Donegal fail students test
by Damian Dowds at O’Donnell Park
DONEGAL tasted defeat on the first day of their 2012 season when Jordanstown university outscored them by 11 points to nine in O’Donnell Park on Sunday.
It was a scrappy game, but presented an intriguing insight into what Donegal can expect from their opponents for the rest of the year. UUJ were really up for it, flying into challenges and desperately seeking the opportunity to put one over on the defending Ulster champions.
It’s only a taste of what Jim McGuinness’ team will face from here on in: when you’re the top dog, every other pup will want to take you down.
While this was very much an experimental Donegal team, Jordanstown too were missing a number of players they will rely upon when the Sigerson Cup comes round.
For Donegal, Peter Witherow,
Gary McFadden and Conor McManus were the new faces.
Absent from the starting 15 were the likes of Paul
Durcan, Karl Lacey, Rory Kavanagh, Mark McHugh, Colm
McFadden and Michael Murphy who were unavailable for one
reason or another, while two time All Star Kevin Cassidy
has been dropped from the squad for co-operating with a
journalist in the writing of a book on the 2011
Sluggish would be the best way to describe Donegal’s first half performance on Sunday. The impressive Chris Clarke opened the scoring for the students in the seventh minute, but the Jordanstown side had dropped three shots short into keeper Peter Boyle’s hands in the opening five minutes too.
That was the story of the first half –
Jordanstown causing serious
problems for the Donegal defence but failing to make
their chances count. Full forward Kieran Hughes in
particular caused All-Star full back Neil McGee no end
of problems, but other than Clarke, his teammates didn’t
much trouble the umpires.
For Donegal, Dermot Molloy was the shining light in a dull first half. The Naomh Conaill youngster hits four points from play in the first half alone, although he hit four wides with some wayward shooting from frees.
Anthony Thompson, Paddy McGrath and Frank McGlynn did well in defence, while Neil Gallagher mopped up a good bit of ball around the middle.
Glenswilly captain Gary McFadden had a busy hour, and did enough to ensure he’ll be looked at again in the coming weeks, but Kilcar’s Cork import Conor McManus struggled to get up to the pace of the game and was subbed at half time.
Up front, Stephen Griffin got no change out of UUJ full back Andrew McClean, while Christy Toye also failed to make a telling contribution.
Buncrana’s Ryan Bradley
turned in a massive performance, imposing himself on the
game and putting in a couple of big hits. He got two
important points too, the first coming midway through
the first half, was a real peach.
Anthony Thompson set off on a surging run and passed off to Bradley who burst through a series of challenges before swinging over an excellent point.
That point made it 0-2 apiece midway through the first half before Clarke, midfielder Neil McAdam and centre forward Ciaran Donnelly pointed for the visitors, with the Brick Molloy hitting three on the trot for Donegal to leave the sides tied at 0-5 apiece at the break.
The half time introduction of Patrick McBrearty gave added threat to the Donegal forwards, and he pushed Donegal ahead with a brilliant free from near the right sideline five minutes after the restart.
He doubled Donegal’s advantage to two points accelerating away from corner back Ryan Pickering in the 50th minute. McBrearty’s only failing is that he is very one-sided and almost entirely left footed. Intercounty defenders will twig this and shepherd him onto his weaker right foot all day long.
Leading by two points, one
thought Donegal would have pushed on from there to win
out, but it wasn’t to be and Jordanstown, for whom the
Donegal duo of Leo McLoone and Eoin Wade impressed in
the half back line, really took the bit between their
teeth in the last quarter.
Diarmuid McNulty and a Ciaran Donnelly free drew them level midway through the half.
Donegal might have goaled, with first Dermot Molloy seeing a shot saved, and then David Walsh pulling an effort wide when Marty Boyle put him through one-on-one with the keeper.
Jordanstown made the most of the left off, with CJ McGourty pointing from a free and from play to put them two ahead.
Donegal pulled level with another massive score from Ryan Bradley, who again burst through the middle, and Dermot Molloy, but Jordanstown wanted the victory more and weren’t to be denied.
Two late points from McGourty put them in the driving seat, and with Donegal hitting aimless ball into Neil Gallagher, who had been redeployed at full forward for the last ten minutes, they did enough to hold on for victory.
Paddy McBrearty had a late attempt on goal, but from a narrow angle he shot straight at the keeper and the chance was lost. In the end, Jordanstown won by two and deserved their victory.
Donegal played Roscommon, now managed by former Carn and Urris player Des Newton, on Friday night and with many of their college-tied players available to them, had a 2-12 to 2-1 victory over the Connacht side.
Notably, Malin’s Declan Walsh made an appearance as a sub on Friday night, but wasn’t in the panel for Sunday’s McKenna Cup opener.
Donegal: Peter Boyle; Peter Witherow, Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath; Marty Boyle, Anthony Thompson, Frank McGlynn; Neil Gallagher, Conor McManus; Gary McFadden, Ryan Bradley (0-2), David Walsh; Christy Toye, Stephen Griffin, Dermot Molloy (0-5). Subs: Patrick McBrearty (0-2, 1f) for McManus (half time); Eamon McGee for Witherow (52 mins); Conor Classon for McFadden (55 mins); Daniel McLaughlin for Toye (55 mins).
University of Ulster, Jordanstown: Shane McCormick; Carlus McWilliams, Andrew McClean, Ryan Pickering; Ciaran McGinley, Leo McLoone, Eoin Wade; Niall Donnelly, Neil McAdam (0-1); Chris Clarke (0-3), Ciaran Donnelly (0-2, 1f), Conor Sheridan; CJ McGourty (0-4, 2f), Kieran Hughes, Diarmuid McNulty (0-1). Subs: Conor Davey for McWilliams (half time); Chris Duggan for N. Donnelly (38 mins); Paul Devlin for C. Donnelly (56 mins).
Referee: Martin McErlane (Derry).
For full coverage of all your weekend sport, read the Inishowen Independent.
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