Donegal turned in another power packed and polished performance as they bagged all two league points in their encounter with Derry in Celtic Park, on Saturday night.
Jim McGuinness’s charges produced a high octane performance against Meath in Navan six days earlier. But they went up another notch on Saturday night under the Derry lights.
Rocked by an early goal and point from the Oak Leafer’s stand-in full forward Caolan O’Boyle, Donegal held their composure, regrouped to turn the tables on their hosts with a brand of fast, open, possession football.
After being hit with that early Derry bombardment they recovered with an action packed first half to go in 1-11 to 1-9 ahead at half-time.
“It was a difficult start for us, We conceded 1-1 in the first few minutes and put ourselves under pressure. The aerial threat of Caolan O’Boyle caused us problems in the first few minutes and caught us a little of the hop,” said McGuinness.
“We were expecting and planning for Paddy Bradley, and had prepared for him and before we got a chance to adjust O’ Boyle had hit us with a goal and a point,” said Jim.
“But we responded very well and Mark McHugh, Frank McGlynn and Kevin Cassidy got in around him and we picked up a fair amount of breaking ball in front of him and most important of all they used it cleverly.”
Composure was the key for Donegal after the early setback and they displayed that in spades and drove up field with great purpose and kicked a few scores and were back in the game by the end of the first quarter.
“Dermot (Molloy) kicked four and Colm (McFadden) kicked a couple too and Michael (Murphy) kicked two very acute angle points. They were all important scores and good scores and of course Calm (McFadden) got the goal which was a very important score and just at the right time a few minutes before half-time and it really undid all their good work.”
McFadden’s goal on 31 minutes after he made ground along the end-line with a number of Derry defenders on his shoulder to squeeze the ball between Danny Devlin and his right hand post gave Donegal the lead (1-9 to 1-7) for the first time.
Martin McElhinney, Murphy (2), McFadden (2), Molloy and Rory Kavanagh kicked the Donegal scores in the opening 25 minutes, before Molloy with two pointed frees tied up the game on 0-9 to 1-6.
Conleth Gilligan with three pointed frees and Gerard O’Kane added to the Derry tally.
Murphy knocked over two more to one free from Gilligan, after McFadden’s goal to propel Donegal into a two point lead at the break and in a good position.
“We were happy to be in front at half-time especially given the start we had and the fact that we were playing against the wind. But we also knew the wind was not going to win the game for us. We knew we were going to have to go out and work hard, play good football and while we were a little ropey for a time after half-time we regained our composure again to go on and finish the game off.
“I think Dermot Molloy’s ball into Michael Murphy; just to spot him in a one on one situation and the quality of the pass and the finish from Michael was class and really turned the game. I don’t think we were going to be caught after that.”
Donegal’s second goal arrived on 56 minutes and opened up a 2-14 to 2-10 lead after McFadden, Murphy and Molloy had pointed for Donegal and O’Boyle had converted a penalty after Enda Muldoon was fouled and Gerard O’Kane had pointed.
While Derry, through Muldoon and Gilligan in response to another Murphy free, made it a three point game with five minutes remaining, Donegal swaggered to the finish with three more points, two from Murphy and one from Karl Lacey.
The win leaves Donegal on top of the Division Two as outright leaders and with Antrim at home and Laois away, in their remaining two games, Donegal are in prime position to take one of the two promotion places.
“Our focus now is on our next two games and if we can get one win from those games it will more than likely see us in the final and promotion. It certainly gives us something to aim at and is a long way from being eight points down with 20 minutes remaining against Sligo in our opening game. But it is a good position to be in,” said McGuinness.
Derry: Danny Devlin; Ciaran Mullan, Kevin McCloy, Dermot McBride; Gerard O’Kane (0-2), Joe O’ Kane, Aidan McAlynn; P. J. McCloskey, Michael Friel; Ciaran McGoldrick (0-1), Sean Leo McGoldrick, Martin Donaghy; Enda Muldoon (0-1), Caolan O’Boyle (2-1,1-0 pen), Conleth Gilligan (0-6,6f). Subs: Charlie Kielt (0-1) for A. McAlynn 26; Barry McGoldrick for C. Mullan h/t; Mark Lynch for C. McGoldrick 43; Paddy Bradley for P. J. McCloksey 48; James Kielt for M. Donaghy 57.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Kevin Cassidy; Anthony Thompson, Karl Lacey (0-1) Frank McGlynn; Rory Kavanagh (0-1), Martin McElhinney (0-1); Mark McHugh, Michael Hegarty, Ryan Bradley; Dermot Molloy (0-5,5f), Michael Murphy (1-7,4f), Colm McFadden (1-3). Subs: Jason Noctor for N. McGee 40; Neil Gallagher for M. McElhinney; David Walsh for M. Hegarty, both 55)
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)