All-Ireland champions Donegal bagged their first victory of 2013 as late scores from Ross Wherity and Conor Gibbons secured a narrow win over St Mary’s in Ballybofey.
The Tir Chonaill side were once again in experimental mode with 11 under 21s in a starting line-up that included debutants Eoin McHugh and John O’Malley.
Odhran MacNiallais made his first appearance since last year’s McKenna Cup — and it was the 20-year Gaoth Dobhair man who caught the eye, ending with 1-3.
In the eighth minute MacNiallais fired past Darragh McAnenly to put Donegal 1-3 to 0-1 ahead.
St Mary’s hit back, though, Brendan Herron netting a 17th minute penalty after Brendan Hasson was hauled down by Donegal keeper Peter Boyle.
A well-worked move, again with Herron at the wheel, ended with Ronan Sexton tapping home the visitors’ second goal to level it.
A Herron free put them ahead for the first time.
St Mary’s kept pressing and when Sean O’Neill found the range, the students looked to have won it. That was until Wherity levelled and a Gibbons free proved the match winner.
Donegal: P Boyle; P Carr, C Ward, A O’Gara; E McHugh, K McFadden, C Gallagher; L Keaney (0-2), C Cannon; P Mailey (0-1), J Carroll, M Cannon; O Mac Niallais (1-3), R Wherity (0-1), J O’Malley (0-4, 3f).
Subs: C Gibbons (0-2, 1f) for M.Cannon (29), S McGarvey (0-1) for Carroll (h/t), W Gillespie for MacNiallais (49), J Campbell for Carr (59).
St Mary’s: D McAnenly; S Mullan, A Maguire, M Murray; R Loughran, C O’Hara, B Doyle (0-1); R O’Callaghan. B Hasson (0-1); R Sexton (1-2, 1f), B Herron (1-5, 1-0pen, 2f), N Sludden; D McKinless, S O’Neill (0-1), J Duffy.
Subs: C McMahon for Duffy (48), P McAleer for O’Callaghan (58), A McGarrity for Sexton (58), R McParland for Doyle (68)
Referee: D Connolly (Monaghan).