Unbeaten Donegal close on top flight

DONEGAL’S evolution under the management of Jim McGuinness continues to take shape, although there are a few creases that need to be ironed out before Antrim return to the north-west in the Ulster championship opener in six weeks.

McGuinness’s team were comfortable winners in yesterday’s Division Two meeting in Ballyshannon. They remain unbeaten this term and are now on the cusp of a return to the top-flight with only Laois to play, while Antrim are in serious danger of falling through the trapdoor.

Liam Bradley’s side were decimated by a spate of withdrawals, most notably Paddy Cunningham and the McGourtys, and despite having a strong wind at their backs in the opening half, trailed by five points to no score before the 10-minute mark, with Colm McFadden on form for Donegal.

However, thanks to Thomas McCann, Antrim gnawed into the arrears and came back to level, only for Michael Hegarty to give the hosts a two-point half-time advantage, 0-8 to 0-6.

McFadden drove home a goal on 52 minutes having been set free by Anthony Thompson, while Michael Murphy, Rory Kavanagh, Dermot Molloy, Kevin Cassidy, Karl Lacey and Ryan Bradley all popped over scores.

Brian Neeson’s goal 15 minutes from time did bring the visitors certain consolation.

“If Tyrone or Kerry were in that position they would’ve gone for the jugular, but we took our foot off the gas to let Antrim back into the game,” said McGuinness afterwards.

“A rut can set in then and you can get frustrated. It’s hard to turn that around. We should have pushed on but I am glad in a way that it happened as we have them in the first round of the championship so we will be taking nothing for granted.

“After scrambling a draw against Sligo in the first game we have gathered momentum and we’ll be looking to continue that in Portlaoise.

“Look, it’s great to be going well and in with a shout of promotion but when I took over here I said the important one is Antrim in the championship and we’re looking towards that game more than anything.”

Donegal scorers: C McFadden 1-5 (2f), M Murphy 0-3 (2f), D Molloy 0-2 (2f), K Cassidy, M Hegarty 0-2, R Kavanagh, K Lacey, R Bradley 0-1.

Antrim scorers: T McCann 0-5 (3f), B Neeson 1-1 (1f), T O’Neill 0-2.

DONEGAL: P Durcan; J Noctor, N McGee, A Thompson; F McGlynn, K Lacey, K Cassidy; R Kavanagh, M McElhinney; M McHugh, M Hegarty, D Molloy; R Bradley, M Murphy, C McFadden.

Subs: N Gallagher for McElhinney 47; A Hanlon for Molloy 50; D Walsh for Noctor 59.

ANTRIM: S O’Neill; C Brady, R Johnston, A Douglas; T Scullion, A Healy, M McAleese; A Gallagher, S Burke; T O’Neill, M Sweeney, C Murray; K Brady, B Heron, T McCann.

Subs: B Neeson for McAleese 50; D Edwards for Gallagher 63; C Fleming for McCann 68.

Referee: Martin Duffy (Sligo).

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