GAA Football

Donegal's delightful decade - most magical moments

Donegal captain Michael Murphy netted a crucial goal against Mayo in the 2012 All-Ireland SFC Final.
Gerry McLaughlin
  • Shots

Kevin Cassidy and THAT point against Kildare in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final in Croke Park in 2011.

Yes Yes Yes!

Darkness is creeping in like a black cat over Croke Park in an epic encounter between Donegal and Kildare.

It is the last play in extra time and both teams are out on their feet as the stadium holds its breath.

Big Neil Gallagher starts the move and the ball is slung in very near the side-line towards the injured Michael Murphy.

But just when it looks it will go over the line and with two Kildare defenders converging on him, Murphy knows that if he bends it will mean he will be either fouled or dispossessed, so the great man chips the ball up on the run and the move is kept alive.

We are all still holding our breath as four more passes and the ball is moved back to Kevin Cassidy.

And you can just see him getting ready, it is on his left foot and the rest is all slow motion.

He leans back just over the 45- metre line and hits it with the outside of his weaker left foot.

The ball soars high in the sky and time stands still as the terrible thought that it will drop short hits the stadium….will it ever drop and then there is a deep roar, commentators go all orgasmic, the ball is over the bar and Donegal have won.

All those days practising with Tom Beag Gillespie in Magheragallon have paid off and only “Cass”had the cojones to try this after missing a similar effort a few minutes before.

Michael Murphy and the opening goal against Mayo in the All-Ireland final of 2012.

Jim McGuinness said it could happen and Jim was seldom wrong…

It was a move practiced for hours on the training ground so that when it was executed, it felt like all of Donegal’s dreams were about to come true.

McGuinness knew that Mayo might be vulnerable early on to a high diagonal ball as they tended not to have too much protection in front of their great goalkeeper David Clarke.

It was only a few minutes into the game and the perfectly coiffed Karl Lacey is speeding down the right wing, he checks inside a Mayo defender, and those lovely white boots move on to the 45- metre line.

Donegal’s greatest defender carefully strokes a 40 metre diagonal ball, not too high but one that Michael Murphy can come on to with comfort.

The key is that Murphy has only one Mayo defender hanging out of him instead of two, so he calmly fields the ball and hands off his marker as casually as you would lick an ice cream, swivels and hammers the ball to the roof of the net and Donegal fans knew then that this was going to be their day.

Kevin Cassidy’s point against Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final in 2011:

This was the day that Tyrone should have demolished the rising Donegal in the first half when they created 26 chances and only converted eight.

Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher were looking anxious in the dug-out as Tyrone raced into a 0-6 to 0-2

But then out on the right wing almost 45 metres out, just after Stephen O’Neill’s goal bound shot was blocked the ball breaks to Cassidy.

There is big tension in the stadium as Cass moves casually inside and then drills over a soaring point with the inside of the left boot.

The interesting thing is that he shows no emotion, and it was as if he was expecting the ball to go over the bar.

More crucially this score left just two points between the sides at 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time, a huge psychological score.

Ryan McHugh’s first goal against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2014;

Next to Michael Murphy Ryan McHugh has been Donegal’s second most vital player and he really showed this almost six years ago as a 20-year-old with a crucial goal against Dublin.

This match was similar in ways to the previous mentioned Tyrone game as Dublin totally dominated the opening half and hit some superb scores from long distance.

They were five points up after 19 minutes but were hauled back to two points when McHugh struck in the 33rdminute.

A high diagonal ball into the Dublin square broke to Colm McFadden who spotted McHugh coming at pace on his shoulder.

The Kilcar maestro did not pause but rolled the ball low passed Stephen Cluxton a la Peter Canavan against Kerry in 2005 and Donegal went in ahead by 1-8 to 0-10.

He struck again for another goal three minutes after the break, but the psychological damage had been done on the Dubs by then.

  • Saves of Note

Paul Durcan from Martin Penrose in the Ulster semi-final between Donegal and Tyrone in 2012

They don’t come any more dramatic as this was literally the last kick of the game as Donegal were clinging on to a 0-12 to 0-10 lead deep into injury time.

Tyrone lamp a long ball into Penrose who looks like he is blocked out by a green and gold blanket.

But, a sublime shimmy and Penrose creates a half hard of space and hits a low peach of a shot to Donegal keeper Paul Durcan’s right.

The giant keeper guessed and got down very low to get his left foot to the fine strike, but the drama was not yet over for Donegal as the ball hit the upright and skittered across the goal-line, but there were no Tyrone bodies to bury it in the net and Donegal breathed a huge sigh of relief. They went on to win the All-Ireland title but it would have been all so different had Penrose’s brilliant improvisation and deadly shot hit the net.

Paul Durcan’s save from Diarmuid Connolly against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final in 2014

This was the last time the Dubs were beaten, but, apart from Ryan McHugh’s goal, this match turned on a brilliant save by Paul Durcan from Dublin’s outstanding Diarmuid Connolly.

The Dubs were winning 0-8 to 0-4 after 24 minutes and should have been further in front, such was their total dominance.

And it really looked like game over for Donegal when Connolly was one on one with Durcan, after the ball fell kindly for him.

Connolly drilled it low, but the giant Durcan got down and got his knee to the ball and it did not fall near any Dublin player.

Had that goal gone in, Dublin, who had an earlier goal chance missed, would have been 1-8 to 0-4 up and it would have been very difficult for Donegal to come back.

But, once again Paul Durcan came to the rescue.



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