Down 0-7 Donegal 3-15: Rory Gallagher wants Donegal’s established players to feel the heat from the next generation, and there were loads of positives for him to take from Saturday night’s emphatic league win in Newry.
The result and the performance was an encouraging for Donegal as it was embarrassing for Down, with a 17-point hammering on home ground a painful start to what will be a difficult Division One campaign.
While Michael Murphy’s dead ball striking provided Donegal with eight points, young Kilcar duo Ryan McHugh and Patrick McBrearty fired in the second-half goals, two of which were set up by newcomer Ciaran Thompson.
His impressive debut, allied to a good cameo later by Stephen McBrearty, pleased the manager who is well aware he needs to inject fresh legs into his set-up.
“It’s something we are conscious of since this group got going,” he admitted.
“Since I got involved myself at the end of 2010, only really Ryan (McHugh) and Odhran (MacNiallais) have broken into the established fifteen.
“We are genuinely looking for another eight fellas from the underage teams coming through.”
At the other end of the age spectrum, Neil Gallagher came on while Rory Kavanagh also got 10 minutes in his first appearance since the 2014 All-Ireland final.
Donegal had the game won by half time, leading 0-9 to 0-3 at the interval thanks to six placed balls from Murphy, his sideline point from the 13m line a particular highlight.
Gallagher was pleased Donegal showed a ruthless edge and didn’t ease up: “We were in a good position at half time but to be fair to the boys they didn’t sit back,” he said.
“We have a tendency to do that and rely on our defensive qualities too much when we have the lead, and once the first goal went in it was comfortable.”
Down only managed two points from play in a dismal day for them .
Donal O’Hare’s poorly struck penalty in the 19th minute, at a stage when they trailed 0-4 to 0-2, was easily pushed out by new Donegal ‘keeper Peter Boyle and Down’s challenge withered.
To compound their woes, they lost Ryan Johnston in the first half with a suspected dislocated shoulder and Donal O’Hare received a straight red card four minutes from time.
Eamonn McGee, who came on after his brother Neil was black-carded for tripping Johnston for the penalty, also saw black in the same off-the-ball clash with O’Hare.
This was quite a stern wake-up call for Down. With still no indication whether Marty Clarke or Conor Laverty will return, and no sign of Benny Coulter or Caolan Mooney at the weekend, the future looks uncertain.
“It was a difficult night for us, and the boys are a bit annoyed with how they played,” admitted Burns.
“The Down mentality is to face the challenge, and we will do that.”
Once McHugh fisted home the first goal in the 40th minute after exchanging passes with Ciaran Thompson, Donegal were home and hosed.
McBrearty caught a great high ball and buried his shot low to the corner of the net two minutes later, with McHugh flicking to the net again after 58 minutes.
S Kane; D O’Hagan, G McGovern, M Magee; M Hughes, C McGovern (0-1), R Boyle; P Turley, H Brown; J Murphy, M Poland, K McKernan; R Johnston, A McConville (0-2, 1f), D O’Hare (0-4, 4f).
C Harrison for Johnston (29), D O’Hanlon for Murphy (BC, 29), N Madine for McConville (39), M McKay for Turley (47), S Dornan for Poland (55), A Carr for C McGovern (BC, 58).
P Boyle; E Doherty, N McGee, P McGrath; R McHugh (2-0), F McGlynn (0-1), A Thompson; O MacNiallais, H McFadden; M Carroll, C Thompson (0-1), E McHugh; P McBrearty (1-3, 2f), M Murphy (0-8, 7f), M O’Reilly.
E McGee for N McGee (BC, 20), L McLoone (0-2) for Carroll (45), S McBrearty for MacNiallais (53), N Gallagher for C Thompson (59), R Kavanagh for O’Reilly (61), C McGonagle for R McHugh (63).
David Gough (Meath)
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