Jim McGuinness: “We’re still not the finished product” as Donegal seal promotion to Division One

Victory over Kildare in Carlow ensures swift return to top flight as Mogan and Thompson star for Tir Chonaill

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness watching his team against Cork during the National Football League Div 2 match played at Ballybofey on Sunday 28th January 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )
Allianz Football League Division Two: Donegal 0-17 Kildare 1-8

Donegal eased themselves back into the top flight of the Allianz National League with a strong second half performance which proved too good for Division Two basement side, Kildare at Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow.

The final statistics don’t lie. Donegal had nine different scorers, all but one of their 17 points came from play while their opponents had only three scorers and four of their nine scores came from placed balls.

Conditions were not conducive to good football with rain falling heavily for most of the game, although there was little wind.

Kildare were in the Last Chance Saloon as regards saving their status and they did put up a fight for three quarters of this game.

For Donegal manager, Jim McGuinness, it was the first box of the season ticked and there is a league final against Armagh to look forward to on Easter Sunday before the date with destiny against Derry in Celtic Park on April 20.

“We’re delighted. I suppose it’s the first step for the group in many respects. We wanted to get back to Division One obviously,” said McGuinness.

“From the very first day it was a major focus for the group and delighted with the attitude, honesty, and the efforts.

“Still not the finished product but very happy with the second half there, moved the ball very well, kicked some very good scores and some very good scores left behind.

“Overall, a nice progression through the National League, a very positive campaign for us; put an awful lot of scores on the board and our transitional game starting to come to the fore there tonight again.

“Listen, we’re very happy and obviously nobody got injured and we invited a couple of boys back in tonight as well, it was great.”

It was mostly point for point in the opening half with Ciaran Thompson and Peadar Mogan showing the way for Donegal.

The St Naul’s man, who has started the last two league games at corner-back out of necessity, showed what a great engine he has, driving forward time after time and he was an easy choice for man of the match with his five points from play.

Kevin Feely, almost single handedly, kept Kildare in the contest with three first half points and he was ably assisted by Alex Beirne.

They must have been happy enough going to the break just two points adrift (0-8 to 0-6) and even though Donegal pushed five clear early in the second half with great points from Dáire Ó Baoill, Patrick McBrearty and Michael Langan, Beirne and Feely hit back for the Lilywhites.

One of the biggest cheers from the big Donegal support came when Donegal won their first free of the contest two minutes into the second half.

It looked like Donegal would pull away when Mogan and Ó Baoill pushed Donegal 0-13 to 0-8 clear but there was a final kick in Kildare as Alex Beirne palmed a Daniel Flynn centre to the Donegal net on 49 minutes.

That was to be Kildare’s last score as Donegal took control,  Mogan with two more, Odhrán Doherty and an Oisin Gallen mark closing out the game.

Donegal: Sh Patton; M Curran, C Moore, P Mogan (0-5); R McHugh, C McGonagle (0-1), O Doherty (0-1); H McFadden, M Langan (0-3); S O’Donnell, C Thompson (0-2), A Doherty (0-1); P McBrearty (0-1), O Gallen (0-1,mark), D Ó Baoill (0-2).

Subs: J Brennan for H McFadden (h-t); JeMac Ceallabhuí for Odhran Doherty (53); N O’Donnell for A Doherty (56); L McGlynn and R Gallagher for Ó Baoill and Thompson (both 67).

Kildare: M Donnellan; R Houlihan, M O’Grady, R Burke; P McDermott, E Doyle, J Sargent; A Masterson, K O’Callaghan; A Beirne (1-3), B Kelly, S Farrell (0-1); K Feely (0-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 mark), D Flynn, N Kelly.

Subs: L Killian for O’Callaghan (52); P Woodgate for P Kelly (55); S O’Sullivan for N Kelly (58); B Byrne for Houlihan (60); T Archbold for Sargent (69)

Referee: Paul Faloon (Down)