A LARGELY-EXPERIMENTAL Mayo team succumbed to a late rally from a rejuvenated Donegal side in a senior football challenge after the re-opening and rededication of Swinford GAA pitch to honour the late Garda Robert McCallion on Sunday afternoon.
Around a thousand people gathered with Swinford GAA club members, garda colleagues, family and friends for a poignant reopening ceremony and an entertaining and high-scoring game.
Only three of the players who started against Cork in the National League Final (Colm Boyle, Barry Moran and Cillian O’Connor) were selected again.
Despite missing the injured Michael Murphy, Donegal fielded a relatively strong side in what was a highly-competitive work-out just two weeks ahead of their Ulster championship opener against Cavan.
Full-forward Colm McFadden put in an admirable scoring shift for the visitors and notched up an impressive 1-5 to help his side to a one point win.
Despite trailing by three points at the interval, Donegal showed more urgency and hunger during the second half of this match and a late scoring burst finally extinguished the Mayo challenge.
The visitors led by two points after just three minutes, however a well-worked Peadar Gardiner goal was followed by quick-fire points from Enda Varley and Gardiner again as Mayo wrestled back the initiative.
Colm McFadden slotted over two impressive frees for Donegal midway through the first half, but moments later a marauding run from Mayo’s right half-forward Aidan Campbell opened up the Donegal defence, and he passed to Cillian O’Connor who rifled the ball to the roof of the Donegal net.
O’Connor then found his range with a 30-metre free for Mayo after 27 minutes before the impressive Colm McFadden registered his third and fourth frees of the day.
The teams exchanged points at the end of the first half through Enda Varley and Martin McElhinney respectively.
Both teams shuffled their packs for the second half with James Horan introducing Ruadhri O’Connor, Fergal Durkin and Danny Kirby for Colm Boyle, Michael Forde and Jason Doherty respectively.
McElhinney fisted an early second half point for Donegal before Mayo substitute Danny Kirby was adjudged to have been impeded by full-back Neil McGee in the large rectangle.
Referee Michael Duffy awarded a penalty and Pat Harte drilled the ball low in to the right corner of the net.
Donegal responded resolutely to this setback however, and pointed frees from Stephen Griffin and Patrick McBrearty followed as the visitors began to take control of the midfield area.
Peadar Gardiner was replaced with Kevin Keane and Conor O’Shea came in for Aidan Campbell as Mayo faltered.
Minutes later McBrearty was crowded out and fell as he ran past Eoghan O’Reilly and a cluster of Mayo defenders yards from the goal.
Donegal were awarded a penalty and McFadden expertly dispatched the kick, which squeezed agonisingly under the body of Robert Hennelly.
Despite two points from Danny Kirby and Alan Freeman for Mayo in the closing stages, further late scores from the buoyant visitors through Frank McGlynn, McFadden, McGee and McBrearty ensured that Donegal snatched victory.
R Hennelly; M Walsh, S McHale, E O’Reilly; P Gardiner (1-1), D Geraghty, R Feeney; B Moran, P Harte (1-0), A Campbell; C O’Connor (1-1, 1f), M Forde, E Varley (0-2, 1f); A Freeman (0-1), J Doherty.
Subs used: R O’Connor for Boyle; F Durkin for M Forde; D Kirby (0-2, 1f) for Doherty; K Keane for P Gardiner.
P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee (0-1), F McGlynn (0-1); A Thompson, L McCloone, D Walsh; M McElhinney (0-2), P McGee, M McHugh; A Hanlon (0-1), R Bradley, D Molloy; C McFadden, (1-5, 5fs) S Griffin (0-2, 1f).
Subs used: M Boyle for R Bradley; A McFadden for A Hanlon; T McKinley for P McGrath; P McBrearty (0-2) for D Molloy.
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo)
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