'Dead rubber' Division One semi-final did a disservice to the League insist Donegal manager Bonner
Allianz Football League Division One semi-final: Dublin 1-18 Donegal 1-14
DONEGAL manager Declan Bonner said the way the Allianz Football League finished this year actually “did a disservice to the League.”
Bonner was speaking in the aftermath of a four- point defeat to a Dublin side whose superiority was not reflected in the final scoreline.
A last gasp 1-2 from Donegal put a bare gloss on an otherwise comprehensive defeat.
The Tir Chonaill men showed true grit to claw back and an eight-point deficit, midway through the second half after they trailed by1-8 to 0-7 at the break. Three lightning points from the Dubs on the resumption and Donegal looked to be out for the count, until that commendable late rally
Bonner said: "At the end of the day, when you start a League campaign you want to see it out. It has done the League a disservice by not doing that, and for the sake of one extra week, it probably could have been done to be quite honest."
Saturday night’s encounter with the Dubs was a chastening affair for the most part as Donegal were clinging on after an inspired scoring salvo from the Dubs in a five-minute period before and after half-time.
Bonner was in a tricky position as he wanted a performance from his charges, but also wanted to avoid an even bigger litany of injuries ahead of their Ulster SFC preliminary round clash with Down on Newry on June 27.
“We were without six or seven lads there tonight we just didn’t want to risk, but some of those wouldn’t have been able to play.
“Some of those would have played if it was Championship," said Bonner.
“We just didn’t want to risk them, two weeks out from going into a tough match in Newry so we had to get those guys ready for that.
Bonner is hopeful Michael Murphy would be fit for the Championship clash with the Mournemen.
”Michael is coming good. We will be hoping Michael will be back for us. He will have a clear two-week run now and hopefully he will be ready to go against Down,"
Donegal began brightly with Michael Langan powering through the Dublin defence and hitting a glorious left-footed point after two minutes.
They continued to attack the Dubs at pace and Niall O’Donnell increased the lead after a good pass from Ryan McHugh to put them into 0-2 to 0-0 lead by the fifth minute.
That set the pattern for some real cat and mouse stuff with both sides like patient dentist probing for a weak cavity. Donegal were creating more chances as Patrick McBrearty and Dublin marksman swapped points. The first free did not come until the 10th minute and Cormac Costello obliged for the Dubs.
McBrearty was on target again and there was a two-point turnaround when Langan hesitated and lost possession as Dublin levelled matters again at 0-5 each courtesy of Costello.
Odhran MacNiallais put Donegal back in front in the 25th minute but went off after getting a knock.
Dublin were slowly asserting themselves and Con O’Callaghan put them ahead by 0-8 to 0-7 before they struck for a trademark goal in the 29th minute.
It resulted from a Donegal turnover as they went for the jugular with Paddy Small finding himself deep inside the Donegal defence.
He was one on one with Patton, side-stepping the diving keeper before tapping into the empty net.
Dublin led by 1-8 to 0-7 at the break and dominated matters at their leisure in the second half without ever moving out of second gear, Eoghan McGettigan barely put a gloss on matters for Donegal.
Meanwhile, Dublin selector Mick Galvin strongly rejected any notions that this affair was little more than a challenge match,
Outgunned Donegal staged a late rally to make the scoreline slightly more respectable.
“We were playing in a league semi-final and that is what we prepared for. It is a national semi-final so we really prepared for it.
“People were saying it had to feel of a challenge match, but it certainly did not have that feel looking from the line.
“Maybe so and if it was, it was certainly not our intention.”
Dublin: E Comerford; M Fitzimmons, D Byrne, S McMahon (0-1); E Murchan, P O’Cofaigh Byrne, P Small (1-1); B Fenton (0-1) J McCarthy; B Howard (0-2) C O’Callaghan (0-3), N Scully; C Basquel, C Kilkenny (0-2), C Costello (0-7 frees). Subs: E Lownes for E Murchan (h-t), S Bugler for C Basquel (49) T Lahiff for P O’Cofaigh Byrne and A Byrne (0-1) for N Scully (57), P McMahon for M Fitzimmons and C McHugh for C Kilkenny (61), S Carty for P Small (65)
Donegal: S Patton; E McHugh, S McMenamin, B McCole (0-1); O McFadden-Ferry, R McHugh, E O'Donnell; C McGonagle (0-2) H McFadden; C Thompson, O MacNiallais (0-1) N O’Donnell (0-1); P McBrearty (0-6, 0-3 frees) M Langan (0-2), O Gallen. Subs: C O’Donnell for O MacNiallais (30), C Ward for S McMenamin (h-t), E McGettigan (1-1) for O Gallen (53), E Doherty for O McFadden-Ferry (55), J McGee for H McFadden, D O’Baoill for N O’Donnell (56), T McClenaghan for E McHugh (62)
Referee: C Branagan (Down)