Concerns for Declan Bonner as leaky Donegal also suffer Murphy blow

Captain suffers hamstring injury as Donegal come back to draw with Monaghan

Monaghan’s Conor McCarthy gets free of the Donegal defence to score  his third goal of the game in the Allianz Football League Division 1 North match at  Seán MacCumhaill Park  in Ballybofey. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Monaghan’s Conor McCarthy gets free of the Donegal defence to score his third goal of the game in the Allianz Football League Division 1 North match at Seán MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Donegal 1-20 Monaghan 4-11

As Whit Sunday dawned, Declan Bonner was surely looking to the gods.

Donegal might have salvaged a draw, coming from nine points down against Monaghan, but Saturday evening raised more questions than answers.

Chief among them was the nature of a hamstring injury that forced his captain Michael Murphy to hobble off after only five minutes. With just five weeks until Donegal begin their Championship bid, Donegal are in a sweat over the fitness of their talisman.

The scoreboard altered as often as the weather, ranging from high summer to monsoon.

For Donegal, there was real concern as Monaghan hit four goals, Conor McCarthy bagging three of them in a lethal first half. The Farney, who had Conor McManus netting in the second half, had as many other chances for goals.

“For long spells we were just far too open at the back,” Bonner said.

“Monaghan cut us open so there’s a lot of work to be done defensively. Normally we are good at defending that, but it was very open out there.

“We were breached on a number of occasions and we just needed to be better in our one v ones.”

A rapid-fire opener had the teams level 0-3 apiece when McCarthy rounded Shaun Patton for the game’s opening goal.

Seven minutes later, McCarthy held off three Donegal players to fire home and the Scotstown man was toasting a treble with the home defence seeing stars.

Donegal needed a tonic and it arrived via a cracker from Michael Langan, whose superb strike to the top corner gave them a glimmer.

Donegal’s Michael Murphy heads to the dressingrooms at half-time having earlier come off with a hamstring injury. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Donegal’s Michael Murphy heads to the dressingrooms at half-time having earlier come off with a hamstring injury. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Patton saved from Darren Hughes as Monaghan continued to punch holes, but the visitors saw full back Conor Boyle sent off for a second black-card infringement late in the first half.

McManus, sent on at the break to give Donegal’s rearguard a further headache, piled on the pressure when he rattled home a fourth goal. They might have struck again, but Niall Kearns clipped the crossbar.

Bonner said: “We need to be better all over the pitch. The finger of blame will always go to the full-back line when you concede goals, but that wasn’t the problem, it was the runners coming from deep that weren’t tracked.”

At times, the scoreboard seemed to be tallying as rapidly as the tills of McElhinney’s, the department store across the road welcoming shoppers back for its first post-restrictions weekend.

Donegal seemed out of lives, but their powers of durability at Seán MacCumhaill Park – where they have now lost just once in 29 League and Championship games since 2010 – came good again.

Donegal lost Daire Ó Baoill to a second yellow card in the 52nd minute, but they scored nine of the 11 points that were posted in the final 20 minutes.

In Murphy’s absence, Patrick McBrearty took the baton. The Kilcar man landed eight points, the last of them from an advanced mark to earn the draw. McBrearty was harshly penalised as he went to ground in a frantic closing period during which Monaghan’s Killian Lavelle was black carded.

With goalkeepers Patton and Rory Beggan joining the respective attacks, a surprise winner was on the cards on a madcap night.

As it was, Donegal – who welcomed Odhrán Mac Niallais back into the county colours – were content with what seemed an unlikely draw.

Bonner said: “It wasn’t great to be standing on the sideline watching to be honest.

“The lads really stuck at it. We could have stolen it, but we’ll take the draw. It was always an uphill task, but there is great character in the squad and they fought really hard.”

DONEGAL: S Patton; E Gallagher (0-1), N McGee, B McCole; R McHugh, P Brennan, P Mogan (0-1); H McFadden, C McGonagle (0-1); N O’Donnell (0-2), C Thompson (0-2), M Langan (1-1); P McBrearty (0-8, three frees, 1 mark), M Murphy, O Gallen (0-3).

Subs: E McHugh (0-1) for Brennan (h/t), O Mac Niallais for McFadden (45), S McMenamin for McGee (54), P McGrath for Gallagher, J McGee for McCole (both 63).

MONAGHAN: R Beggan; K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; K O’Connell (0-1), K McMenamin, R McAnespie (0-1); D Hughes, K Lavelle; S O’Hanlon, A Mulligan (0-3, two frees), M Bannigan (0-2, one free); C McCarthy (3-1), A Woods (0-1), S Jones.

Subs: C McManus (1-2, two frees) for Jones (h/t), S Hanratty for Bannigan (42), N Kearns for Woods (52), J McCarron for O’Hanlon, C Lennon for O’Connell (both 58), G Mohan for Mulligan (70+4)

Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).

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