Allianz FL D1: Dublin down gallant Donegal
Allianz National Football League Division 1
DUBLIN 0-20 DONEGAL 0-15
By Paul Keane
Allianz football league title favourites Dublin suffered a second-half speed wobble at Croke Park before finishing strong to maintain their perfect start to the campaign.
The three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions saw a seven-point lead early in the second-half worryingly reduced to just one with 66 minutes on the clock.
But any fears among Dublin fans in the 21,462 crowd were allayed by four late points in a row from Paul Mannion, Eoghan O'Gara, Ciaran Reddin and Paddy Small.
It's Dublin's third win on the spin and leaves them at the top of Division 1, temporarily at least, though Donegal have now lost all three of their games.
Colm Basquel and Niall Scully split eight points evenly between them on an evening when Dublin had 11 different scorers.
They head to Mayo next on February 24 while Donegal will play Kildare a day later needing a win to ignite their campaign.
Dean Rock and Bernard Brogan were named in the official Dublin lineup but were replaced by Mannion and Paddy Andrews.
It was like for like replacements that hardly diminished Dublin's quality and they hit the ground running with a strong opening.
They led Donegal by 0-11 to 0-5 at half-time and could have been further clear with Basquel rifling a goal chance over and missing a routine free.
Former Dublin U-21 Nathan Mullins, son of Blues legend Brian, was named in midfield for Donegal but was taken off after 27 minutes.
Brian Fenton and Michael Darragh Macauley lorded the middle third for Dublin, setting up attack after attack.
It was great for the Dublin fans in attendance on a cold and wet evening but ominous for everyone else as the hosts went up through the gears with ease.
Scully, who burst through to the senior ranks in 2017, scored all of his 0-4 in the opening half.
He began a scoring siege of five points in a row between the seventh and 16th minutes that moved Dublin 0-6 to 0-2 clear.
Back to back Scully points later in the half helped open up that half dozen point gap at the interval.
Ryan McHugh, destroyer of Dublin in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-finals when he blasted a memorable 2-2, hit two first-half points this time.
Jamie Brennan almost notched a Donegal goal close to half-time but his right foot kick hit the post and cannoned away to safety.
Donegal were far better after the break and any sense that the game was done and dusted was quickly dashed.
They outscored Dublin by 0-08 to 0-2 between the 36th and 53rd minutes to reduce the gap to just a single point.
Patrick McBrearty was at the heart of Donegal's best attacking play, scoring four points during that burst, and 0-7 in total.
Former All-Ireland winning captain Michael Murphy came off the bench for his first action of the year but immediately pulled an easy free wide, and missed another late on.
Donegal trailed by just 0-16 to 0-15 with just four minutes of normal time remaining but Dublin pulled clear and with those four-in-a-row of points.
Scorers for Dublin: Niall Scully 0-4, Colm Basquel 0-4 (0-1f), Brian Fenton 0-2, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-2, Paul Mannion 0-2 (0-1f), Eoghan O'Gara 0-1, Eric Lowndes 0-1, Paddy Andrews 0-1, Brian Howard 0-1, Ciaran Reddin 0-1, Paddy Small 0-1.
Scorers for Donegal: Patrick McBrearty 0-7 (0-3f), Ryan McHugh 0-2, Stephen McBrearty 0-2, Jamie Brennan 0-2, Mark McHugh 0-1, Leo McLoone 0-1.
DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Eric Lowndes, Philly McMahon, David Byrne; Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy, John Small; Brian Fenton, Michael Darragh Macauley; Niall Scully, Ciaran Kilkenny, Brian Howard; Paul Mannion, Colm Basquel, Paddy Andrews. Subs: Eoghan O'Gara for Andrews (46), Cian O'Sullivan for McMahon (46), Dean Rock for Macauley (65), Ciaran Reddin for Scully (73), Paddy Small for Basquel (73).
DONEGAL: Peter Boyle; Tony McClenaghan, Caolan Ward, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Leo McLoone, Eamonn Doherty, Ryan McHugh; Hugh McFadden, Nathan Mullins; Stephen McBrearty, Odhran MacNiallais, Mark McHugh; Patrick McBrearty, Jamie Brennan, Ciaran Thompson. Subs: Caolan McGonigle for Mullins (27), Niall O'Donnell for Thompson (42), Michael Murphy for MacNiallais (55), Ciaran McGinley for McHugh (65), Martin O'Reilly for S McBrearty (69), Paul Brennan for R McHugh (72).
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).