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All over and out as Donegal's old guard take stock

Dublin 1-15 Donegal 1-10

By John Campbell

Published 08/08/2016

Final whistle: Donegal’s Colm McFadden could be the first of several players to call time on his county career
Final whistle: Donegal’s Colm McFadden could be the first of several players to call time on his county career

The curtain did not just come down on Donegal's albeit flimsy All-Ireland title aspirations in this shattering quarter-final setback at a throbbing Croke Park.

Rather, there are certain to be more deeply-etched further ramifications as some of the pillars of the greatest team ever to represent the north-west county give way.

Colm McFadden has already said his farewells with Rory Kavanagh, Christy Toye, Neil Gallagher and Karl Lacey among those likely to follow in his footsteps.

The exit route for the side from the flagship competition mirrored their form to date this year - unconvincing, somewhat fragmented and frequently indecisive.

Now it's not just the future of a corps of players that is the subject of speculation but the prospects for manager Rory Gallagher going forward.

For the moment, though, the Fermanagh native remains non-committal.

"To be fair to Dublin they played a lot of smart football and took their chances. We knew going into the game that we would have to take all our scoring opportunities but Dublin went five up at half-time. We felt we should have had maybe seven or eight points on the board ourselves so that was disappointing," declared Gallagher.

"We've a great group of lads and they've worked really hard. A lot of people have put in a lot of work, they're a credit. It's just disappointing we weren't good enough today.

"My whole focus was on getting the side into an All-Ireland semi-final but it wasn't to be."

The banishment of Dublin duo Diarmuid Connolly and Eoghan O'Gara as well as the black card flashed at Brian Fenton might hint at an excursion into the black arts but this was never quite the case.

In a somewhat untidy, fractious contest frustration tended to surface on occasions but the Dubs were able to offset this with some spectacularly polished finishing.

Prior to his departure in the 46th minute, Connolly had scooped two superb points, Dean Rock was the essence of accuracy throughout in stockpiling his five points from frees and Paul Mannion's goal in added time was nothing short of individual genius.

Donegal's first point from play did not arrive until the 32nd minute, their starting six forwards managed just 1-2 between them from play and none of their half-dozen substitutes were able to influence proceedings - chilling statistics indeed.

It is perhaps entirely appropriate that the lion-hearted McFadden, so often Donegal's saviour via his sweet left peg when their backs were to the wall, should have the final say. "Every man has his day and you have to move on at some stage," said McFadden. "I was lucky, these past five or six years when we had success were great.

"That the success came at the end for some of us who had been there a while made it all the sweeter as we had to wait so long. It was a great time to be a Donegal footballer."

Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon (0-2), J Cooper (0-1), D Byrne; C Kilkenny (0-1), C O'Sullivan, J Small; B Fenton, M D Macauley; K McManamon (0-2), D Connolly (0-2), P Flynn; D Rock (0-5f), P Andrews (0-1), B Brogan. Subs: D Daly for Brogan (46), D Bastick for M D Macauley (53), P Mannion (1-1) for Andrews (56), E O'Gara for K McManamon (68), E Lowndes for D Rock (72), M Fitzsimons for B Fenton (BC 72).

Donegal: M A McGinley; E McGee, N McGee, A Thompson (0-1); K Lacey, M O'Reilly, P McGrath; R Kavanagh, O MacNiallais; R McHugh (1-0), M McElhinney, F McGlynn; P McBrearty (0-3, 2f), M Murphy (0-6, 5f, 1'45), E McHugh. Subs: C Gillespie for MacNiallais (half-time), L McLoone for Kavanagh (42), C Toye for Thompson (47), M McHugh for McGee (55), C Thompson for McElhinney (60), C McFadden for Lacey (71).

Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down).

Belfast Telegraph

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