Donegal paid the penalty for some very poor refereeing decisions as Dublin came from behind to get a draw in the final series of games in Division One of the league in MacCumhaill Park
Donegal, who drafted in Eamon Doherty and Luke Keaney to their defence, make the drop to Division Two in a game that had two referees centre stage.
Referee Padraig Hughes suffered an injury seven minutes into the second half and was replaced by Michael Duffy. It proved to be a crucial factor as Duffy did not endear himself to Donegal supporters from there to the end. Rory Kavanagh was through on goal on 61 minutes and seemed to be tugged and tripped but Donegal got no penalty.
Ross Wherity had a great goal chance; Michael Murphy just couldn’t get into gear and Patrick McBrearty had an off day in front of the posts and these were factors which kept Dublin in the game and they didn’t look the gift horse in the mouth, getting two points in added time to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat.
Overall it was a very entertaining and open game enjoyed by an attendance of around 9,000, probably a record for home National League game. But the performance of Michael Duffy in the second half sent the Donegal section home with a very sour taste.
Great opening half
The three point half-time margin did not flatter Donegal as they had racked up seven wides, most of them from very good positions.
The energy levels of Donegal were impressive in the opening half with the highlight being Colm McFadden’s goal on nine minutes. The build-up was crisp with Ross Wherity finding Patrick McBrearty and he slipped the ball on to McFadden who fired low to the corner of Stephen Cluxton’s net.
Donegal had three wides in the opening three minutes after Mark McHugh had opened the scoring on 22 seconds. Paul Mannion levelled from a free before McFadden’s strike.
Mannion had a second free and Paddy Andrews reduced the margin to the minimum on 15 minutes. Donegal finally found their feet again with McBrearty fisting a point and Colm McFadden converted a free after McBrearty was fouled.
Another great move ended with Rory Kavanagh winning a free for Murphy to point and Colm McFadden did the same after Leo McLoone’s run was halted illegally on 25 minutes.
That edged Donegal 1-5 to 0-3 ahead but Dublin had a purple patch before the 30th minute with Cian O’Sullivan and Paddy Andrews (2) reducing the margin to two,
On the stroke of half-time Rory Kavanagh created the opening for Ryan Bradley to edge Donegal three clear at the end of a very exciting opening half. Donegal 1-6, Dublin 0-6.
Diarmuid Connolly had the opening point of the second half before referee Padraig Hughes was replaced by Michael Duffy. Donegal hit two points from Michael Murphy and Patrick McBrearty frees to edge four clear on 49 minutes but two Paul Mannion frees cancelled those scores.
Donegal had a great goal chance on 54 minutes when Anthony Thompson put Ross Wherity clear. He went for goal but Stephen Cluxton made a great stop.
Mannion, with another free, reduced the margin to the minimum as the game entered the final ten minutes. Rory Kavanagh was through but seemed to be tripped but referee Duffy did not award the free. A Patrick McBrearty free was cancelled by a Stephen Cluxton ‘45’ before Michael Murphy edged Donegal two clear again from a 45m free with three minutes left.
Paul Durcan had to be sharp to deny Dublin a goal after Luke Keaney gave a stray pass and it seemed Donegal had done enough as the game came to a climax, but in added time Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion popped over points to relegate Donegal.
Most of the talk afterwards was about the performance of Michael Duffy after he took over but it had to be a disappointment for Donegal as they let the lead slip and they will also be disappointed with their shooting from start to finish.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Eamon Doherty, Eamon McGee, Frank McGlynn; Luke Keaney, Leo McLoone, Anthony Thompson; Rory Kavanagh, Ryan Bradley (0-1); Martin McElhinney, Mark McHugh (0-1), Ross Wherity; Patrick McBrearty (0-3,2f), Michael Murphy (0-3,3f), Colm McFadden (1-2,2f). Subs., Odhran MacNiallais for McFadden ht; Martin O’Reilly for McElhinney 46; Daniel McLaughlin for MacNiallais 68.
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Kevin O’Brien, Phil McMahon, Darren Daly; Jack McCaffrey (0-1), Ger Brennan, Johnny Cooper; Michael Dara Macauley, Cian O’Sullivan (0-1); Paul Flynn, Tomas Brady, Diarmuid Connelly (0-1,f); Kevin McManamon, Paddy Andrews (0-3), Paul Mannion (0-6,5f). Subs., Jason Whelan for Flynn; Bryan Cullen for Brady, both ht; Denis Bastick for Macauley 55; Dean Rock for Connolly 56; Michael Fitzsimons for Brennan 63.
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh) replaced by Michael Duffy (Sligo) on 42 mins.
Man of the match
Paddy Andrews and Paul Mannion were good for Dublin while Donegal had a number of top class performers including Paul Durcan, Anthony Thompson and Rory Kavanagh. The award goes to Rory Kavanagh, who was involved in a lot of Donegal’s best moves.
The miss by Ross Wherity and the non-award of the penalty to Rory Kavanagh were the two big turning points in this game, but probably the biggest factor was the injury sustained by Padraig Hughes!
Consistency is a word always used when talking about referee decisions. In MacCumhaill Park we had the perfect example with two officials in charge of the one game, and giving two different performances. Padraig Hughes was tough on overcarrying but consistent, while Michael Duffy was just a poor replacement!