Cork stop Donegal’s winning run in dramatic clash

Three goals were key as the home side move top of the group

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness saw his side go down to Cork. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

All-Ireland SFC Group 3, round two

Cork 3-9 Donegal 0-16

A SUN-KISSED Páirc Uí Rinn witnessed one of the matches of the summer as Cork inflicted a first competitive defeat of the year on Donegal following a cracking clash.

The concession of three goals in 40 minutes, having up to that point kept a clean sheet throughout the entire Championship, proved catastrophic for Jim McGuinness’s side.

Admirably, Donegal closed a five-point gap to level matters heading deep into injury-time, but a resilient Cork defence, that produced 19 turnovers, remained solid, worked the ball to Colm O’Callaghan for the match-winning score. The Rebels deservedly won by two.

“They (Cork) are very clear about what they want to do and make no excuses or bones about it,” the Donegal manager commented.

“As an opposition team you are stepping in to try and take that on. You have to match the breaking ball if you want to contest with them.

“It was good in the second half. We did turn the tables a lot coming down the stretch. Obviously, that was significant in us getting the game back to level.

“It is hard to keep turning that screw against a process that is very well worked on every single night in training.”

A cagey opening saw Patrick McBrearty and Brian Hurley exchange frees. Donegal lost a number of possessions to turnovers before two McBrearty scores edged the Ulster side ahead. Chris Óg Jones responded with a rasping effort that sizzled inches over the crossbar before a major turning point.

Nineteen minutes were on the clock when Seán Powter forced a turnover deep in Cork’s half. Donegal were caught by the speed of their opponents’ breakaway. Powter fed Matty Taylor and the Mallow man raced all the way to the edge of the square before netting a superb goal.

Refusing to panic, Jimmy McGuinness’ side rattled off three quick points via Ciarán Moore, Niall O’Donnell and Patrick McBrearty to make it 1-3 to 0-6.

Paul Walsh and Oisín Gallen fired over cracking long efforts at either end before McBrearty notched his fifth score.

The hosts got in behind Donegal’s defence shortly after but Brian Hurley was denied a goal by a last-ditch defensive block. Then, Colm O’Callaghan’s rebound was repelled by a point-blank Shaun Patton stop.

A relieved Donegal changed ends 0-9 to 1-4 in front following a second Ciarán Moore point.

The second half began in explosive fashion with Powter and Rory Maguire finding the net in quick succession. Brian Hurley then pointed and Donegal were reeling, 3-5 to 0-9 behind.

Credit to the Ulster champions for refusing to panic and McBrearty, Oisín Gallen (two, one free), Caolan McGonagle and Aaron Doherty were all on target to level matters with three minutes remaining.

Substitute Steven Sherlock restored Cork’s advantage following the announcement of five minutes of injury-time and both teams had scoring chances late on but Colm O’Callaghan’s fisted effort completed a 3-9 to 0-16 Cork victory and Donegal’s first defeat of 2024.

“Conceding three goals, you’re not going to win a game, you don’t deserve to win a game when you concede three goals in Championship football,” McGuinness concluded.

“We won’t go too hard on them. It’s the first defeat of the year. They’ve done brilliantly. (Winning) promotion, (winning the) Ulster championship and not a lot has changed.

“We have to wait and see what happens in the Cork against Tyrone game to see what we will need.

“I hope they learn from it. We spoke a lot during the winter months. You’re bringing a group together and you’re trying to mould things. It’s days like today that you’re tested.”

Cork C Kelly; K Flahive, D O’Mahony, T Walsh; M Shanley, R Maguire (1-0), M Taylor (1-0); I Maguire, C O’Callaghan (0-2); P Walsh (0-1), S Powter (1-0), B O’Driscoll; M Cronin, B Hurley (0-3, 0-2 frees), C Óg Jones (0-2).

Subs C Corbett for S Powter (44, temp), S Sherlock (0-1) for C Ó Jones (50), T Clancy for T Walsh (56, inj), R Deane for M Cronin (65), E McSweeney for B Hurley (69), S Meehan for P Walsh (72)

Donegal S Patton; P Mogan, B McCole, E Bán Gallagher; R McHugh (0-1), C McGonagle (0-1), C Moore (0-2); J McGee, M Langan; S O’Donnell, C Thompson, D Ó Baoill; P McBrearty (0-7, 0-3 frees), O Gallen (0-3, 0-2 frees), N O’Donnell (0-1).

Subs A Doherty (0-1) for D Ó Baoill (ht), O Doherty for J McGee (42), J Brennan for N O’Donnell (52), J Mac Ceallbhuí for S O’Donnell (61).

Referee B Griffin (Kerry)

Attendance 7,251