Donegal ran Mayo close in yesterday opening game in Division 2B of the Allianz Hurling League played in Elvery’s McHale Park,
Mayo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1-14
Donegal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0-13
Just four points separated the sides at the final whistle as Donegal, despite playing most of the second half with 14 men, stormed back into the tie after trailing by seven points at half-time, 0-10 to 0-3.
Donegal lost Christopher McDermott six minutes into the second period after the Burt man picked up a second yellow card.
Donegal also started without Danny Cullen (hamstring) and long term injured Jamsie Donnelly and Enda McDermott.
“We're a bit deflated. We just didn't get out of the blocks the way we wanted," said manager, Ardal McDermott.
“But for us to take them to four points is encouraging.”
Mayo played with the wind in the first half and raced into an early 0-5 to 0-0 lead thanks to points from Cathal Freeman, All-Star Footballer Keith Higgins and Kenny Feeney.
But Donegal responded with points from Ciaran Mathewson - his side’s first point on 23 minutes - and two Kevin Campbell frees to reduce the margin to 0-5 to 0-2. Paddy Nelson crashed the ball off the Mayo crossbar before Mayo finished out the half with white flags from from Feeney, Higgins, Eoghan Collins and Joseph McManus to take a seven point lead to the dressing room at half-time.
"We were 10-3 down at half-time but to be honest we should have been closer. There was a strong wind and in some ways we were happy enough with all to play for in the second half.”
Despite losing McDermott and going down to 14, Donegal took the fight to their hosts in the second half and within ten minutes of the restart had reduced the Mayo lead to four.
Kevin Campbell and Lee Henderson, who only passed a late fitness test, scored the Donegal points.
But shortly after Campbell made it a four point game, Donegal were rocked with a Mayo goal scored by Feeney after being picked out with a precision pass by Higgins.
And the margin was back out to eight shortly after when Feeney split the posts from a free.
But Donegal refused to buckle and driven on by Jack O’Loughlin and Sean McVeigh they produced a strong finish and with Mathewson knocking over three points and Joe Boyle landing another to cut the margin back to four.
In a frenetic finish Higgins and Feeney and Matthewson and Colm Flood traded late points as Mayo held on for the win.
Mayo: Donal O’Brien; Shane Morley, Patrick Connell, Adrian Brennan; Austin Lyons, Gerard McManus, Kieran Kiely; Eoghan Collins (0-1), Ciaran Charlton; Cathal Freeman (0-2), Keith Higgins (0-4,1f), Gary Nolan; : Kenny Feeney (1-5,4f),Sean Regan (0-1), Joseph McManus (0-1). Subs: Cory Scahill for Kieran Kely ht, Darren McTighe for Ciaran Charlton 50, Noel Casey for Austin Lyons 55, Shane Boland for Sean Regan 60, David Harrision for Keith Higgins 70.
Donegal: Paul Burns; Martin McGrath, Dara Grant, Pauric Doherty; Jack O’Loughlin (0-1), Joe Boyle (0-1), Christopher McDermott; Stephen Gillespie, Paul Sheridan; Lee Henderson (0-1), Sean McVeigh, Paul Nelson; Ciaran Matthewson (0-5,3f 165’, Ronan McDermott, Kevin Campbell (0-4,4f). Subs: Bernard Lafferty for Lee Henderson 55, Sam Doherty for Paul Sheridan 60, Shane Gallen for Martin McGrath 63, Paddy Hannigan for Kevin Campbell 33.
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)