Mayo's Cillian O'Connor and Ciaran Thompson of Donegal in action during Sunday's game. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tom Beary
Donegal lost their way in the second half as Mayo got the win that kept them in the top flight. Results elsewhere mean that Donegal will not be in the league final, which will be contested by Dublin and Kerry
It was a game that Donegal could have won, but they only managed two Cian Mulligan points in the second half with the wind at their back.
That was after a superb opening half. But a fracas on 52 minutes seemed to be the turning point as Donegal lost their discipline and also had Eamonn Doherty red carded.
The turning point coincided with the introduction of Aidan O'Shea for Mayo. O'Shea got involved in a lot of physical stuff and it seemed to lift the Mayo crowd, and this in turn influenced referee, Cormac Reilly, who seemed to give the home side hand frees, which Cillian O'Connor accepted.
The contrast in the Donegal performance from the first half and the second was marked. There will be plenty to work on from the game with the focus now on the meeting with Antrim in the Ulster Championship on Sunday, 21st May in MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey.
A draw would have been enough to secure a league final. Indeed, they will point to the late goal a week previously which deprived them of their place in the final.
The throw-in was delayed by ten minutes due to the huge crowd of 14,102 in Elverys McHale Park.
Donegal had Frank McGlynn and Jason McGee back on the starting team, but for the first time in a long time there was no Kilcar player on the first fifteen.
Donegal were superb in the opening half, playing against the stiff breeze. They had two points on the board inside three minutes, Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Cian Mulligan from the Mayo kick-out.
But they were rocked seconds later when a cross from Kevin McLoughlin saw Donegal ‘keeper Mark Anthony McGinley penalised for a push on Cillian O’Connor just inside the ‘square’. From the spot O’Connor made no mistake to put Mayo in front.
The home side had their best period of the half in the following minutes as they added three points from Andy Moran, Cillian O’Connor and Danny Kirby to stretch 1-3 to 0-2 clear with less than eight minutes on the clock.
Donegal gradually got their game going again and they had two points inside a minute from Michael Murphy and Ciaran Thompson; Murphy after a foul on the influential Eoghan Ban Gallagher and a typical effort from Thompson.
Shane Nally had a long distance point for Mayo on 13 minutes but they would have only one other score in the half in the 33 minutes.
Donegal really took over with Michael Murphy (free), Ciaran Thompson, Jamie Brennan, Martin O’Reilly, Michael Murphy (‘45’ and a free) to go three clear.
Even after Colm Boyle had Mayo’s fifth point, Donegal hit back with Michael Murphy setting up Frank McGlynn for the final score of the half as Donegal went to the dressing rooms ahead by 0-11 to 1-5.
Mayo almost had a goal after 40 seconds of the restart, Kevin McLoughlin bursting through and Lee Keegan’s effort was touched over by the ‘keeper.
Almost immediately Cian Mulligan hit back with a great point for Donegal. And he added another from near the sideline on 40 minutes.
There was the usual skirmish on 52 minutes and afterwards four yellow cards were issued, three to Donegal (Murphy, Jason McGee and Ciaran Thompson) with Aidan O’Shea of Mayo also carded.
When things settled Keith Higgins pointed from play but Cillian O’Connor was wide from a free. But Donegal then lost Eamonn Doherty to a red card, after being accused of kicking out after he was fouled by Aidan O’Shea.
O’Connor, from another free, put just one between them with nine minutes of normal time left and Lee Keegan levelled almost immediately with a great effort with his left.
O’Connor edged Mayo ahead and Donegal’s lack of discipline saw another free moved on for O’Connor to put Mayo 1-12 to 0-13 in front in the 68th minute. By this stage, Donegal were down to 14 with the dismissal of Eamonn Doherty and they also seemed to be in disarray.
It was a disappointing finish for Donegal, who just couldn't make any headway with the win, going a full 34 minutes without a score. They could hardly have any excuse with that statistic.
MAYO: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins (0-1), Chris Barrett; Colm Boyle (0-1), Lee Keegan (0-2), Patrick Durcan; Tom Parsons, Danny Kirby (0-1); Shane Nally (0-1), Cillian O’Connor (1-5, pen,4f), Fergal Boland; Kevin McLoughlin, Andy Moran (0-1), David Drake.
Subs., Diarmuid O’Connor for Boland; Stephen Coen for Boyle, both ht; Aidan O’Shea for Kirby 45; Jason Doherty for Moran 59; Donal Vaughan for Drake 65; Conor O’Shea for Nally 73
DONEGAL: Mark Anthony McGinley; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamonn Doherty; Eoghan Ban Gallagher (0-1), Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn (0-1); Jason McGee, Michael Murphy (0-4,3f,'45'); Michael Carroll, Martin O’Reilly (0-1), Cian Mulligan (0-3); Jamie Brennan (0-1), Hugh McFadden, Ciaran Thompson (0-2).
Subs., Eoin McHugh for H McFadden 49; Patrick McBrearty for Lacey 59; Mark McHugh for McGlynn 65; Martin McElhinney for P McGrath 68; Michael Langan for J McGee 69;
REFEREE: Cormac Reilly (Meath)