Davin Flynn turned in another top-class display as Donegal eventually disposed of a pretty stubborn Mayo resistance before a very small crowd in Ballina.
Mayo 1-13 Donegal 2-17
By Gerry McLaughlin
It is clear that hurling is far from a priority in this county as was also evident in their match programme, where only two players lined out as per programme.
The remaining 13 were also wearing different numbers to those listed in the programme which was a total shambles for all concerned.
This was effectively a dead rubber and the game was played at pretty pedestrian pace throughout on a most pock marked pitch which was a minefield for good hurling at the sliotar jumped and danced all over the place.
Flynn was the star man finishing with an impressive tally of 1-9 including a vital goal for Tir Coniall early in the second half which put a somewhat jittery Tir Conaill into a 2-9 to 1-9 after Donegal led by 1-9 to 1-8 at the break.
Mayo could only manage five points in the second half as Mickey McCann’s men gradually took control.
Mayo talisman Keith Higgins did not take the field until half time after he flew from Dublin Airports to Knock after giving a moving interview of how Motor Neuron Disease was affecting his brother Pearse.
Higgins had an effect and hit three smart points before retiring injured midway through the second half.
And with his departure went any lingering Mayp hopes of victory as Donegal eased to victory through Flynn, Gerard Gilmore and Lafferty.
Donegal were sharply out of the blocks and Gilmore got them off the mark in the 2nd minute.
It got even better after four minutes when Flynn lofted in a high ball and it fell kindly for Lafferty who first timed the sliotar to the net.
It looked like they were going to ease clear when they led by 1-4 to 0-1 by the 13ht minute.
But Mayo hit back strongly for the rest of the half, spurred by a penalty and some well struck points from frees from Mayo’s Sean Kenny from Tooreen, who is now a club-mate of ex Donegal great Joe Boyle who was at the match wearing his Donegal colours.
Donegal looked tentative and gave away eight frees, six of whom were converted by the accurate Kenny.
Flynn and Declan Coulter hoisted over two great efforts just before the break.
The introduction of Higgins sparked Mayo and he hit a smart point a minute into the second half and sprayed some delightful passes which his colleagues did not quite respond to.
But Flynn’s rocketed goal spurred Donegal to surge clear as the game progressed.
They will now meet Sligo in the semi-final next weekend and that could be a real cracker as the Yeats County are a fit and feisty outfit and have three top class hurlers from Galway as well.
But Mickey McCann will have been happy enough to get those two points and it was achieved without Ritchie Ryan (out for the rest of the League), Danny Cullen and Jack O’Loughlin and Declan Coulter went off with a worrying back injury.
McCann will be hoping that O’Loughlin, Cullen and Coulter will all be available for the Sligo match-for they will certainly be needed.
Mayo: Bobby Douglas; Darren Murray, Stephen Coyne, Conor Murray; Gary Nolan, David Kenny, Mark Phillips (0-2); Brian Hunt (0-2), Sean Kenny (1-5f, pen); Eoghan Roe (0-1) Shane Crinnigan Conor Hession; Caolan Hession, Aaron Kitterick, James Gallagher.
Subs: Barry Lane for Bobby Douglas, Keith Higgins (0-3,2f) for Aaron Kitterick (h-time), Jack Trench for Darren Murray (46), Aaron Kittrick for James Gallagher (52), James Gallagher for Keith Higgins (60)
Donegal: Luke White, Gavin Browne, Stephen Gillespie, Padraig Doherty; Conor O’Grady (0-1) Michael Donaghue, Sean McVeigh; Conor Gartland; Brian McIntyre, Ronan McDermott, Gerry Gilmore (0-4); Declan Coulter (0-1), Barney Lafferty (1-2) Davin Flynn (1-9,6f).
Subs: Liam McKinney for Ryan Hilferty (h-time), C McDermott for D Coulter (38), Mark Callaghan for Gavin Browne (62) Daire O’Maoileidigh for Ronan McDermott (63), Paul Nelson for Barney Lafferty (64)
Referee: B McKeon (Galway)