Ray Durack’s spell in charge of the Donegal hurlers got off to a poor start in the National Hurling League Division 3A when his side relinquished an early six-point advantage against Monaghan in Clones to lose.
Donegal took less than a minute to open the scoring through a Niall Campbell point, before Jamsie Donnelly powered over a 70-metre free after he had been fouled. Lee Henderson made it three and then doubled their lead when he pulled on a loose ball to send it to the net when a Campbell free dropped short.
However, that seemed to kickstart the hosts who dominated from then on, hitting 1-11 without reply to fashion a 1-11 to 1-3 interval lead. Mickey McHugh won and scored a 45-metre free and Seán Leonard sent over Monaghan’s first point from play, settling any nerves.
McHugh converted two more frees, before Martin Murphy closed the gap to the minimum, 0-5 to 1-3. A good point from Gary Boyd brought Monaghan level and McHugh put them in front.
Peter Treanor pressed home the hosts’ advantage before Donegal goalkeeper Paul Burns didn’t sort out an effort Séamus Loftus, allowing Leonard to tuck home. McHugh scored twice more as the half bore to a close, giving his side an eight-point lead.
The second half was a tit-for-tat affair with McHugh keeping the home side ticking over. Campbell, with seven points, six from frees, was Donegal’s top scorer.
He sent over a long-range to end 26 scoreless minutes and he followed it up by tapping over again before Organ got his name of the scoresheet. Martin Murphy hit Monaghan’s first point of the half, but Campbell responded with three points from frees.
McHugh and Meegan, though, kept Monaghan in the driving seat, but Donnelly hit a huge point from a free inside his own half after a throw-ball decision went against Monaghan. Campbell reduced the gap to three when he converted another placed ball, but Lambe raced through to fire over his only point of the game. Leonard added a well-taken point, before Noel Morgan got on the end of a pass from fellow sub Aonghus MacSuibhne to put six between the teams. A strong run by Lambe created a second point for Morgan in injury-time to seal an encouraging opening win for Monaghan.
Monaghan: R McAteer; P Murphy, J McHugh, M Treanor; P Meegan (0-1), P Treanor (0-1), S Loftus; G Boyd (Capt., 0-1), T Hilliard; M Murphy (0-2), S Lambe (0-1), M McHugh (0-8f); M Lennon, S Leonard (1-2), B McGuigan.
Subs: N Morgan (0-2) for McGuigan (inj., 32 mins), A Mac Suibhne for Lennon (52).
Donegal: P Burns; C Flood, C McLaughlin, S Gallen; J Donnelly (0-2f), J Boyle, A McDermott (Capt.); P Sheridan, R McDermott; K Campbell, E Organ (0-1), M McGee; L Henderson (1-1), E McDermott, N Campbell (0-7, 6f).
Subs: S Gillespie for McGee (55).
Referee: J Clarke (Cavan).