DONEGAL were denied a place in the final of the Allianz League Division 1 final after surrendering a four-point lead early in the second half to go down to Mayo in Castlebar.
Mayo 1-12 Donegal 0-13
The side managed by Rory Gallagher lost for the first time in six matches as Mayo stormed back late in the contest. As it was, Cavan’s loss to Roscommon meant Stephen Rochford’s were safe in any case.
Eamonn Doherty was sent off on 57 minutes when Donegal were three points in front for kicking out at Aidan O’Shea. From then on though, Donegal failed to score as Cillian O’Connor scored four late frees to seal Mayo’s victory in front of 14,102 at Elvery’s MacHale Park. Mayo popped over the last six scores of the game and Cian Mulligan’s 40th minute point was Donegal’s last of the day.
Much was made of the appointment of match referee Cormac Reilly in the lead up to the fixture, with the Meath official having not taken charge of a Mayo game since their controversial loss to Kerry in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.
Reilly did though award the hosts an early penalty this afternoon, when he penalised Mark Anthony McGinley for a foul on O’Connor. It was an innocuous enough coming together, although the Donegal goalkeeper had strayed needlessly from his line as a high ball was drifting wide.
O’Connor scored the penalty – sending McGinley the wrong way – but Donegal were very good defensively until the bitter end.
Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Cian Mulligan had scored early points for Donegal, before O’Connor’s penalty on five minutes, which made it 1-0 to 0-2 for the home team.
Mayo scored some excellent long-range scores in the opening minutes, with Andy Moran, O’Connor, Danny Kirby and Shane Nally all pointing.
However, Donegal were finding their rhythm in an impressive second quarter, with Michael Murphy typically in the centre of the action. Ciaran Thompson continued his excellent springtime form with two first half points, while Martin O’Reilly, Jamie Brennan and Frank McGlynn also etched their names onto the scoresheet.
At half-time, and having played against the wind, Donegal were 0-11 to 1-5 in front, with Conor Boyle scoring Mayo’s last point of the half.
Mulligan added two fine scores at the start of part two but from then on the well ran dry. Aidan O’Shea came on for Mayo and his winning of a 50-50 challenge with Murphy gave the home support reason to cheer. Mayo upped the physicality stakes and there were a few flashpoints.
O’Shea and Tom Parsons got a grapple of midfield and from there the foundation was built. O’Connor didn’t land a free until the 58th minute but would end up with 1-4 to his name. Lee Keegan also came up to add his second point, as Keith Higgins excelled from full-back.
Mayo: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins (0-1), Chris Barrett; Colm Boyle (0-1), Lee Keegan (0-2), Patrick Durcan; Tom Parsons, Danny Kirby (0-1); Shane Nally (0-1), Cillian O’Connor (1-4, 1-0 pen, 3f), Fergal Boland; Kevin McLaughlin, Andy Moran (0-2), David Drake. Subs: Diarmaid O’Connor and Stephen Coen for Boland and Boyle (half-time), Aidan O’Shea for Kirby (46), Jason Doherty for Moran (58), Donal Vaughan for Drake (66), Conor O’Shea for Nally (70+3).
Donegal: Mark Anthony McGinley; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamon Doherty; Eoghan Ban Gallagher (0-1), Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn (0-1); Jason McGee, Ciaran Thompson (0-2); Michael Carroll, Marty O’Reilly (0-1), Cian Mulligan (0-3); Jamie Brennan (0-1), Michael Murphy (0-4, 45, 3f), Hugh McFadden. Subs: Eoin McHugh for McFadden (49), Patrick McBrearty for Lacey (58), Mark McHugh for McGlynn (66), Martin McElhinney for McGrath (68), Michael Langan for McGee (69),
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).