NFL Division Two Final: Donegal hang on to win by a point
Donegal 2-11 Laois 0-16: Donegal held on for a one point victory over Laois in a well contested National League Division Two final in Croke Park.
Ahead by eight points early in the second half, Jim McGuinness will be hoping his side can hold on to a lead more convincingly when they face Antrim in the Ulster Championship in three weeks.
They can thank All Star Karl Lacey and captain Michael Murphy for this win, with both giving outstanding displays.
Laois manager Justin McNulty, the former Armagh All Ireland winner, will be wondering what would have happened if he had thrown Donal Kingston into the fray earlier. Kingston came on early in the second half and almost pulled it out of the fire for the midlanders.
Donegal had to line out without full-back Neil McGee while Michael Hegarty was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
The changes saw Kevin Cassidy at full-back and Murphy spent most of the first half around midfield. From there he was instrumental in Donegal leading by 1-5 to 0-5 at the break, spraying some great passes.
His converted penalty on 18 minutes was the difference between the sides in the opening half and at one stage Donegal led by 1-5 to 0-3, but Laois came back near half time with MJ Tierney — who scored 1-10 when the sides met two weeks ago — getting his first score while Niall Donoher chipped in with two points.
Both sides were using extra defenders which meant that chances were few and far between with Donegal accumulating seven wides to four for Laois.
A point from Murphy and a goal from Colm McFadden gave Donegal the perfect start to the second half but when they lost Adrian Hanlon to a second yellow on 39 minutes the game changed.
Laois hit seven unanswered points to reduce the margin to the minimum by the 59th minute before Donegal found their shooting boots to go four clear again.
But Laois kept on the pressure and Donegal only just held on at the end to win by one point.
Donegal: P Durcan; K Lacey, K Cassidy (0-1), F McGlynn; M Boyle, A Thompson, M McElhinney; R Kavanagh (0-1), K Rafferty; M McHugh (0-1), D Molloy, A Hanlon; R Bradley (0-1), M Murphy (1-3, 1f45, pen), C McFadden (1-3,1f). Subs: N Gallagher for Rafferty 43; D McLaughlin for Molloy 53; D Walsh (0-1) for McElhinney 58.
Laois: E Culliton; D Booth, K Meaney, M Timmons; D Strong (0-1), S Julian, P O'Leary; P Clancy, B Quigley; C Begley (0-1), J O'Loughlin (0-2), N Donoher (0-2); R Munnelly (0-2), B Sheehan, MJ Tierney (0-1,f). Subs: C Healy for Booth 29; P Cahillane (0-3) for Clancy ht; D Kingston (0-4,1f) for Tierney 43; K Lillis for Sheehan 65.
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).