled within ten seconds of the start, as he was found by Karl Lacey and he turned to blast to the Cork net and put Donegal on their way.
While the home side struggled to add to the whirlwind start, mainly due to inaccuracy in front of the posts, they still held a narrow one point advantage at half-time against a Cork side that put up poor resistance.
Aidan Walsh, who made the long trek north on his own after playing in the Fitzgibbon Cup final on Saturday, showed the way with Cork’s first point and they were on level terms coming up to half-time thanks to a free from Colm O’Neill, who was also returning after a lengthy absence due to injury.
“It was very disappointing. There was a stage in the second half there where we got a point ahead and it might’ve been there for the taking but in fairness to Donegal they shut us down well. There was an opportunity there, though, but we didn’t take it and that’s what it is all about. We were very anxious to win today and we’re not going to hide that but we’ll have to just get on with it next week away to Laois,” said Cork manager Conor Counihan.
Murphy pointed a free to send Donegal to the dressing room ahead 1-2 to 0-4, but it was Cork who started the second half the better with points from their best player Paddy Kelly and Donncha O’Connor to see them ahead for the first time in the contest.
But they failed to raise another flag from the 39th minute and paid the penalty. Murphy was instrumental in Donegal getting back on top, firing over the equaliser with a great score off his left and then putting them ahead from a ‘45’.
Donegal did have goal chances with Colm McFadden denied from point blank range and young Patrick McBrearty denied by a block.
They had an easy enough final quarter with Colm McFadden marking his return with a point and Karl Lacey and young Martin O’Reilly added further points for the winners.
After their opening defeats to Down and Laois, Donegal now travel to Killarney on Sunday next in a much better frame of mind, but most loyal supporters will be hoping that they can keep Michael Murphy healthy for the weeks and months ahead.
“It’s been a while coming. I thought we were very deserving winners,” said Donegal assisant manager, Rory Gallagher.
“In the second half I thought there was only one team in it and but for poor finishing, we would have won easier.
“Cork were a bit shell shocked by the opening goal and we should have added a few more points but they were still in it at half-time. They took their chances much better than us,” said Rory.
Donegal: P Durcan; F McGlynn (0-1), N McGee, P McGrath; E McGee, K Lacey (0-1), L McLoone; R Kavanagh, N Gallagher; M McHugh, R Bradley, C Toye; D Walsh, M Murphy (1-3,1f,1’45’), C McFadden (0-1). Subs: P McBrearty and A Thompson for Toye and E McGee (34), M O’Reilly for Walsh (45), D McLaughlin for Bradley (52)
Cork: K O’Halloran; R Carey, E O’Mahony, E Cotter; N O’Leary, G Canty, P Kissane; A Walsh (0-1), F Goold; P Kerrigan, M Collins (0-1), P Kelly (0-1); C O’Neill (0-1,f), D O’Connor (0-2), B O’Driscoll. Subs., L Shorten and J Fitzpatrick for O’Driscoll and Goold (61), D O’Sullivan for O’Neill (63)
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry)