James Durcan came off the bench with four minutes to play in Ballybofey and fired 1-3 to salvage a draw for Mayo from the fire against Donegal.
Donegal 0-19 Mayo 2-13
Donegal were looking good for a home win, leading 0-19 to 1-13 in the eighth of the ‘minimum of six minutes’ injury time that had been signaled. Then, Durcan, who had popped over two frees and a point, smashed an unstoppable shot into to top corner with the penultimate kick of the game, clipping the hand of Michael Murphy on the way.
Until then, it looked as though Murphy would taken Donegal to victory.
After Letterkenny IT’s harrowing loss in the semi-final of the Sigerson Cup on Wednesday night, their manager Murphy was asked would be wearing the Donegal colours on with Mayo coming to Ballybofey in the Allianz League opener.
In recent times, Murphy was laterally introduced into the Donegal line-up, like last year when he first appeared in March when Armagh came to Ballybofey on a night when the uprights wobbled in the wind.
“Ah we’ll see,” Murphy said in Inniskeen. “ … if I’m picked.”
New faces. Mayo started with four of them, whilst Donegal, fresher from their Dr McKenna Cup withdrawal but stretched from injuries nonetheless, welcoming back Eoghan Ban Gallagher from his nasty summer ankle injury and Conor O’Donnell making his league bow.
But Murphy was the constant, scoring eight placed balls when one appeared more tricky than the one immediately beforehand to keep the Donegal support in the 8,729 crowd delighted and the huge Mayo support who made the journey up wishing Mick Murphy, Michael’s father, hadn’t of bothered all them years ago.
Murphy scored a monster free into the wind on 11 minutes to put Donegal 0-3 to 0-2 up, adding to an earlier score of his own from a placed ball after Jamie Brennan’s opener. Fergal Boland and Brian Reade had scored for Mayo.
Paul Brennan rounded off a flowing move with a point when going for goal was an option but as Donegal fluffed chances into the wind in the second quarter and four short into David Clarke’s breadbasket, three wide and an Eoin McHugh effort coming down off the upright, Mayo’s James Carr scored a rather unusual but opportunistic and fantastically executed goal.
Patrick Durcan’s skied pass took a while to drop but seeing he was the only person towards the River End at MacCumhaill Park alive to the situation, he opted not to mark and from left-of-centre lobbed Shaun Patton in the Donegal goal.
That made for a 1-3 to 0-4 Mayo lead and while James Horan’s side remained dangerous in attack, like when Diarmuid O’Connor slapped wide, they didn’t have enough of the ball with Donegal finding their range late in the half.
Donegal scored the last five points in succession, with Ciaran Thompson posting two of those from frees, to establish an 0-9 to 1-4 interval advantage, with the source of their chance creation being impressive turning over.
Horan threw Aidan O’Shea and Tommy Carr on at the break, having introduced Kevin McLoughlin for the hobbler-offer Carr right before it. Murphy scored another boomer, this time from in front of the stand before Thompson nipped possession and Peadar Mogan cut inside only to see David Clarke save on 40 minutes.
Donegal were ticking but Mayo kept clinging with O’Connor and McLoughlin swapping the frees on either side. Thompson’s free for Donegal bounced over the crossbar in the 56thminute for 0-13 to 1-8.
And when Michael Langan and then Ryan McHugh scored on then around the hour-mark, Donegal were looking in decent stead with a 0-15 to 1-9 lead. Donegal were mindful it was Mayo who dumped them from the championship last summer under the crackling umbrellas in a fueled-up Castlebar to prove that although Mayo mightn’t really have got there in the end, they hadn’t gone away at the same time. It was the same in Ballybofey.
And when Michael Langan and then Ryan McHugh scored on then around the hour-mark, Donegal were looking in decent stead with a 0-15 to 1-9 lead, which went out to 0-19 to 1-13. Donegal were mindful of last August and indeed Mayo’s last visit when McLoughlin’s goal salvaged a draw to put them down in 2018.
The more things change; the more they stay the same.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Caolan Ward, Neil McGee, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Odhran McFadden-Ferry, Conor O’Donnell, Paul Brennan (0-1); Caolan McGonagle (0-1), Michael Langan (0-1); Eoin McHugh, Ryan McHugh (0-1), Jamie Brennan (0-2); Ciaran Thompson (0-4, 3f), Michael Murphy (0-8, 7f, 1m, 45), Peadar Mogan. Subs: Hugh McFadden for McGonagle (38), Brendan McCole for McFadden-Ferry (58), Andrew McClean (0-1) for P Brennan (62), Jeaic Mac Ceallabhuí for McHugh (64), Conor Morrison for McGee (66)
Mayo: David Clarke; Oisin Mullin, Brendan Harrison, Colm Boyle; Padraig O’Hora, Stephen Coen, Patrick Durcan; Tom Parsons, Jordan Flynn; Bryan Walsh (0-1), Diarmuid O’Connor (0-2, 2f), Fergal Boland (0-2); Ryan O’Donoghue, Brian Reape (0-1, 1f), James Carr (1-0). Subs: Aidan O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin (0-1, 1f) and Tommy Conroy (0-1) for Parsons and Reape (half-time), Keith Higgins for Walsh (58), James Durcan (1-3, 2f) for Boland (66)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).