The clash with led to the penalty, Mark A McGinley on Cillian O'Connor
Donegal may have suffered a defeat and missed out on a league final meeting with Dublin next weekend, but manager Rory Gallagher was happy with the season overall.
Donegal went into the Mayo game in second place in the league table behind Dublin, on equal points with Monaghan, but ahead of the Farney men on score average.
However, Kerry, who were two points behind Donegal and Monaghan, came with a late push and their seven point win over Tyrone in Killarney saw them leapfrog Donegal and Monaghan on score average. They now qualify to meet Dublin in the Division One League final.
“We felt we were in a good position at half-time and were in front at half-time having played against a stiff breeze,” said the Donegal boss.
“And we went four up early in the second half. But Mayo upped the intensity level to be fair to them and turned us over a fair bit. We seemed to run out of steam and they finished the stronger team.”
Gallagher was very happy with his team’s first half performance, after conceding an early penalty, converted by Cillian O’Connor.
“We weathered the storm after giving away a penalty,” he said.
“It was a bad penalty to give away, but we responded well and played some great attacking football. We invested a lot of energy to go in three up.”
While the game seemed to turn with the introduction by Mayo of the experienced Aidan O’Shea, the Donegal manager felt the Eamonn Doherty sending off in the middle of the second period made a bigger impact.
“He (Aidan 0’Shea) is a big player, but the losing of a man had a bigger impact on the game from my point of view,” insisted Gallagher, who admitted that he did not see the incident which led to the St Eunan’s man receiving his marching orders.
He also felt that Donegal were in no way culpable in starting the bout of fisticuffs that marred the second half of another cracking contest.
“When you are in the ascendancy I don’t think you instigate a row,” he said.
“We were in the ascendancy and we play a running game. There was a lot of checking and I suppose the crowd got behind them. I suppose that is the nature of it when you are away from home.
“The Mayo crowd are very passionate. I was here in the championship when they played Fermanagh.
“Fermanagh were in a good position and Mayo made most of a penalty decision and the crowd got behind them. It was the same out there today.”
The Donegal boss also insisted that it was of no great concern that for the second week in-a-row, Donegal could not build on a lead when ahead.
“Last week is gone, this is a new game and we are just disappointed that when we were ahead that we did not push on and win,” he said.
“Overall it was an excellent league for us. Even today we would be disappointed, even though no matter how well you are going, it is never easy in McHale Park against a Mayo team ravenous for two points.
“I thought there was an awful lot of good things out there today. I thought at times the football we played was exhilarating.
“In the second half, while Mayo were physically stronger, our boys did not shirk the challenge and there is an element of tiredness creeping in.
“We have a lot of young lads and we haven’t done a lot of training as a group over the last month with game to game and I thought we looked tired with 15 to 20 minutes to go.”
Donegal face Antrim in the first round of the Ulster championship on May 20th in Ballybofey. And Rory Gallagher feels Donegal are in a good place ahead of that game.
“I’m happy with where we are at,” he said.
“There have been huge learnings from the last two games and throughout the league we never got too carried away. We won a few games but overall I would be happy where we are at.”