Donegal fall short against Mayo despite heroic comeback
Nicky Rackard Cup semi-final: Donegal 2-11 Mayo 1-18
A HEROIC second half comeback from Donegal was just not quite enough to upset a slightly slicker Mayo side who advanced to the final of the Rackard Cup after a thrilling affair in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny on Saturday.
It looked bleak for the home side as they trailed by 1-15 to 1-5 midway through the second half. A slightly superior Mayo looked to have sealed this feisty affair when their Dublin import Joe McManus finished off a fine move started by dual star Keith Higgins, to the Tir Conaill net in the 50th minute.
But the losers dug deep and hit some fine points from Sean McVeigh and Lee Henderson, before Danny Cullen cut through the Mayo defence and flicked to the net with seven minutes to go.
Cullen’s classy finish left Mayo clinging on to a 1-16 to 2-11 lead.
Donegal attacked in waves and the Westerners endured some hairy moments before the inevitable Kenneth Feeney calmed their nerves with some late points.
Mayo got off to a snappy start with four quick points on the board in the opening eight minutes. Full-forward Kenny Feeney nailed the first two while Dublin import Joseph McManus and the impressive Sean Regan completed the quartet. But the match took an early dramatic in the ninth minute when Donegal struck back with a very well worked goal.
Full-forward Ronan McDermott did well to win possession and found corner forward Sean McVeigh deep inside the Mayo defence.
McVeigh slipped a low ball to Ciaran Matthewson on the edge of the square. He stayed ice cool and slipped the sliothar to the Mayo net from an acute angle to make it a one-point game.
A series of poor passes from Donegal let Mayo back into the control box and they were also given a very dubious point from Sean Regan in the 26th minute.
Mayo led by 1-4 to 0-9 by the 28th minute, but pulled well clear in the final five minutes through Regan and the ever-accurate Feeney to lead by 0-13 to 1-5 at the interval.
Donegal turned over with the benefit of a considerable breeze, but it was Mayo who tacked on five swift points in as many minutes.
Darren McTigue hit two superb points on the trot before McManus struck for what was effectively Mayo’s clinching goal. Donegal were trailing by 10 points, but refused to yield. It was a valiant but vain effort as Mayo held on for a final joust with Armagh.
Donegal: P Burns; P Doherty, J McGhee, M Callaghan; J O’Loughlin (0-1) J Donnelly, C McDermott; D Cullen (1-1), C Matthewson (1-0); L Henderson(0-7, 0-7 frees), N Cleary (0-1), B Lafferty; R McDermott, S Gillespie, S McVeigh (0-1) Subs: J Boyle for J McGee (42), K Campbell for B Lafferty (47), P Hannigan for N Cleary (53),
Mayo: D O’Brien; E Collins, G McManus, B Hunt; C Freeman (0-1), P O’Flynn, A Lyons; C Charlton, K McDermott (0-1); S Regan (0-4), K Higgins, J McManus (1-1); D McTigue (0-2), K Feeney (0-7, 0-5 frees) S Boland (0-1). Subs: F Boland (0-1) for P O’Flynn (h-t), P O’Connell for A Lyons (h-t), D Kenny for G McManus (54), C Scahill for D McTigue (59),
Referee: J Murphy (Limerick)