Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Donegal on a mission

Donegal 0-12 Down 0-7

Nowhere to go: Down's Connaire Harrison is tackled by Neil McGee of Donegal at Ballybofey
Nowhere to go: Down's Connaire Harrison is tackled by Neil McGee of Donegal at Ballybofey

Jim McGuinness didn't have the appearance of a man who was jesting when he said that it "wouldn't matter" if Donegal lost all of their league games and ended up in Division Two.

McGuinness has made no secret of the fact that Donegal's big May 26 Ulster Championship showdown with Tyrone is the only thing that does matter – and he made those feelings clear when assessing his team's 0-12 to 0-7 Division One win over Down in Ballybofey.

Neil Gallagher's introduction off the bench for his 100th appearance for the county helped Donegal come from behind to win with a strong second half showing that gave them a first league win of the year.

Having lost to Kieran McGeeney's Kildare last weekend, it was suggested that this home win eases the pressure on Tir Chonaill.

"It is completely irrelevant," McGuinness responded matter-of-factly.

"Even if we lost all of our league games, it wouldn't matter. Even if we end up in Division Two, it doesn't matter."

Eighteen-year-old Ryan McHugh was handed his senior debut and the Kilcar lad's performance was the bright spark for McGuinness.

He said: "The longer the game went on the more he settled into it. There was a good crowd and you got a good idea of Ryan McHugh being able to play at this level.

"You don't get that in the McKenna Cup and you don't get that in challenge games.

"It is difficult to chance your arm with a player like that in the Championship, so we got a good reading on that.

"That is the only thing that we're trying to do.

"If we get enough points to stay in the division on top of that, we'll be delighted."

Down manager James McCartan cut a frustrated figure following his side's second league loss of 2013.

A disappointed McCartan commented: "I won't take anything away from the boys who gave their all for their county but, yes, you'd like to look around and see the seasoned pros.

"Unfortunately they're not going to be back any time soon, so the rest of the boys have to grow up quick."

Donegal enjoyed plenty of possession in the first half, but were behind at the break.

Down led by three at one stage, while their goalkeeper Michael Cunningham did well to save from Neil McGee, the Donegal full-back getting up for a goal chance.

Frees late in the half by Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy took Donegal right back into it – and Gallagher's introduction coincided with Donegal taking charge.

The All-Ireland champions then scored nine in a row.

Rookie Ross Wherity impressed for the home side around the middle third.

Donegal: P Durcan; Declan Walsh (0-1), N McGee, E McGee; A Thompson, L McLoone (0-1), R McHugh; R Kavanagh (0-1), M McElhinney; M McHugh, M Murphy (0-6, 4f), R Bradley; C McFadden (0-1f), R Wherity (0-1), P McBrearty. Subs: N Gallagher for McElhinney (ht), D Molloy for McBrearty (54), D McLaughlin (0-1) for McFadden (62), O MacNiallais for N.McGee (70).

Down: M Cunningham; D Turley, D McCartan, R Boyle; R Mallon, A Carr, B McArdle; K King, K McKernan (0-2, 1f); K Quinn, M Poland, P McComiskey; C Laverty, C Harrison, D O'Hare (0-5, 3f). Subs: P Turley for McArdle (ht), B Coulter for Harrison (48), D Rooney for Mallon (49), D Savage for D Turley (56), C Gough for King (57).

Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).

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