Allianz FL D1: Dramatic draw in Ballybofey
Allianz Football League Division One
DONEGAL 0-19 MAYO 2-13
By Chris McNulty at Ballybofey
James Durcan's late goal secured a dramatic draw for Mayo in Ballybofey.
Donegal - led by eight points from captain Michael Murphy - looked to have done enough before Durcan popped up eight minutes into added time.
After holding off Conor Morrison’s attention, Durcan riffled past Shaun Patton to stun their hosts.
This was a first game back in Division 1 for Donegal, the 2019 Division 2 winners. In their last Division 1 outing, Kevin McLoughlin arched over a point with the last kick of a game that earned Mayo a draw and relegated Donegal all at once. You could have forgiven the Donegal support in the 8,729 attendance for feeling a sense of déjà vu.
In the end Donegal were left to count the cost of nine wides on a night when there had been plenty of positives. In the wake of Durcan’s goal, they will be hard to digest, though.
On 16 minutes, James Carr sneaked a Mayo goal to grab the lead. Patrick Durcan’s pass hung in the crisp Ballybofey sky. With most of the attendance, and indeed the participants, assuming the passage had gone, Carr reacted. Electing not to take the ‘mark’, Carr spun away from Caolan McGonagle and looped a shot over Patton and into the net.
Donegal’s response was perfect, though, and they led 0-9 to 1-4 at the changeover. But for the posting of seven wides in that opening half, Donegal would have been further in front.
The home side kicked five on the trot with McGonagle, Ciaran Thompson, Jamie Brennan and Murphy registering. Murphy took a ‘mark’ to put the home side back into the lead and they were good value for their half-time advantage.
The teams were tit-for-tat in the opening quarter-of-an-hour with Donegal 0-4 to 0-3 in front.
Momentarily rocked by Carr’s goal, Donegal shook their heads clear and hit back to take command. They were, though, thanking their stars when Diarmuid O’Connor palmed wide as a second goal chance opened up for Mayo.
Donegal’s 2019 ended in a disappointing All-Ireland quarter-final group stage defeat to Mayo in Castlebar. Ever since the fixtures paired these two together for the 2020 League opener, Declan Bonner, the Donegal manager, had tonight in mind.
Murphy, Donegal’s totemic captain, didn’t return to action until March of last year, but it was perhaps an indicator of the importance of the fixture that the Glenswilly man was named in the starting XV. Neil McGee, another of Donegal’s experienced generals, started at full-back, while Eoghan Ban Gallagher made his return from a broken ankle that prematurely brought a close to his season in July.
Conor O’Donnell at centre-back was Donegal’s sole debutant, although visiting boss James Horan had four new comers - Oisin Mullin, Jordan Flynn, Bryan Walsh and Ryan O’Donoghue - in his selection.
Mayo came back to within a point 16 minutes from time after hitting three-in-a-row from O’Connor, Walsh and Kevin McLoughlin.
Donegal roused an instant riposte with Thompson, Michael Langan, Ryan McHugh and Andrew McClean - sent off the bench for a first taste of Allianz League action - clipping points.
McHugh went off injured in the closing stages, but Murphy’s eighth of the night, in the 42nd minute of the second half, looked to and should have been enough.
With the final act of an entertaining night, Durcan goaled and it was honours even.
Scorers for Donegal: M Murphy 0-8 (6fs, 1m, 1 ’45), C Thompson 0-4 (3f), J Brennan 0-2, P Brennan, C McGonagle, M Langan, R McHugh, A McClean 0-1 each.
Scorers for Mayo: J Durcan 1-3 (2fs), J Carr 1-0, F Boland, K McLoughlin (1f), D O’Connor (1f), B Reape (1f) 0-2 each, T Conroy 0-1.
DONEGAL: Shaun Patton; Caolan Ward, Neil McGee, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Odrán McFadden-Ferry, Conor O’Donnell, Paul Brennan; Caolan McGonagle, Michael Langan; Eoin McHugh, Ryan McHugh, Jamie Brennan; Ciaran Thompson, Michael Murphy, Peadar Mogan.
Subs: Hugh McFadden for McGonagle (38), Brendan McCole for McFadden-Ferry (58), Andrew McClean for P Brennan (62), Jeaic Mac Ceallabhuí for McHugh (64), Conor Morrison for McGee (66).
MAYO: David Clarke; Oisin Mullin, Brendan Harrison, Colm Boyle; Padraig O’Hora, Stephen Coen, Patrick Durcan; Tom Parsons, Jordan Flynn; Bryan Walsh, Diarmuid O’Connor, Fergal Boland; Ryan O’Donoghue, Bryan Reape, James Carr.
Subs: Aidan O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin and Tommy Conroy for Parsons, Reape and Carr (half-time), K Higgins for Walsh (58), J Durcan for Boland (66).
REFEREE: David Coldrick (Meath).