Donegal find their stride to see off Meath challenge

The Tír Chonaill men won the game in the 10 minutes before half-time

Peter Harte tackles Donegal's Jamie Brennan at Brewster Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Jamie Brennan/Peter Harte Jamie Brennan was Donegal's goalscorer in the win over Meath. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

Allianz Football League Division Two, round seven

Donegal 1-18 Meath 1-10

IT took them a while to get going but once they did Donegal looked a class apart against Meath in Ballybofey on Saturday night.

But manager Jim McGuinness may be concerned that both captain Patrick McBrearty and Ryan McHugh had to go off injured as they prepare for a Division To final date with Armagh.

Eight points separated the teams come the final whistle on a biting cold night at MacCumhaill Park after Donegal pulled away in the second half.

The home side led 0-10 to 1-3 at half-time although Meath got off to a flyinh start with a goal in the opening 12 seconds.

Wing-forward Cathal Hickey found the net after the Donegal defence was opened up courtesy of good approach play from Ruairi Kinsella and Diarmuid Moriartity.

The Royal county almost scored a second three-pointer just minutes later when Shaun Patton pulled off a brilliant save to atone for his own mistake after Kinsella intercepted a short kick-out.

It was all Meath in the early exchanges with goalkeeper Billy Horgan firing wide from a number of long-range frees before Shane O’Donnell finally got Tir Chonaill up-and-running on the scoreboard.

That was on 12 minutes and despite Meath continuing to draw blanks, Donegal did not register their next score for a further 12 minutes.

Oisin Gallen did the business from way out on the right wing and all of a sudden Donegal were in the groove as Jamie Brennan, Aaron Doherty and Gallen split the posts as they rattled off six points in five minute.

McBrearty had hobbled off by that stage, and Meath lost Adam McDonnell to a black card for a late challenge on Gallen before half-time.

Gallen and Keith Curtis traded points before Jeaic McKelvey and Ryan McHugh brought Donegal’s first half tally to 0-10

Shane Walsh rounded off the scoring for Meath, but McGuinness’s men were in the ascendancy at the interval.

The opening minutes of the second period were also a slow burner. Kinsella raised a white flag for Meath before Aaron Doherty and McHugh did likewise for the home team.

Ciaran Thompson, who had another fine game, added another point before Doherty released Brennan to rattle the back of the net to leave the scoreline at 1-14 to 1-5.

It was game, set and match to Donegal and the game fizzled out with Thompson, Gallen and Luke McGynn posting points before Donegal lost Caolan McGonagle to a black card in the closing minutes.

Donegal S Patton; M Curran, S McMenamin, C Moore; R McHugh (0-2), C McGonagle, P Mogan; H McFadden (0-1), C Thompson (0-3, 0-2 frees); A Doherty (0-2), S O’Donnell (0-2), J Brennan (1-1); P McBrearty, O Gallen (0-4), D Ó Baoill

Subs J Mac Ceallabhuí (0-1) for McBrearty (20); N O’Donnell (0-1) for Ó Baoill (ht); C McColgan for R McHugh (45); JR Molloy for McMenamin (54); L McGlynn (0-1) for H McFadden (54)

Meath B Hogan; H O’Higgins, A O’Neill, B O’Halloran; A McDonnell, D Keogan (0-1), R Ryan; R Jones (0-1), C McBride; D Moriarty, R Kinsella (0-1), C Hickey (1-0); S Walsh (0-1), J Conlan (0-2), K Curtis (0-2)

Subs J O’Connor for Moriarty (46); D Dixon (0-1) for McBride (51); A Lynch (0-1 free) for S Walsh (56); M Murphy for O’Higgins (58); C Caulfield for McDonnell (63)

Referee P Neilan (Roscommon)