Disappointing Donegal go down to St. Mary's College

Dr. McKenna Cup

Disappointing Donegal go down to St. Mary's College

Donegal's prospects of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Dr. McKenna Cup suffered a major set-back on Sunday with this defeat to St. Mary's College in Letterkenny.

Donegal 0-8

St. Mary's College 2-6

On a day when a win would have put them in pole position in the group, this defeat means Donegal might not even qualify if they were to win their final match away to Fermanagh on Wednesday night.

Their performance against the students of St. Mary's did little to impress. But they still looked the better side throughout and carried the greater threat coming forward.

However, eight points over 70+ minutes was a poor return for Rory Gallagher's men.

Indeed they only had three different scorers with man-of-the-match Odhran MacNiallais scoring all but two of his team's total.

The Gaoth Dobhair man put in a fine display, but his return could have been better. He was guilty of two-missed goal chances, one in each half. Had either opportunity been taken, Donegal would surely have gone on to win.

In a dour struggle, the sides were level at half time, Donegal 0-5, St. Mary's 1-2. The entertainment didn't really improve in the second half, but there were a couple of big moments, not least, the sending off of Donegal's Paddy McGrath on 50 minutes.

But even with a man less, Donegal still looked the more likely and going into the final five minutes, MacNiallais kicked them 0-8 to 1-4 in front.

However, from the kick-out, St. Mary's struck back with a brilliantly worked goal - substitute, Ryan Johnston finishing a wonderful move with a great goal.

Suddenly, St. Mary's were two points to the good and they closed out with two more points to win by four.

On the back of their opening day win against Down, Donegal were fancied to be too strong for St. Mary's who had lost out to Fermanagh in mid-week.

Rory Gallagher gave Stephen McMenamin his debut at half back and the Red Hughs man fitted in well as Donegal started brightly.

Playing with Leo McLoone at full forward in the early stages, Donegal worked a couple of decent early openings. MacNiallais opened their account six minutes in with a well taken score.

But almost immediately, St. Mary's hit back with the game's opening goal. Ciaran MacIomhar worked the opening out on the left and his ball found Jack Grogan who got just enough room to fire his shot in past Danny Rodgers.

Donegal's response was good. Michael Carroll pointed from play and his clubmate MacNiallais guided over a glorious point on the wind from the stand-side to level the game.

Donegal however, would then score just a single point over the next 25 minutes. They enjoyed plenty of possession, but they frustrated the home crowd with their reluctance to take shots on goal and a failure to produce a killer pass when the need arose.

Aidan McGarrity's point from play on 13 minutes put St. Mary's in front but MacNiallais' free on 22 levelled the game again.

Grogan knocked over a long range point for St. Mary's before MacNiallais, two minutes into injury time, sent the sides in level with another well taken score.

Donegal rang the changes at half time and introduced Michael Murphy, Stephen McBrearty and Neil McGee and the team did look to have a better balance.

But despite an early point from Eoin McHugh, Donegal continued to struggle for scores and a Ryan Johnston point, just seconds after his introduction, levelled the game yet again.

Then followed Paddy McGrath's dismissal after a mellee involving several players from both sides. The Ardara man was shown a yellow and red card while Neil McGee and Grogan were also booked.

MacNiallais and Johnston exchanged scores before a free from MacNiallais on 65 minutes put his team 0-8 to 1-4 in front. However, Johnston then struck for what proved the winning goal and the Students went on to claim what was an unexpected victory.

Donegal: Danny Rodgers; Jack O'Brien, Eamonn Doherty, Paddy McGrath; Frank McGlynn, Caolan Ward, Stephen McMenamin; Hugh McFadden, Odhran MacNiallais (0-6, 3f); Michael Carroll (0-1), Ciaran Thompson, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Leo McLoone, Martin O'Reilly, Eoin McHugh (0-1). Subs: Michael Murphy for McFadden, Neil McGee for Doherty, Stephen McBrearty for O'Brien (all half time), Cillian Morrison for Carroll (66).

St. Mary's College: Rory Burns; Aaron McKay, Patrick McAleer, Ciaran McCooey; Kevin McKernan, Niall McPartland, Harry Loughran; Peter Carragher, Daniel McBride; Conor Meyler, Conall McCann (0-1), Aidan McGarrity (0-1); Cikaran MacIomhar, Jack Grogan (1-1), Aidan Nugent. Subs: Patrick McBride (0-1) for Meyler, Matthew Fitzpatrick for Nugent (42), Ryan Johnston (1-2) for MacIomhar (43), Darragh Kavanagh for Grogan, Ciaran Corrigan for McCooey (56, black card).

Referee: Dan Mullan (Derry)