By Keith Fahey
Galway 2-09 Donegal 2-08
Donegal’s awful record in Letterkenny continues, having held a seven–point lead during the second half and at the end losing out to Galway by the bare minimum, in a one–point defeat in Round 3 of the Allianz National Football League Division 1.
It’s the sixth year in succession that Donegal have failed to win at this venue, but they can’t give the excuse that the weather conditions played any part in it. At the end of the game, they had two chances to tie the game up with frees that were missed by Michael Murphy and Ciaran Thompson.
It became a fairly tight contest towards the end, as Galway refused to lie down despite going down seven points early in the second half. The gap was closed after goals coming from Moycullen’s Sean Kelly and Killannin’s Johnny Heaney, while Shane Walsh showed leadership in continuing his scoring spree.
With windy conditions at O Donnell Park, Donegal won the toss, as they played against the wind in the opening half, yet they did dominate possession. Both goalkeepers struggled with their kick–outs as both sides put more into attack.
Donegal thought they should have a penalty in the opening two minutes. Ryan McHugh’s effort came off the post while Eoin McHugh was being held inside the square.
Galway got the opening score from the game thanks to Damien Comer winning a free, which Shane Walsh converted.
It took Donegal over 12 minutes to open the scoring as Ryan McHugh took a free and picked out Peadar Mogan, as he went for goal, but Conor Gleeson denied him and went over for a point.
Robert Finnerty went down the pitch and put Galway back in front after a ‘45’ taken by Walsh dropped short in the box which Finnerty converted.
Michael Murphy saw his shot at goal cleared off the line, while Jamie Brennan won a penalty for Donegal, as he was tripped by Galway’s goalkeeper Gleeson, who subsequently received a black card and was replaced by Ronan Ó Beoláin.
Murphy powerfully converted the penalty, as he sent Ó Beoláin the wrong way. Galway decided to make the substitution of Ó Beoláin permanent, which meant he saw out the whole game.
Galway’s Damien Comer should have scored a goal after 25 minutes after a lovely long pass from Shane Walsh, but Comer had to settle for a point, with his shot blazing over the bar.
Donegal replied in superb fashion with an excellent point, while Finnerty showed the potential he possesses with a well taken point, but into added time Donegal’s Niall O Donnell won a free which Murphy converted.
That was the last action of the half as referee Joe McQuillan blew the whistle, Donegal leading 1-03-0-04.
Donegal started the second half with Murphy converting a ‘45’ which looked to be going wide, but Murphy did brilliantly to curl it in and send it over.
Donegal extended their lead 42 minutes, as McHugh picked out Thompson, who brought the ball forward and buried the shot into the net.
Galway responded thanks to a goal from Heaney, after Shane Walsh set him up with some good play.
Walsh, with some good skill, fired over a point to reduce the deficit to three points, before Paul Brennan was black carded for bringing down Comer. Walsh converted the resulting free.
Things changed, as Kelly ran through and got around three defenders, barging through to score a second goal for the Tribesmen, in what was truly an excellent individual play from the Moycullen native.
Michael Daly had put Galway into the lead again, while Jamie Brennan put his shot over moments later. Walsh converted another free to give Galway the edge and Dáire Ó Baoil won a free which Thompson converted and left a point between them, six minutes left.
Daly saw red and Galway were down to 14 players, after an incident with Donegal’s Caolan Ward.
Micheál Murphy had a score disallowed after he appeared to be in the square before the ball was kicked, before Donegal tried to level the match, with Thompson and Murphy missing frees at the most crucial of times, as Galway held on for a one-point win.
It finished Galway 2-09 Donegal 2-08.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Caolan Ward, Neil McGee, Eoghan Bán Gallagher; Ryan McHugh, Conor O’Donnell, Odhrán McFadden Ferry; Caolan McGonagle, Michael Langan; Eoin McHugh, Peadar Mogan (0-01), Paul Brennan; Ciaran Thompson (1-01, 0-01f), Michael Murphy (1-03, 1-00 pen; 0-01 ’45’; 0-01f, 0-01m), Jamie Brennan (0-02, 0-01m).
Subs: Niall O’Donnell for Mogan 37, Andrew McClean for McGonagle ht; Dáire Ó Baoill for E McHugh 55;
Galway: Connor Gleeson; Sean Kelly (1-00), Sean Mulkerrin, Johnny Heaney (1-00); Gary O’Donnell, John Daly, Cillian McDaid; Ronan Steede, Cein D’Arcy; Finnian O Laoi, Damien Comer (0-01), Michael Daly (0-01); Robert Finnerty (0-02), Shane Walsh (0-04, 0-02f), Michael Boyle.
Subs: Ronan O Beolain for Gleeson 17; Conor Campbell for McDaid 37; Adrian Varley for Steede ht; Paul Conroy for O Laoi 43;
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)