Donegal came out on top in their challenge encounter with Mayo in Swinford on Sunday and manager, Jim McGuinness was reasonably happy as the countdown begins for their Ulster championship clash with Cavan in less than two weeks time.
“Performance wise, we were happy to get the win with a point to spare. We played well in the second half after an in and out first half,” said McGuinness.
“We dominated the play for a long period which was very encouraging once we got going. They got a couple of soft goals and that is something we need to work on in the next couple of weeks.
“Our work-rate was not where it needed to be in the first half. But we had a few lads who had played championship games on Saturday night and it was not easy to ask them to give their all.
“But fair play they rolled up their sleeves in the second half and played some very good football.
“Colm (McFadden) led the line well and we are very happy with a number of the boys who we introduced. Marty Boyle and Tommy McKinley did well when they were introduced and Frank McGlynn, Leo McLoone and Martin McElhinney came into it in the second half. To be fair I thought everybody worked really hard in the second half and that is what we are looking for,” said McGuinness
Colm McFadden once again, in the absence of skipper Michael Murphy, took on the mantle of scorer-in-chief with a personal tally of a goal and five points with the goal coming courtesy of a second half penalty.
As well as Murphy, Donegal were without All-Star defender Karl Lacey, Eamon McGee, Neil Gallagher, Rory Kavanagh and Christy Toye. Lacey and McGee were sidelined with hamstring problems while Gallagher and Toye are nursing Achilles injuries and Kavanagh picked up a hip injury in training last week.
While Adrian Hanlon and Stephen Griffin popped over early points, beaten National League finalists Mayo did all the early running with goals from Peadar Gardiner and Cillian O’Connor.
Six down Donegal put in something of a spurt before half-time with McFadden kick starting the revival with three points and his clubmate Martin McElhinney adding another to make it a three point game in favour of the locals at half-time.
With Jim McGuinness and his Mayo counterpart James Horan making a number for changes at half-time, Marty Boyle, with his first touch, pointed to reduce the margin to two.
But as they had done in the opening half Mayo took control again with Alan Freeman pointing and a Pat Harte penalty after Neil McGee was judged by referee Michael Duffy to have pushed Danny Kirby.
And so for the second time Donegal faced something of a mountain. But with Frank McGlynn – Donegal’s outstanding player on the day – and Leo McLoone driving forward with great purpose and with Stephen Griffin and Patrick McBrearty and McFadden converting from the penalty spot it was all square.
McFadden gave Robert Hennelly no chance after McBrearty was fouled in the Mayo rectangle. In a rip roaring finish McGlynn, Neil McGee and McFadden with a sweetly struck ’45, Donegal raced into a three point lead only to be hauled back with white flags from Kirby, Freeman and Varley.
All aboard again going into the closing seconds McBrearty settled it with a fisted point to shade it for Donegal.
The game was to mark the official opening of the rededicated Swinford GAA all-weather training pitch in memory of the late garda Robert McCallion, a member of the club. Robbie McCallion died two years ago following injuries received while on duty as a garda in Letterkenny.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee (0-1), Frank McGlynn (0-1); Anthony Thompson, Leo McLoone, Declan Walsh; Martin McElhinney (0-1), Ryan Bradley; Mark McHugh, Adrian Hanlon (0-1), Patrick McBrearty (0-2); Dermot Molloy, Colm McFadden (1-5, 1-0 pen, 4f, 1,’45), Stephen Griffin (0-2,1f). Subs: Marty Boyle (0-1) for R. Bradley; Antoin McFadden for A. Hanlon; Thomas McKinley D. Walsh (all at half-time) Gary McFadden for F. McGlynn (68); Michael Boyle for P. Durcan (69).
Mayo: Robert Hennelly; Michael Walsh, Shane McHale, Eoghan O’Reilly; Peadar Gardiner (1-1), Colm Boyle, Ritchie Feeney; Barry Moran, Pat Harte (1-0, penalty); Aidan Campbell, Cillian O’Connor (1-1,1f), Michael Forde; Enda Varley (0-3,2f), Alan Freeman (0-1), Jason Doherty. Subs: Danny Kirwan (0-1) for J. Doherty; Fergal Durcan for M Forde; Conor O’Shea for A Campbell; Kevin Keane for P. Gardiner.
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).