Donegal's Michael Murphy on the attack against Longford.
Five points separated the sides in Ballybofey this evening however the truth of the matter was that Denis Connerton’s Longford charges made Donegal work extremely hard for this 0-12 to 0-7 victory and put up a gallant display.
Longford, who defeated Louth in the previous round of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers and were hoping to continue their qualifier giant killing exploits, also had to play the closing twenty-five minutes with 14 players after James McGivney was sent off, after picking up a second yellow card.
The teams were deadlocked at 0-5 apiece at that stage and Donegal went on to outscore the visitors by 0-7 to 0-2 over the closing minutes.
Longford led by 0-4 to 0-3 at half time as both sides were focused on containment and it wasn’t easy viewing for the 9,915 attendance.
Donegal amassed ten opening half wides to Longford’s nine and it certainly wasn’t a contest for the purists. Indeed, by the final whistle, Longford’s wides tally reached 17, two more than the winners.
Longford showed their illustrious hosts little respect and they opened the scoring in the 3rd minute with a pointed free from Robbie Smyth. Michael Murphy levelled for Donegal with a well struck free from distance.
Longford’s forwards drew Donegal defenders into fouls and two further pointed frees from David McGivney gave them a two point lead, 0-3 to 0-1, in the 21st minute.
Robbie Smyth very nearly caught Donegal’s keeper Mark Anthony McGinley out when he flicked the ball over his head but the ball bounced wide of the post.
The first point from play came in the 22nd minute through Paddy McBrearty. It was Donegal’s first score in 16 minutes.
Longford lost sweeper Daniel Mimnagh in the 25th minute through a black card after he hauled down Murphy.
Both sides then wasted scoring opportunities and the next point didn’t come until the 32nd minute; McGivney kicking over his third free of the game.
Right before the break Donegal got a much needed point through sub Martin McElhinney to leave them just trailing by one point; 0-4 to 0-3.
Despite restoring their two point advantage in the 37th minute Longford were dealt a blow minutes later when Darren Gallagher received a black card. They then kicked two wides in a row during a dominant spell.
Murphy (free) and McElhinney drew Donegal level at 0-5 apiece before Longford were reduced to 14 men in the 48th minute when James McGivney was shown a second yellow by Armagh referee Padraig Hughes.
With numerical advantage, Donegal began to get on top. They took the lead for the first time in the 49th minute and Diarmuid Masterson equalised with a top drawer strike, 0-6 all.
Donegal, however, were three up by the 58th minute. They also decided to empty their bench and spring some of their big guns in the guise of Mark McHugh and Karl Lacey. The impressive McBrearty kept the scoreboard ticking over for Donegal with pointed frees, and Longford’s only riposte came from Robbie Smyth (free).
It wasn’t a vintage performance from Donegal, but it was a case of job done, and after losing to Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final, they are now safely through to round 3 of the qualifiers.
Donegal - Paddy McBrearty 0-5 (0-4 frees), Michael Murphy 0-3 (all frees), Martin McElhinney 0-2, Jamie Brennan 0-1, Eoin McHugh 0-1.
Longford - Robbie Smyth 0-3 (all frees), David McGivney 0-3 (all frees), Diarmuid Masterson 0-1.
DONEGAL: Mark Anthony McGinley; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Caolan Ward; Ryan McHugh, Frank McGlynn, Eoghan Bán Gallagher; Jason McGee, Ciarán Thompson; Michael Carroll, Martin O’Reilly, Eoin McHugh; Paddy McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Cian Mulligan.
Subs: Martin McElhinney for M Carroll (28 mins), Hugh McFadden for J McGee (49 mins), Jamie Brennan for M O’Reilly (53 mins), Mark McHugh for F McGlynn (55 mins), Karl Lacey for M Langan (57 mins)
LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr Manning Gaels); Diarmuid Masterson (Dromard), Padraig McCormack (Emmet Og), Barry Gilleran (Longford Slashers); Donal McElligott (St Columba’s), Michael Quinn (Emmet Og), Dessie Reynolds (Sean Connolly’s); John Keegan (St Columba’s), David McGivney (St Columba’s); Daniel Mimnagh (Emmet Og), James McGivney (St Columba’s), Darren Gallagher (St Mary’s); Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara), Liam Connerton (Rathcline), Barry McKeon (Colmcille).
Subs: Connor Berry (Abbeylara) for D Mimnagh bc (26 mins), Larry Moran (Emmet Og) for D Gallagher bc (42 mins), Andrew Farrell (Cashel) for B McKeon and Ronan McEntire (Dromard) for D McGivney (66 mins), Joe Kelly (Ballymahon) for L Connerton (69 mins).
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)