Alan Foley reports from MacCumhaill Park
PADDY MCBREARTY MARKED his 100th inter-county appearance with a typically influential display, firing a personal hail of 1-6 to help Donegal see off a spirited Meath effort in Ballybofey.
The Donegal sharpshooter led from the front as Declan Bonner’s side rallied in the final quarter to hold off the visitors and get their All-Ireland senior football championship Super 8s campaign up and running on a winning note.
Meath battled valiantly throughout and conjured an impressive second-half comeback, before the hosts moved through the gears to pull clear, with 19-year-old Oisin Gallen sealing victory for Donegal with a late goal.
Meath made Donegal sweat for a while but Bonner’s side used their experience to get over the line with the scoreboard making it look far more comfortable than it actually was.
Darragh Campion, the Meath substitute, edged his team in front on 54 minutes. Meath had trailed by five points not long beforehand and an upset seemed possible.
However, from then on the visitors only managed a point from Shane McEntee, while Donegal scored 1-8 and Gallen’s injury-time goal proved hugely popular on his home club ground.
Donegal captain Michael Murphy after the game.
Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO
McBrearty was at his best throughout while Michael Murphy put in an excellent showing.
McBrearty smashed home the only goal of the first half on 25 minutes to establish a 1-6 to 0-5 lead for the hosts, screeching away from a Ciaran Thompson pass following Shaun Patton’s swift kick-out.
At half-time, Bonner’s side had a 1-9 to 0-8 lead.
In the second half, it was Meath doing the coming back. Donegal edged out to 1-11 to 0-9 in front with successive McBrearty points and it appeared as though the script was being adhered to.
However, a disallowed Meath goal, when Gavin McCoy slapped in at the back post after Patton had made an excellent point-blank save from Bryan McMahon on 41 minutes, stirred the visitors.
Three minutes later, referee Conor Lane awarded Meath a penalty, which Donegal claimed was of the soft variety, when Daire O Baoill was adjudged to have fouled Donal Keogan’s progressive run.
Michael Newman scored the penalty and then back-to-back points from McMahon and Menton had Meath level at 1-11 apiece. Campion then put them in front.
In retrospect, Meath’s inability to push on from then was the reason they went home with nothing. They’d score just once more all game, while Donegal totted up 1-8 in the final quarter.
Meath’s Michael Newman with Stephen McMenamin of Donegal.
Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO
Ryan McHugh’s sense of adventure was apparent throughout and alongside Murphy, who was everywhere on his way to winning man of the match, helped turn the tables.
The Donegal captain was plucking balls off his own line, protecting his square and knocking over from a 45 in those final 10 minutes.
McHugh and Shane McEntee, at the other end, took points when goals were possible. Donegal could rely on the likes of Frank McGlynn to come on and steady the ship and when they sensed a chance to bury Meath, they did it.
Gallen’s goal was coolly taken in the 72nd minute having been played in by McGlynn.
Scorers for Donegal: Patrick McBrearty 1-6; Michael Murphy 0-3; Oisin Gallen 1-1; Jamie Brennan 0-3; Ryan McHugh 0-2; Jason McGee, Niall O’Donnell, Michael Langan, Eoin McHugh 0-1 each.
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Scorers for Meath: Mickey Newman 1-2; Bryan McMahon 0-3; Bryan Menton, Cillian O’Sullivan 0-2 each; Shane McEntee, James McEntee, Darragh Campion, James Conlon 0-1 each.
1. Shaun Patton
2. Stephen McMenamin
3. Neil McGee
4. Odhran McFadden-Ferry
5. Ryan McHugh
6. Paul Brennan
7. Eoghan Ban Gallagher
8. Hugh McFadden
9. Jason McGee
10. Ciaran Thompson
11. Niall O’Donnell
12. Michael Langan
13. Patrick McBrearty
14. Michael Murphy
15. Jamie Brennan.
Daire O Baoill for P Brennan (43)
Eoin McHugh for C Thompson (49)
Oisin Gallen for N O’Donnell (49)
Frank McGlynn for J McGee (61)
Eamonn Doherty for O McFadden-Ferry (68)
Caolan Ward for S McMenamin (70+1).
1. Andrew Colgan
2. Seamus Lavin
3. Conor McGill
4. Shane Gallagher
5. Donal Keogan
6. Padraic Harnan
7. Gavin McCoy
8. Bryan Menton
9. Shane McEntee
10. Ethan Devine
11. Bryan McMahon
12. James McEntee
13. Cillian O’Sullivan
14. Michael Newman
15. James Conlon.
Shane Walsh for J Conlon (43)
Darragh Campion for E Devine (46)
Sean Curran for S Gallagher (black card, 57)
Graham Reilly for B McMahon (63)
Adam Flanagan for S McEntee (66)
Thomas O’Reilly for C O’Sullivan (70).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).
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