Dublin 2-10 Donegal 0-11
A terrific Jack McCaffrey goal seven minutes from time clinched a first win of the 2015 Allianz Football League for Dublin, pushing them to a 2-10 to 0-11 victory n over Donegal.
Jim Gavin’s side managed it despite losing Kevin McManamon to a red card 25 minutes from the end of what turned out to be a tempestuous enough encounter.
Not that it wasn’t enjoyable. Far from it. Though the Croke Park lights were never in grave danger of being shot out, there were enough moments of genuine distinction to make it worth the admission. For every early-season oversight, there was a reminder of what we miss when the intercounty game goes dark for the winter.
The first Dublin goal five minutes in was a case in point. It began with a howler - Paul Durcan's kickout going straight to Eric Lowndes and the late Dublin replacement fed Kevin McManamon. A gorgeous inside kick-pass from McManamon found Lowndes who had continued his run and, when he found Cormac Costello, the corner-forward rounded Durcan to finish the move.
Whatever about the rust involved in Durcan's mistake - and it was his last act of the night as he took a knee to the head from Karl Lacey in trying to stop Costello - McManamon's pass was a piece of summer smuggled into February.
At the other end, Michael Murphy, too, was making a mockery of the date. He scored the first point of the night on the run from a Christy Toye pass and potted the second from a free with the outside of his boot from 50 metres soon after.
Donegal probably weren’t moving just as slick as their hosts but as long as Murphy was able to get on the ball, they were usually causing trouble.
Patrick McBrearty came into matters too as the evening rolled by. With Dublin 1-3 to 0-3 ahead on 24 minutes - smart points coming from Emmet Ó Conghaile, Eoghan O'Gara and Davy Byrne, adding ballast to Costello's early goal - McBrearty fastened on to the end of a zippy Murphy run to stick his first of the night.
He followed it a minute later with his second and by now the game was ticking along at a fair old clip. Dean Rock iced a couple of placed balls before Christy Toye and McBrearty again closed out the first half's scoring. They went to the break with Dublin a point up, 1-5 to 0-7.
The temperature was rising all the while. Neil McGee came in off the bench and straight away initiated a dialogue with anyone who came into his general sphere - whether they wanted to listen or not. He and Kevin McManamon found themselves with a yellow card apiece soon after his arrival and when McManamon clipped Mark McHugh as he came out of defence early in the second half, Dublin were down to 14.
As the game got bumpier and thumpier, it seemed to suit Donegal’s rhythm better than Dublin’s. Though Rock kept the scoreboard ticking with his pinpoint frees, Murphy, McBrearty and Toye knocked over classy points at the other end. By midway through the second half, there was still just a point in it and Dublin hadn’t kicked a score from play for 33 minutes.
Dublin had become a little laboured in attack with Donegal’s massed defence gumming up the works on them time and again. McCaffrey found space through the simple tactic of running into it very, very fast.
His first contribution was a point on the run to push Dublin two clear before he polished off the game with a cracking goal. After playing a one-two with Davy Byrne, McCaffrey sprinted to the edge of Donegal’s big square and pinged a right-footed shot high into the top right corner.
It put Dublin 2-9 to 0-11 up with seven minutes to go and wiped all doubt from the issue.
Colm McFadden and Ciarán Kilkenny swapped points and there was still enough time for Michael Murphy to see a black card - to the Hill’s obvious glee.
Dublin scorers: Dean Rock 0-5 (0-4f, 0-1 45'); Jack McCaffrey 1-1; Cormac Costello 1-0; Emmett O'Conghaille, Eoghan O'Gara, Davy Byrne, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-1 each
Donegal scorers: Michael Murphy (0-2f), Paddy McBrearty (0-1f) 0-4 each; Christy Toye 0-2; Colm McFadden 0-1
Dublin: S Currie; E Culligan, M Fitzsimons, D Daly; J Cooper, J Small, E Lowndes; D Bastick, E O'Conghaile; T Brady, D Rock, Davy Byrne; K McManamon, E O'Gara, C Costello.
Subs: David Byrne for Culligan (16), C Kilkenny for Brady (18), J McCaffrey for Lowndes (48), P McMahon for Cooper (60), B Brogan for Costello (64), C Reddan for Davy Byrne (68).
Donegal: P Durcan; E Doherty, E McGee, P McGrath; F McGlynn, K Lacey, M McHugh; N Gallagher, C Toye; R McHugh, M O'Reilly, O MacNiallis; P McBrearty, M Murphy, H McFadden.
Subs: M Boyle for Durcan (7), N McGee for McGrath (19), M McElhinney for O'Reilly (46), C McFadden for H McFadden (54), D O'Connor for Doherty (64), D McLaughlin for Murphy (black card) (68).
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).