Conor MCMONAGLE, Benny Byrne and David Harron scored the goals as Donegal Town got the New Year off to a winning start with a two goal victory over Drumoghill Celtic at the Hospital Field.
Donegal Town 3
Drumoghill Celtic 1
The win, and the three points, means that Rory Dunleavy’s side have maintained their second place in Division One of the Donegal League and are still very much in the promotion race.
They are level on points with Eany Celtic, who drew 1-1 away to Cranford United and are two adrift of pacesetters, Curragh Athletic.
In a cracking contest on a remarkably dry surface, considering the overnight rainfall. Despite Donegal Town’s two-goal winning margin, this was far from a one sided encounter.
It took a scrambled Harron goal on the stroke of full-time to finally seal the points for the locals.
Up to that, with Donegal 2-1 ahead thanks to strikes from Conor McMonagle on 23 minutes and Benny Byrne on 67, the three points looked far from secure as Drumoghill pressed for the equaliser.
And it took a workmanlike performance from a well drilled Donegal back four of Brighton Maftwa, David Bustard, Sean Boyle and JP Byrne to keep Michael Lynch’s men at bay.
Donegal started well and both Byrne and McMonagle went close inside the opening 15 minutes.
Drumoghill had a couple of good chances too in the early exchanges with Byrne clearing the danger after Moore hit the bottom of the post with Lee McBrearty beaten.
And McBrearty had to be at his best to deny Richard Moore, before McMonagle finally broke the deadlock when he headed home a Brighton Maftwa cross from the edge of the box.
Boosted by the goal the locals applied the pressure and both McMonagle and Byrne were denied by Regan.
But Drumoghill were back on level terms when Moore made amends for an earlier miss when, Robin Van Persie-like, he raced onto a ball down the middle to drill past McBrearty.
Twice in the early minutes of the second period Drumoghill went close to hitting the front with David Bustard and McBrearty both coming to the rescue to deny O’Donnell and Moore.
However, just when it seemed the visitors were getting the upper hand, McBrearty saved from Moore and Byrne struck at the other end to head home from McGrory’s corner, to restore Donegal’s 2-1 advantage.
That was on 67 minutes and in fairness to Drumoghill they refused to buckle and they fought gamely to the finish and it took Harron’s late strike when he forced a Declan Browne cross home to finally seal the win for the locals and agood start to the second half of the season for Rory Dunleavy and his men.
Donegal Town: Lee McBrearty; Brigthon Maftwa, David Bustard, Sean Boyle, J.P. Byrne, Ryan Earley (David Harron 79 mins), Conor McMonagle, Stuart Johnston, Benny Byrne, Raymie McGrory, Declan Browne.
Drumoghill Celtic: Greg Regan; David Gordon, Christy Martin (Petie Gillespie, 77 mins), Chris O’Donnell, John Madigan, Richard Tinney, Karlos Rogers, Darren Crossan, Richard Moore, Liam O’Donnel, Shane McIntyre.
Referee: Ronan Floyd.
Man of the match
Benny Byrne scored Donegal Town’s second goal to restore his side’s lead after they had been level at half-time. He also looked dangerous in the opening half and was a little unlucky not to have bagged an early goal when he drove over from the edge of the box. But the goal apart, he had a big influence in the second period when he played in a more withdrawn role around midfield and greatly reduced Drumoghill’s influence in this area.
He shades the vote ahead of his team mate Conor McMonagle who had a very good first half and was a little unfortunate to have only one goal to his name at the half-time whistle.
Richard Tinney, Darren Crossan and John Madigan along with keeper Greg Regan were the most prominent Drumoghill men.
A Lee McBrearty save from Raymond Moore followed by Byrne’s goal on on 67 minutes was a big turnround in the game. McBrearty got down well to save from Moore and Byrne did equally well to get on the end of a Raymie McGrory corner in a crowded goalmouth to head past Regan.
Ronan Floyd let the game flow and got the vast majority of his calls spot on. His decision late on to deny Raymie McGrory a penalty when the Donegal Town man went down in the box under pressure from Richard Tinney seemed the right call and his subsequent decision to issue two yellow cards when Tinney went down after squaring up to McGrory was also a sensible approach.