Alan Foley reports from Ballybofey
THERE WAS A collective sigh of relief to be heard in Ballybofey as an out-of-sorts Donegal finally saw off Longford in the Round 2A football qualifiers.
Rory Gallagher’s team achieved what they set out to do and that’s to get themselves into the hat for Monday’s draw, but there was certainly a sense of hangover from Donegal’s nine-point hammering by Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final last month.
Donegal have won an All-Ireland and three Ulster titles since they last lost at home in Ballybofey, but they were given the fight of their lives against Longford, who kicked 17 wides overall and didn’t trail until just short of the 50th minute.
However, that was exactly the point when the visitors, who are managed by Denis Connerton, lost James McGivney to a second yellow card with it 0-5 to 0-5. Moreover, his wingmen in the half-forward line Daniel Mimnagh and Darren Gallagher had already seen black cards waved in their direction by match referee Padraig Hughes.
With Patrick McBrearty scoring five points in all and Michael Murphy putting over three frees, Donegal gave the scoreboard something of a respectable look.
Down the years, Monaghan, Down and Derry have been caught by Longford in the qualifiers, and Donegal weren’t too far from slipping through their safety net of the qualifiers. But they overcame the hurdle and Longford will, in the cold light of day, acknowledge that scoring two points from play will seldom win a football match.
David McGivney helped the away side to a 0-4 to 0-3 half-time advantage, with Robbie Smyth also on the mark. Corner-back Diarmuid Masterson certainly deserved his point on 53 minutes to bring the score to 0-6 apiece.
Donegal, though, saw Eoin McHugh and Jamie Brennan joining Murphy, Martin McElhinney and McBrearty on the scoreboard late on. They’re in the hat so they’ve achieved their objective. Just.
Scorers for Donegal: Patrick McBrearty 0-5 (4f), Michael Murphy 0-3 (3f), Martin McElhinney 0-2, Jamie Brennan and Eoin McHugh 0-1 each.
Longford: David McGivney 0-3 (3f), Robbie Smyth 0-3 (2f), Diarmuid Masterson 0-1.
1. Mark Anthony McGinley
2. Paddy McGrath
3. Neil McGee
4. Caolan Ward
5. Ryan McHugh
6. Frank McGlynn
7. Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher
8. Jason McGee
9. Ciaran Thompson
10. Michael Carroll
11. Martin O’Reilly
12. Eoin McHugh
13. Patrick McBrearty
14. Michael Murphy
15. Cian Mulligan
Martin McElhinney for Carroll (28)
Hugh McFadden for J.McGee (49)
Jamie Brennan for O’Reilly (53)
Mark McHugh for McGlynn (55)
Karl Lacey for Langan (56)
Paul Brennan for Gallagher (65).
1. Paddy Collum
2. Diarmuid Masterson
3. Padraig McCormack
4. Barry Gilleran
5. Donal McElligott
6. Michael Quinn
7. Dessie Reynolds
8. John Keegan
9. David McGivney
10. Daniel Mimnagh
11. James McGivney
12. Darren Gallagher
13. Robbie Smyth
14. Liam Connerton
15. Barry McKeon
Conor Berry for Mimnagh (black card, 26)
Larry Moran for Gallagher (black card, 41)
Andrew Farrell for McKeon (65)
Ronan McIntyre for D.McGivney (65)
Joe Kelly for Connerton (70).
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh).