Donegal waltzed back to the top flight of the Allianz League with a comprehensive 13-point win over a listless Kildare at Fr Tierney Park in Ballyshannon yesterday.
After Kevin McLoughlin’s last-gasp score relegated the side managed by Declan Bonner a year ago, their promotion was so much simpler thanks to the end-of-campaign wins over Armagh and Cork helping to set up a final appearance against Meath this coming weekend.
Donegal last tasted success in Division 2 in Jim McGuinness’s first campaign as manager back in 2011.
Yesterday on the banks of the Erne, Donegal hit the ground running and never looked back from there.
By the interval, they were 0-13 to 0-1 in front having used the wind to their advantage.
Jamie Brennan scored the only goal of the game on 46 minutes when he finished off a good move with Jason McGee providing the final pass.
Niall O’Donnell and Oisin Gallen were both on the scoresheet early as Kildare struggled to make any impact.
Jason McGee, who was returning from suspension following a straight red card against Armagh three weeks ago, was also on the scoresheet.
Donegal won Ulster last year and will begin their defence of the Anglo-Celt Cup against Fermanagh, who are under the stewardship of Rory Gallagher. The strength of the panel Donegal have is apparent as Paddy McGrath made his first appearance of the year, as did Neil McGee.
The 2012 All-Ireland winning full-back was making his 173rd appearance of the county, which equaled the record set by Colm McFadden.
Ryan McHugh and Daire Ó Baoill chipped in with scores as Donegal were 0-13 to 0-1 ahead at the break. Neil Flynn had Kildare’s point on 24 minutes.
With promotion all but assured even then, Donegal did the necessary in the second half.
Brennan goaled to keep their steady advantage and although the visitors did improve with Adam Tyrell scoring four points, Eoin Doyle’s black card for an off-the-ball incident didn’t help matters.
Donegal were a little sloppy in the second half as they already had one eye on Croke Park.
However, they managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over, with Gallen capping a fine personal performance with four points from play.
Chris Healy was denied a consolation goal for Kildare with Shaun Patton producing a fine save in the dying moments.
Scorers for Donegal: O Gallen, M Murphy (2f, 1 ’45) 0-4 each, J Brennan 1-1, N O’Donnell, R McHugh 0-3 each, J McGee 0-2, C McGonagle, H McFadden, D Ó Baoill 0-1 each
Scorers for Kildare: A Tyrell 0-4 (1f), P Brophy (1f), J Hyland 0-2 each, C O’Donoghue, N Flynn (f) 0-1 each
DONEGAL:S Patton; P McGrath, B McCole, S McMenamin; D Ó Baoill, L McLoone, E Ban Gallagher; H McFadden, J McGee; N O’Donnell, R McHugh, C McGonagle; O Gallen, M Murphy, J Brennan.
Subs: N McGee for McCole (57), E McHugh for Ó Baoill (61), P Brennan for Gallen (63), F McGlynn for McLoone (67), C Ward for R McHugh (68).
KILDARE: M Donnellan; D Hyland, M O’Grady, M Hyland; C O’Donoghue, E Doyle, P Kelly; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, P Brophy, K Cribbin; N Flynn, C Healy, J Hyland.
Subs: A Tyrell for Cribben (half-time), J Murray for Conway (48), A Masterson for Flynn (53), T Archibald for Brophy (57), M Barrett for O’Donoghue (62).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).