Allianz FL D1: Mayo survive as Donegal suffer relegation
Allianz Football League Division One
DONEGAL 0-13 MAYO 0-13
By Chris McNulty in Ballybofey
Once more, Mayo showed their survival powers as Kevin McLoughlin’s point, with the penultimate kick of the game, sent Donegal to Division Two.
Mayo will continue a 20-year long stay in the top flight after McLoughlin earned Mayo the draw they needed to be sure of their spot in Division One next year.
Donegal might have maintained their impressive unbeaten run in Ballybofey - a sequence that now stands at 20 games - but the manner of this one left them feeling like they’d been beaten.
It will jar for some time how they allowed Mayo post three late scores, from Conor Loftus, Eoin O’Donoghue and, finally, McLoughlin.
There was time only for Shaun Patton to punt the kickout downfield when referee Anthony Nolan shrilled full-time and the big attendance of 11,250 could take breath at last.
Patrick McBrearty, who had been unplayable at times, dropped a late shot short just before Mayo broke for McLoughlin to score the decisive point.
Donegal, with Michael Murphy leading the charge and Eoghan Ban Gallagher raiding forward to superb effect, began to purr after falling four in arrears inside the first ten minutes. Donegal clipped the next seven points to stamp their authority on the contest.
Ciaran Thompson, Gallagher and Murphy, with a free from the chalk of the ’45-metre line, kick-started the revival and when McBrearty found his groove Donegal took charge to lead by three, 0-9 to 0-6, at the short whistle.
McBrearty had been a pre-match doubt and hadn’t been named in the match-day panel. The expectation had been that a calf injury would prevent the Kilcar ace from lining out.
Morning murmurings heightened when McBrearty took to the field in a tracksuit, though his inclusion in the starting XV wasn’t confirmed until just before the throw-in.
A 23rd minute point from McBrearty, despite falling awkwardly and under immense pressure from Caolan Crowe, managed to defy all laws of trigonometry as he bent over a stunning score.
Attempting it was the mark of a player high in confidence. Executing it was something else entirely. McBrearty went to the sublime, punting over from 50 metres and a free from distance increased his impressive yardage to put Donegal three to the good.
The turnaround was at odds with how the game began with Mayo, led by Andy Moran, going 0-5 to 0-1 in front.
Moran, after only 31 seconds, clipped Mayo in front and, after Frank McGlynn raided up to get Donegal level, the Westerners made hay.
Donegal were thankful to goalkeeper Shaun Patton’s reflexes in the seventh minute. Diarmuid O’Connor, fed by Moran, saw his initial effort beaten down by Patton and Donegal ‘keeper was able to get in the way of the follow-up.
Moran fisted over a point and when the veteran forward got in behind the Donegal rearguard soon after the writing was etched on the wall.
Moran eyed up the top corner of Patton’s goal, but his shot - having evaded the shackles to reach onto Conor Loftus’ pass - flashed just over.
Ciaran Thompson, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Michael Murphy and Jamie Brennan raised the decibels before McBrearty had the big attendance speechless.
Conor Loftus notched four points in the early moments of the second half to bring Mayo to within a point, with Murphy and McBrearty steadying the wobbles of the hosts at different intervals.
With Donegal only holding on there was always that a side with Mayo’s experience could land a fatal blow - and they did just that.
Scorers for Donegal: Patrick McBrearty 0-4 (2fs), Jamie Brennan, Michael Murphy (1f), Eoghan Ban Gallagher 0-2 each, Odhran Mac Niallais, Ciaran Thompson 0-1 each
Scorers for Mayo: Conor Loftus 0-6 (4fs), Andy Moran 0-3, Kevin McLoughlin 0-2, Eoin O’Donoghue, Jason Doherty 0-1 each.
DONEGAL: S Patton; P McGrath, N McGee, E Doherty; P Brennan, L McLoone, E Gallagher; C Thompson, H McFadden; F McGlynn, M Murphy, O Mac Niallais; N O’Donnell, P McBrearty, J Brennan.
Subs: McHugh for O’Donnell (45), S McBrearty for Thompson (58), C Morrison for McGrath (58), C Ward for McGee (61), C Mulligan for Brennan (68).
MAYO: D Clarke; C Crowe, D Drake, E O’Donoghue; C Boyle, S Coen, P Durcan; S O’Shea, T Parsons; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, D O’Connor; J Doherty, A Moran, C Loftus.
Subs: M Hall for Drake (63), F Boland for S.O’Shea (65), B Moran for Parsons (68), A Freeman for Doherty (70).
REFEREE: A Nolan (Wicklow).