Donegal U-21s pictured before their game with Sligo
Donegal got the defence of the North West Cup off to the worst possible start, going down to Sligo this afternoon in 0’Donnell Park.
A late Kyle Cawley goal gave the winning margin a slightly flattering look.
Nevertheless, Sligo, who fielded five of their senior team - Luke Nicholson, Darragh Cummins, Gerard O’Kelly, Paddy Connor and Kyle Cawley - were the better outfit and deserved to win against an experimental and wasteful Donegal.
In what was their first outing of the season, Donegal fielded without senior players Kieran Gillespie, Michael Carroll, Cian Mulligan as well as Conor Morrison and Colm Kelly.
Donegal manager Declan Bonner only introduced the other seniors in his squad, Eoghan’Bán’ Gallagher, Stephen McBrearty and Caolan McGonigle, in the second half.
And to make matters worse, Stephen McBrearty limped out of the game after a few minutes’ action with a hamstring strain.
Donegal led by two points - 2-4 to 1-5 - at half-time having trailed by five points at one stage.
Naomh Colmcille’s Daniel Clarke scored the first of the two goals and Lorcan Connor netted the second after Sligo had raced into a 1-3 to 0-1 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Clarke got on the end of a sweeping move after Adam Neilly found Lorcan Connor with a precision pass before Connor squared for Clarke, who drove to the net from five metres.
The goal was timely as it came at a stage when Donegal, who opened brightly with a Gavin McBride point inside ten seconds, were beginning to slip out of the contest.
Sligo responded to early Donegal pressure and some overelaboration and the odd pass too many with 1-3 without reply in a good ten minute spell.
Paddy Connor, who kicked nine of the winners’ 13 points, eight of them from frees, got the visitors off the mark on six minutes.
Wing-back Sean Power added a second shortly after before the Donegal defence was breached for the Sligo goal, scored by midfielder Gerard O’Kelly Lynch.
Lynch polished off a good move after quick hands and a couple of precision passes from Paul Kilcoyne and Kyle Cawley.
The goal opened up a 1-3 to 0-1 Sligo lead with a little over 15 minutes on the clock and Donegal looked in bother.
Two quick points, one from Lorcan Connor, who sold a dummy off his right before popping over off his left boot from close to 40 metres got the recovery underway.
And Niall Friel, raiding on the right wing, knocked over the second after good work in the middle of the field from Michael Lynch and a defence splitting pass from Christian Bonner.
Donegal began to exert a little pressure and with Neilly and Conor Doherty carving openings, they were back in the game when Clarke raced through the middle to get on the end of a Connor pass for a well worked goal.
Conor Doherty and Connor traded points before Lorcan Connor pounced for Donegal’s second goal and a 2-4 to 1-4 lead, two minutes to half-time.
Christian Bonner, Adam Neilly and Niall Friel were all involved in the build up to what was a good quality score.
Connor converted his fourth free of the half for a 2-4 to 1-5 half-time Donegal lead.
Declan Bonner sent on the cavalry on the resumption as Stephen McBrearty, Eoghan ‘Bán’ Gallagher, Michael Langan and Caolan McGonigle were all introduced into the fray.
But the replacements did not have the desired effect and thanks to the freetaking of Connor, Sligo were back in front 1-8 to 2-4 by the end of the third quarter.
The teams were level twice as Darragh Black pointed, either side of another Connor free, meant the game was still in the melting pot going into the closing quarter hour.
But sensing the game was to be won Sligo showed the greater hunger and they outscored the locals by 1-3 to 0-1 in the closing 15 minutes. Niall O’Donnell’s 57th minute strike was Donegal’s only score in the final quarter.
DONEGAL: Danny Rodgers; Danny Monagle, Gary McFadden, Daniel Gallagher; Niall Friel (0-1), Tony McClenaghan, Daire Ó Baoill; Michael Lynch, Daniel Clarke (1-0); Christian Bonner, Conor Doherty (0-1), Ciaran Diver; Adam Neely, Gavin McBride (0-1), Lorcan Connor (1-1). Subs: Niall O’Donnell (0-1) for A Neely, Stephen McBrearty for C Diver, Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher for D Ó Baoill, Michael Langan for M Lynch, Caolan McGonigle for D Clarke all half-time; Stephen McMenamin for G McFadden 37, Ciaran Gibbons for N Friel 39, Shane Graham for D Rodgers 41, Ethan O’Donnell for C Bonner 41, Darragh Black (0-2) for S McBrearty 42, Brendan McCole for T McClenaghan 43, John Campbell for G McBride, Ciaran McGeady for D Monagle, both 46.
SLIGO: Daniel Cafferkey; Nathan Mullen, Luke Nicholson, Michael Gordon; Darragh Cummins, Paul McNamara (0-1), Sean Power (0-1); Paul Kilcoyne, Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch (1-0); Stephen Connolly, Paddy O’Connor (0-9, 8f), Michael Clarke; Jason Perry, Joe McHugh, Kyle Cawley (1-0). Subs: Dylan Kilgallon for J Perry,37, Darragh Kilcoyne (0-1) for S Connolly,41, Darragh O’Brien for J McHugh 43; Darragh O’Brien for S Connolly, Liam Gaughan (0-1) for M Clarke (50).
REFEREE: Dan Mullan (Derry).