All-Ireland Final 2012: Donegal rise to seize their day
Clinical team effort secures second Sam
Donegal 2-11 - Mayo 0-13
Donegal are the All-Ireland champions for 2012 after a win over Mayo that will defy all description.
The history books will simply record a name alongside a year as proof that Donegal picked up their second Sam Maguire, but the social capital and exhilaration experienced by one of the most disadvantaged regions of Ireland will be felt for years to come.
In this era of recessionary conversation, the work carried out in Donegal over the past two years will provide evidence that with some positive thinking and some elbow grease, ambition is limitless.
Eamonn McGee said in interviews leading up to this game that the lessons learned as a Donegal player over the last two years helped and aided him through situations in other areas of his life. There will be others taking heed of those words once the celebrations — which are sure to be manic — die down in the homes of Donegal.
As for the match, it began with a high-watermark occurance, a score that will live forever in the memory and one that set down a layer of authority that Donegal were to hold over Mayo for the rest of the afternoon.
Showing composure in the third minute as he motored into opposition territory over towards the Cusack Stand, Karl Lacey sent a classic crossfield ball high towards Michael Murphy on the edge of the square. The Donegal captain leapt across Keane and claimed the ball, held him off with his left hand before rocketing the ball to the roof of the net.
Indeed, there were some eyebrows raised at the start of the game when it was spotted that Kevin Keane went in to mark the muscular Glenswilly man.
We are going to call this the ‘Johnny Crowley syndrome', reflecting back on a previous Mayo final defeat when the aerial threat of Crowley was exploited against David Heaney to devastating effect.
If Mayo stood a chance, they needed to settle the game down a bit but that wasn't to be. Lee Keegan went into Maurice Deegan's book for a clothesline tackle on Mark McHugh a few minutes later as another goal was a possibility. Colm McFadden opened his book for the day with the free.
The real sucker punch came on 11 minutes though. Mayo's Cillian O'Connor was dispossesed in the corner of the Hogan Stand and the Canal End with Mayo fans howling for a free.
Deegan did not call it and after Donegal worked it downfield and Patrick McBrearty's shot came off the upright, Keane failed to grasp the rebound.
Lurking with intent was Colm McFadden who calmly collected the ball and hit a daisy-cutter to the net past the despairing arm of David Clarke.
Seven points up after 11 minutes. That a big enough start?
It took Mayo until the 16th minute to register there first score, a beautiful effort from the impressive Kevin McLoughlin, but their purple patch came in a seven minute spell between the 26th and 33rd minutes when they rattled off two points from play through McLoughlin and Michael Conroy, and two frees from O'Connor.
That left a goal in it and after exchanging points again, that's the way the margin stayed for the half-time break.
Donegal immediately went for it after the resumption. Leo McLoone's brave run through the heart of the defence drew a free that McFadden clipped over, and that old reliable Frank McGlynn chipped in and got on the end of a slick move involving Murphy and McHugh to help himself to his customary point.
In defence the Tir Chonaill men were keeping it too tight for Mayo, holding them scoreless for two separate periods of 11 and 13minutes.
At the other end, three pressure frees from Murphy were nailed in the middle of the half to widen the gap to five points.
Mayo moved Aidan O'Shea to the edge of the square and enjoyed better possession, but Anthony Thompson's alertness to the breaking ball, Rory Kavanagh and Karl Lacey's industry, and the growing dominance of Neil Gallagher was beginning to wear their challenge down.
Early wides in the second half had eroded their vigour somewhat and Donegal began to empty the bench, bringing on seasoned warriors such as Christy Toye and Martin McElhinney to keep the energy levels up around the middle third.
As desperation crept in, Mayo had one last roll of the dice left. A necklace of passes left substitute Seamus O'Shea through on goal, but fate cruelly intervened as he stumbled, fell to the ground throwing a leg at the ball, but it was smothered by goalkeeper Paul Durcan.
In the end, the ball found it's way into Murphy, the captain's arms at the final whistle. Just like it had in 2002 when Kieran McGeeney clutched it to his chest when John Bannon called time.
There's always a certain poetry to a moment like that. So it was yesterday. Say it again; Donegal, All-Ireland champions, 2012.
Donegal: Murphy, McFadden 1-4 [1-0, 3f] each, Bradley, Gallagher, McGlynn 0-1 each
Mayo: O'Connor 0-5 [5f], Conroy 0-2 [1f], McLoughlin 0-2, Keegan, Feeney, Varley, Gibbons 0-1 each
Donegal: E. McGee [13m]
Mayo: Doherty, Keegan [5m], O'Connor [13m], Vaughan [35m], A. O'Shea [70m]
Referee: Maurice Deegan [Laois]