Allianz FL D1: Dublin finish strongly against Donegal
Allianz National Football League, Division 1, Round 6
DUBLIN 2-15 DONEGAL 2-11
By Paul Keane at Croke Park
Resurgent Dublin will travel to Monaghan next Sunday knowing that a win is an absolute must if they're to remain in Division 1 of the Allianz Football League.
Back to back wins, thanks in part to Dean Rock's 1-5 haul at Croke Park and a Niall Scully goal, has given the 2021 joint league champions a fighting chance of staying up.
To do so they will have to secure their third win in a row by beating Monaghan next weekend and even at that it is not certain that the six points they would have on the board would be enough.
Dublin and Monaghan are locked on four points at the foot of the table while Tyrone, Donegal and Kildare are all above them on five points. If Tyrone, Donegal and Kildare were all to win next weekend then Dublin could win by a cricket score in Clones and it still wouldn't be enough to prevent them sliding down to Division 2. The same goes for Monaghan.
Still, Dublin couldn't do much more than beat Donegal to put themselves in a position to potentially hold onto their top flight status and they did that, overcoming a shaky start to see off Declan Bonner's crew with relative ease.
After back to back wins over Tyrone and Donegal, Dublin now appear to be in rude health with all their big guns firing.
Rock and Scully were back to their effervescent selves, buzzing with attacking intent and running the hard yards too while Raheny duo Brian Fenton and Brian Howard were excellent too.
This was much more like the Dublin we've admired for the last decade or so and they even grabbed a rare goal in the opening 20 minutes having failed to find the net in their previous four games.
Dublin's only previous goal in the league was scored by Lorcan O'Dell in the Round 1 defeat to Armagh back in late January.
Mind you, Dublin did have to weather an early Donegal storm with Declan Bonner's side beginning brightly and running up a 1-4 to 0-2 lead.
Patrick McBrearty, Donegal's top scorer with 1-6, grabbed their goal in the 11th minute with an audacious lob over Dublin goalkeeper Michael Shiel.
It could have been a glorious fluke either, depending on your persuasion with McBrearty skipping away from his marker Michael Fitzsimons close to the right endline and curling a left footed, dipping shot in over Shiel's head at the far post.
The stunning score, or remarkable slice of luck, evoked memories of Mikey Sheehy's famous lob over a similarly backpedaling Paddy Cullen in the 1978 All-Ireland final.
Trailing by five points, and down on their luck, Dublin could have figured it was going to be another difficult day but dug deep from there on to wrestle back control of the game by half-time when they led 1-8 to 1-5.
McBrearty took Fitzsimons for 1-2 in all in the first-half but Donegal only added one more point to their overall tally from the 16th minute until half-time, an Aaron Doherty score.
As for Dublin, they came roaring back into it, outscoring Donegal by 1-6 to 0-1 in that second quarter of the game.
Howard summed up the Dublin spirit by overcoming an early error when he hand-passed the ball away to come strongly into the game and score two points, one of which he engineered himself with a terrific fetch deep in his own defence.
Midfielders Fenton and Tom Lahiff both strode forward for points while Dubs fans in the 15,962 crowd finally got to celebrate a goal when Scully struck to the net.
Cormac Costello and Lahiff were involved in the buildup and Scully fired low and accurately to the right of goalkeeper Shaun Patton.
Dublin maintained full control throughout the second-half though Michael Murphy's fisted goal for Donegal, after Ryan McHugh played a long ball in from the right, kept the 2012 All-Ireland winners in it.
McBrearty was terrific for them too and picked off a series of points that gave them some hope though Rock was impressive at the other end for Dublin, kicking three of his team's last four points in the game.
In truth, the four-point margin flattered Donegal who were well beaten and were outscored by 2-13 to 1-7 from the first quarter onwards. Declan Bonner's side at least know they will definitely stay in Division 1 for 2023 if they beat Armagh next weekend.
Dublin scorers: Dean Rock 1-5 (0-3f, 1-0 pen), Niall Scully 1-0, Cormac Costello 0-3, Brian Howard 0-3, Brian Fenton 0-2, Tom Lahiff 0-1, S Bugler 0-1.
Donegal scorers: Patrick McBrearty 1-6 (0-1f), Michael Murphy 1-1 (0-1f), Conor O'Donnell 0-2, Ryan McHugh 0-1, Aaron Doherty 0-1.
Dublin: Michael Shiel; Cian Murphy, David Byrne, Michael Fitzsimons; Jonny Cooper, Robbie McDaid, James McCarthy; Brian Fenton, Tom Lahiff; Brian Howard, Sean Bugler, Niall Scully; Ciaran Kilkenny, Cormac Costello, Dean Rock. Subs: Eoin Murchan for Cooper 52, Lee Gannon for Scully 64, Brian O'Leary for Costello 67, Alex Wright for Kilkenny 71, Cillian O'Shea for McCarthy 72.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Stephen McMenamin, Caolan Ward, Brendan McCole; Ryan McHugh, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Odhran McFadden Ferry; Hugh McFadden, Jason McGee; Peadar Mogan, Michael Murphy, Aaron Doherty; Patrick McBrearty, Conor O'Donnell, Jamie Brennan.
Subs: Shane O'Donnell for Brennan 50, Ethan O'Donnell for Doherty 56, Jeaic McKelvey for McHugh 60, Paul Brennan for McFadden 62, Neil McGee for McMenamin 69.
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).