Allianz FL D1: Dublin edge out Donegal
Allianz Football League Division One
DUBLIN 1-15 DONEGAL 1-14
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
Dublin proved themselves to be comeback kings again with another thrilling Allianz Football League win at Croke Park, coming from behind to frustrate northern opposition for the second game in a row.
The five-in-a-row All-Ireland champions got off to a slow start and trailed by five points, mirroring their early difficulties in the Round 3 tie against Monaghan a fortnight ago.
But just like that evening against the Farney County, Dessie Farrell's Dubs found a way to eke out a result and ultimately came out the right side of a one-point game this time.
Full-back David Byrne, remarkably, ended up being the match winner, just as he was against Monaghan, with the 72nd minute point for Dublin that separated the teams.
Paul Mannion's 66th minute goal was the crucial score though and put Dublin into the lead for the first time, a position they remained in.
Both teams finished the game with 14 men though the dismissals of Michael Murphy, Man of the Match for Donegal, and Dublin defender John Small came six minutes into stoppage time after both players received second cautions.
It's Dublin's second win of the campaign and leaves them sitting pretty in the race for a final place while Donegal remain on three points in the table.
The inclusion of Craig Dias in the Dublin lineup following several years in the wilderness was a major surprise before a ball was even kicked.
The Kilmacud Crokes man was an All-Ireland medallist in 2011 though was largely overlooked in the Jim Gavin era and became the 27th player to feature for Farrell in this year's league when he lined out.
It was a baptism of fire for the powerful Dias who was part of a Dublin side overrun in the opening quarter as that familiar theme of slow starts played out again in front of a crowd of 26,153.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Donegal led by 1-5 to 0-2 and were by far the brighter, doing to Dublin what Monaghan had done to them in the opening stages of their Round 3 meeting.
Ciaran Thompson opened the scoring with a Donegal point and the visitors moved 1-1 to no score clear in the eighth minute when Hugh McFadden scythed through the Dublin defence, cut inside Michael Fitzsimons and released a low shot below Evan Comerford to the net.
Michael Murphy and Jamie Brennan helped themselves to a brace of points each and suddenly Donegal held that five-point lead with little in the way of response from Dublin at the other end.
Dublin, with Sean Bugler and Ciaran Kilkenny leading the drive, were much improved in the 15 minutes or so before half-time.
They outscored Donegal by 0-4 to 0-1 in this period and racked up a series of wides that will have frustrated the likes of Dean Rock and Kilkenny but which also indicated an increased urgency.
Brian Howard, Bugler, Rock and Kilkenny were all on the mark with points for Dublin who hinted that another comeback was on the cards.
That they pulled it off will give boss Farrell real optimism as his side displayed all their character to mine out the win, striking three points without reply twice in the second-half to eventually draw level in the 60th minute.
Sub Colm Basquel hit the score that tied up the teams and Mannion then bundled in the goal that broke the back of Donegal's challenge.
Scorers for Dublin: Dean Rock 0-4 (3fs), Paul Mannion 1-0, Brian Fenton 0-2, Sean Bugler 0-2, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-2, Brian Howard 0-2, Cormac Costello 0-1, Colm Basquel 0-1, David Byrne 0-1.
Scorers for Donegal: Michael Murphy 0-5 (2fs, 1m), Hugh McFadden 1-1, Jamie Brennan 0-2, Ciaran Thompson 0-2 (1f), Peadar Mogan 0-2, Michael Langan 0-1, Paddy McBrearty 0-1.
DUBLIN: Evan Comerford; Eoin Murchan, David Byrne, Michael Fitzsimons; Craig Dias, John Small, Cillian O'Shea; Brian Fenton, Brian Howard; Niall Scully, Ciaran Kilkenny, Sean Bugler; Paul Mannion, Kevin McManamon, Dean Rock.
Subs: Cormac Costello for Dias (h/t), Colm Basquel (0-01) for McManamon (54), Aaron Byrne for Bugler (68), Paddy Small for Rock (73).
DONEGAL: Shaun Patton; Caolan Ward, Neil McGee, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Daire O Baoill, Ryan McHugh, Odhran McFadden Ferry; Hugh McFadden, Michael Langan; Paul Brennan, Ciaran Thompson, Caolan McGonagle; Peadar Mogan, Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan.
Subs: Niall O'Donnell for P Brennan (46), Patrick McBrearty for McGonigle (52), Brendan McCole for Ward (56), Eoin McHugh for J Brennan (62).
REFEREE: Maurice Deegan (Laois).