Magnificent Murphy brings calm to a right Royal storm

You know what? These Super 8s might be something after all.

Magnificent Murphy brings calm to a right Royal storm


You know what? These Super 8s might be something after all.

Yesterday in Balybofey there was a meaty scent in the air from the fast food vans, the tailbacks trickling back as far as Drumkeen on the north and Barnesmore to the south with the baking sun overhead adding ingredients in what felt like a real championship occasion in a tightly-packed ground away up in the north-west.

On the face of it, it doesn’t sound like much of a story; a nine-point winning margin for Donegal against a Meath team priced as much as 8/1 to become only the second away side to win at MacCumhaill Park in league or championship this decade.

But that was only half the story of an exciting contest in which the underdogs had the audacity to come from five points down to lead through a Darragh Campion point on 54 minutes, only to fall flat on their face against the same team for the third time this season.

Midway through that second half, with Meath 1-12 to 1-11 in front, there was a potent mix of excitement and anxiety rolling onto the pitch from the sunburnt terraces that you’d usually only hear in Castlebar when Mayo are doing what they do.

Donegal had gotten jittery, but they didn’t lose their way. Driven on by their majestic captain Michael Murphy they maintained their composure when everyone around seemed to be losing theirs.

In the last quarter or so, they outscored Meath 1-8 to 0-1 with the latest in their production line of talented young forwards, 19-year-old Oisin Gallen, coolly taking on a Frank McGlynn pass two minutes into injury-time, making an angle for himself before placing the ball past Andrew Colgan in the Meath goal.

Patrick McBrearty, seemingly a veteran at just 25 years of age, posted 1-6 on the occasion of his 100th inter-county appearance.

His goal on 25 minutes was electric, stampeding in from the left touchline from Ciaran Thompson’s pass, after Shaun Patton’s quick-thinking kickout under the shadow of the main stand, to smash home.

“I thought we showed real character to come back,” Donegal manager Declan Bonner said afterwards. We’d have taken a one-point victory.

The main objective here was to win. We had a home match first in the Super 8s so it was important that we got two points on the board.

“You’re not going to be dominating games for 70-plus minutes. Meath are a good side. They’re a Division 1 side. They were going to get their spell of domination. And we didn’t handle it that well.

“But I thought the character the lads showed in finishing off that last quarter was a really, really good performance.”

Conditions couldn’t have been starker from Meath’s last visit to Ballybofey when Jack Frost was in the sparsely-attended ground and rumours of a postponement filled the February air with ice clinging onto the terraces.

But his feeling leaving yesterday would’ve been something very similar: one of what might have been.

In February, Donegal’s 1-13 to 0-14 victory marked another turnaround as Meath had been four points up with just 11 minutes remaining before stopping dead in their tracks.

Then, at the Division 2 final in March, the Royal County were 1-6 to 0-1 in front on 13 minutes before Donegal turned it around to win 1-17 to 1-15.

With five Ulster titles and an All-Ireland under his belt, a leader like Murphy could quell any storm.

Positioned at centre-forward, he was a pivotal part in Donegal’s offensive endeavours, knocked over a 45 late on, repositioned himself in front of his own square when Donegal had the advantage they needed and even was on hand on the goal line to stop a late optimistic shot from Seamus Lavin.

The first half wasn’t too far off what was expected. Meath were giving Donegal their fill of it with Cillian O’Sullivan and Odhran McFadden-Ferry’s dual one of the most interesting in a game of chess in coloured jerseys, which broke from the norm mainly due to the direct running of Ryan McHugh.

Bryan McMahon was having joy at the other end.

It was a Meath effort that Andy McEntee felt put the tame Leinster final flop firmly in the past.

“What other people think does not bother us but some of the critique is fair, some unfair. You have to take it with a pinch of salt. Our job is to play the game and I thought lads put in a decent shift.”

But the hosts had Murphy, McBrearty and Jamie Brennan firing and their four-point interval lead of 1-9 to 0-8 was merited.

The second half saw the temperature gauge rise, with James Conlon slapping off the post as Patton slightly misjudged a dropping O’Sullivan ball.

Donegal edged out to 1-11 to 0-9 in front with successive McBrearty points and again, this is what was to be expected?

However, a disallowed Meath goal, when Gavin McCoy slapped in at the back post after Patton had made an excellent point-blank save from McMahon on 41 minutes, stirred the visitors.

Three minutes later, referee Conor Lane awarded Meath a penalty, which Donegal claimed was of the soft variety, when Daire O Baoill was adjudged to have fouled Donal Keogan’s progressive run.

Michael Newman scored the penalty and then back to back points from McMahon and Menton had Meath level at 1-11 apiece. Campion then put them in front.

Things, though, got too hot and it was Donegal who kept their cool. On the face of it, it was perhaps as big a win as they’ve ever managed on their home turf in Ballybofey. And next week they’ve Kerry at Croke Park.

Who ever said these Super 8s were boring?

Scorers for Donegal:

P McBrearty (1-6, 3f), Oisin Gallen (1-1), Michael Murphy (0-3, 45), Jamie Brennan (0-3), Ryan McHugh (0-2), Michael Langan, Jason McGee, Niall O’Donnell, Eoin McHugh (0-1 each).

Scorers for Meath:

Michael Newman (1-2, 1-0 pen), Bryan McMahon (0-3), Bryan Menton, Cillian O’Sullivan (0-2 each), Shane McEntee, James McEntee, James Conlon, Darragh Campion (0-1).


S Patton; S McMenamin, N McGee, O McFadden-Ferry; R McHugh, P Brennan, E Ban Gallagher; H McFadden, J McGee; C Thompson, N O’Donnell, M Murphy P McBrearty, M Langan, J Brennan.


D O Baoill for P Brennan (43), E McHugh and O Gallen for Thompson and O’Donnell (49), F McGlynn for J McGee (61), E Doherty for McFadden-Ferry (68), C Ward for McMenamin (70+1)


Andrew Colgan, Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; Donal Keogan, Padraic Harnan, Gavin McCoy; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Ethan Devine, Bryan McMahon, James McEntee; Cillian O’Sullivan, Michael Newman, James Conlon.


Shane Walsh for Conlon (43), Darragh Campion for Devine (46), Sean Curran for Gallagher (black card, 57), Graham Reilly for B McMahon (63), Adam Flanagan for S McEntee (66), Thomas O’Reilly for O’Sullivan (70)


C Lane (Cork).

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