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Murphy masterclass helps Donegal to Division 2 glory after comeback win over Meath

23,644 supporters watched Donegal enjoy a two-point victory over the Royals.

Donegal were crowned Division 2 champions.
Donegal were crowned Division 2 champions.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Donegal 1-17

Meath 1-15

Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park  

DONEGAL WILL BE returning to the top-flight of the league as Division 2 champions after they came good to see off Meath in an entertaining affair at Croke Park. 

Declan Bonner’s side have their sights on bigger prizes this summer but lifting a national title is a welcome boost at this stage of the year.

The win was more impressive considering they handed Meath an eight-point head start before Donegal started playing any sort of football.

A seven-point haul from their brilliant leader Michael Murphy, who thrived in an advanced role, helped Donegal battle back into contention.

All seven were from placed balls, including two advanced marks from accurate kick-passes inside – moves that will have delighted coach Stephen Rochford.

The man-of-the-match also set-up Jamie Brennan’s 57th minute goal, which pushed the Ulster champions into the lead for the first time in the game.

At the end of a league where Bonner blooded a number of youngsters, 18-year-old rookie forward Oisin Gallen kicked four outstanding scores and looks to be fine prospect in the attack, while Jamie Brennan finished with 1-2 to his name.

Seamus Gavin is tackled by Oisin Gallen Seamus Gavin is tackled by Oisin Gallen. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

After 12 years outside of Division 1, Meath’s primary goal for the spring has already been achieved. Andy McEntee will be disappointed with how they allowed Donegal back into the game after leading by 1-6 to 0-1, but there are plenty of positives for him to take from today.

Bryan McMahon looked extremely dangerous at wing-forward before his injury-enforced departure prior to half-time, while Cillian O’Sullivan scored three points and Michael Newman enjoyed an excellent first-half before he was quietened by Neil McGee.

Donegal employed Ryan McHugh in a sort of winger role in the opening period. When Meath had the ball, the All-Star dropped from wing-forward to the half-back line which freed up Daire O Baoill to assume the centre-back role, allowing Leo McLoone to sweep in front of the full-back line 

O Baoill reverted to a more traditional wing-forward role in the second-half and McHugh to wing-back where he tracked Ben Brennan. 

Meath were quickest out of the blocks and raced into an early three-point lead.

Full-forward Newman had his marker Brendan Cole chasing shadows in the opening quarter. Newman, who returned to the Meath fold this year, made a critical interception and fed Thomas O’Reilly to smash in a 10th-minute goal for the Royals.

Graham Reilly with Ryan McHugh Graham Reilly takes on Ryan McHugh. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Newman curled over his second point shortly after and then Donegal called for Neil McGee to replace Cole on the 13-minute mark. Meath were 1-6 to 0-1 ahead at that stage, but Donegal slowly worked their way back into the game.

Brennan and Gallen were beginning to look dangerous inside and helped Donegal reel off five of the next six scores. Newman had a point ruled out by Hawk-Eye and saw a fisted goal disallowed for a square ball, but still Meath went in 1-10 to 0-8 ahead at the interval. 

Donegal’s long-range shooting saw them chip away at the Meath lead after half-time. Jason McGee, O’Donnell and Gallen all landed impressive scores, while Murphy claimed two advanced marks and slotted them between the posts.

It left the Ulster side a single point behind, 1-14 to 0-16, with 15 minutes remaining. Then Gallen and Murphy combined to set-up Brennan, who drilled past Andrew Colgan from close-range.

Meath lost Shane Gallagher to a late red card, after receiving a black when he was already on a yellow, and couldn’t pull back the deficit in the closing stages.

Scorers for Donegal: Michael Murphy 0-7 (0-5f, 0-2m), Jamie Brennan 1-2, Oisin Gallen 0-4, Niall O’Donnell and Jason McGee 0-2 each.

Scorers for Meath: Michael Newman 0-4 (0-2f, 0-1m), Thomas O’Reilly 1-1, Cillian O’Sullivan 0-3 (0-1f), Bryan McMahon 0-2, Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee, Ben Brennan, Graham Reilly and Barry Dardis (0-1 45) 0-1 each.

Donegal

1. Shaun Patton (Noamh Adamhnain)

2. Paddy McGrath (Ard an Ratha)
3. Brendan McCole (Naomh Naille)
19. Stephen McMenamin (Na Cealla Beaga)

5. Daire Ó Baoill (Gaoth Dobhair)
6. Leo McLoone (Naomh Conaill)
4. Eoghan Ban Gallagher (Na Cealla Beaga)

11. Jason McGee (Cloch Cheann Fhaola)
8.Hugh McFadden (Na Cealla Beaga)

7. Ryan McHugh (Cill Chartha)
10. Niall O’Donnell (Naomh Adhamhnain)
12. Caolan McGonagle (Buncrannacha)

13. Oisin Gallen (Sean Mac Cumhaill)
14. Michael Murphy (Gleann tSuili)
15. Jamie Brennan (Bun Dobhrain)

Subs 

18. Neil McGee (Gaoth Dobhair) for Cole (13) 
20. Eamonn Doherty (Naomh Adhamhnain) for McLoone (ht)
9. Michael Langan (Naomh Micheal) for McGonagle (44)
21. Eoin McHugh (Cill Chartha) for O Baoill (54)
26. Frank McGlynn (Gleann Fhinne) for Ryan McHugh (70)

Meath

1. Andrew Colgan (Donaghmore Ashbourne)

2. Seamus Lavin (St Peter’s, Dunboyne)
3. Conor McGill (Ratoath)
4. Shane Gallagher (Simonstown Gaels)

5. James McEntee (Curraha)
6. Donal Keogan (Rathkenny)
7. Ronan Ryan (Summerhill)

8. Bryan Menton (Donaghmore Ashbourne)
9. Shane McEntee (St Peter’s, Dunboyne)

10. Cillian O’Sullivan (Moynalvey)
11. Ben Brennan (St Colmcilles)
12. Bryan McMahon (Ratoath)

15. Thomas O’Reilly (Wolfe Tones)
13. Barry Dardis (Summerhill)
14. Michael Newman (Kilmainham)

Subs

20. Graham Reilly (St Colmcilles) for McMahon (inj) (34)
22. Darragh Campion (Scrin) for Brennan (43)
24. James Conlon (Naomh Colmcille) for O’Reilly (65)
19. Gavin McCoy (Naomh Peadar Dun Boinne) for McEntee (67) 

Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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