Scully sinks Donegal and leaves Bonner with plenty to ponder
Dublin 2-15 Donegal 0-16
Declan Bonner had his army huddled tight after a five-point loss to Dublin in their opening Super 8 test on Saturday night and rammed home a sharp lesson.
Only the squawks of the seagulls interrupted as Bonner reflected on a night when a pair of Niall Scully goals saw his side defeated in their Super 8 opener at Croke Park.
Scully netted eight minutes before and two minutes after half-time as Dublin won. Despite holding the Dubs scoreless for 16 minutes late in the game, Donegal never really threatened to reel in the margin.
"I felt there was more in us - maybe just that belief to get over the line," Bonner said after a fiery address to his players.
"I wouldn't be happy with our performance to be quite honest. We didn't get to the levels. We still kicked 16 scores and could have had a couple of goal opportunities. We had to take those to be there at the finish."
Donegal twice led in the first half and dared to dream.
Ryan McHugh found a way from the shadows of the Cusack Stand and Michael Murphy arrowed over to put them in front after 22 minutes.
But when Jamie Brennan riffled into Hill 16 and Dublin went down he other end for Scully to slot past Shaun Patton, it was an outline of the Dubs at their most ruthless.
Donegal, without cruciate victim Patrick McBrearty, had an obvious gaping void and Scully had Dublin eight up early in the second half.
Donegal hit four-in-a-row to keep hoping, but they never quite got close enough.
Bonner said: "Maybe teams don't perform against Dublin how they should and maybe show too much respect.
"We came up to get a result. We had a couple of chances we didn't take. In saying that, we spoke about small margins. When the opportunities arise, you have to take them. Dublin took the goals at crucial stages and that was the difference."
Patton denied Con O'Callaghan and Brian Fenton with good saves in the second half while Michael Langan whizzed one over when Donegal were starting to think about turning the pendulum.
Dublin played keep ball, to the chagrin of the Tir Chonaill support.
Jim Gavin, though, described himself as 'satisfied'.
"It was a great test," he said.
"You can see why Donegal are Ulster champions. They're a quality side. If they'd took a couple of more opportunities, it could have been a different game going down the stretch. We're satisfied and happy that we have two points and that gives us a foundation in the group."
Now, to Omagh and what Gavin says will be a 'warm welcome' next Saturday. Even beneath the baseball cap, we knew what he meant.
Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, C O'Sullivan, E Murchan; B Howard (0-2), J McCarthy (0-1), J Cooper; B Fenton, MD Macauley; N Scully (2-0), C O'Callaghan, C Kilkenny (0-1); P Mannion, D Rock (0-7, 5f, 1 '45), J McCaffrey. Subs: C Costello (0-2) for Macauley (46), K McManamon for Mannion (48), P Flynn (0-2) for Howard (54), E Lowndes for McCaffrey (62), C Basquel for O'Callaghan (70), D Daly for Fitzsimons (75).
Donegal: S Patton; E Doherty (0-1), S McMenamin, E Gallagher; F McGlynn (0-1), Paul Brennan, P McGrath; H McFadden, M Murphy (0-6, 3f, 1 '45); L McLoone, R McHugh (0-2), C Thompson (0-1); J Brennan (0-3), M Langan (0-2), O MacNiallais. Subs: N McGee for McGrath (h-t), D Ó Baoill for Mac Niallais (51), C Mulligan for Thompson (53), Caolan Ward for Doherty (57), A Thompson for P. Brennan (62), S McBrearty for J. Brennan (66).
Referee: C Lane (Cork).