Down 1-10 Donegal 1-9
Down came from behind to pip Ulster rivals Donegal in an Allianz Football League thriller at Pairc Esler tonight.
Points from Aidan Brannigan, Liam Doyle (free) and Conor Garvey steered the Mourne men to a tight victory, after Martin McElhinney had netted for Donegal.
James McCartan’s side established a 1-5 to 0-6 half-time, starting strongly with Doyle putting his name to the goal.
Mark McHugh, Karl Lacey and Patrick McBrearty all pointed before the break, helping Donegal find their rhythm, and the Ulster champions will be frustrated that they failed to push on after substitute McElhinney’s score.
In the end, they wasted a number of late chances to take something from the game with substitute Dermot Molloy missing an kickable free and goalkeeper Paul Durcan sending a ‘45’ wide.
The early signs were good for Down, a run of points from Peter Turley, Benny Coulter and Doyle seeing them canter into a 0-3 to 0-0 after just four minutes.
Turley turned provider to tee up Doyle’s seventh-minute, which was in response to Donegal’s first point from a Stephen Griffin free.
Jim McGuinness’ men enjoyed a purple patch as McHugh sent over a brace of points and Patrick McBrearty found his range from a free.
Doyle answered back for Down, launching over a superb point from far out, and the hosts kept ahead for the break with a late free from Aidan Carr closing out the scoring.
The intensity increased in the second half, the sides exchanging points initially before Anthony Thompson reduced the arrears to the minimum.
In the 50th minute some good approach work from Martin Reilly and Neil Gallagher gave McElhinney enough time and space to find the net.
Donegal were suddenly ahead for the first time, but they could only add one further point as Down wrestled back control of this provincial derby.
The excellent Doyle landed two more frees and Garvey and Brannigan were also on target. Molloy struck a point from play in response, but finding an equaliser proved beyond Donegal in the dying minutes.
Scorers: Down: L Doyle 1-4 (0-2f), A Brannigan 0-2, B Coulter, C Garvey, A Carr (0-1f), D Gordon 0-1 each
Donegal: M McElhinney 1-0, M McHugh, P McBrearty (0-2f), S Griffin (0-2f) 0-2 each, D Molloy, K Lacey, A Thompson 0-1 each
DOWN: B McVeigh; O Costello, D McCartan, K Quinn; A Brannigan, L Doyle, D Turley; P Turley, D Gordon; G McCartan, A Carr, M Poland; M Miskelly, C Laverty, B Coulter.
Subs used: R Brady for Miskelly (32 mins), C Garvey for Coulter (49), N McParland for Quinn, A Rogers for Brannigan (both 52), E McCartan for Poland (68).
DONEGAL: P Durkan; F McGlynn, N McGee, P McGrath; A Thompson, K Lacey, L McLoone; R Kavanagh, N Gallagher; D Walsh, M McHugh, C Classon; R Bradley, P McBrearty, S Griffin.
Subs used: M McElhinney for Classon (25 mins), M Reilly for Walsh (35), D Molloy for Griffin (49), A Hanlon for McLoone (67).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)