Impressive Donegal show they are far from a finished force

Magnificent Murphy to the fore as Galway are overrun in a one-sided second half

Donegal 3-12 Galway 0-11

Twenty eight scoreless minutes notwithstanding, the growing theory that Donegal are a team past their peak can be momentarily dispelled.

Mayo will investigate that theory further.

But look what they made do without; Eamonn McGee (ankle) didn’t reappear after half-time, Patrick McBrearty was hauled off when his fourth wide overshadowed an earlier 1-1 and they were devoured around midfield until Martin McElhinney’s arrival.


Hope lingers for Karl Lacey’s return in time for Saturday’s mouthwatering All-Ireland quarter-final.

Now look at what they did and how they did it. Above all, Michael Murphy continues to carve his legacy into the Croke Park soil.

Australians would call him the sparkly eyed man. Herculean in single combat with Galway’s big athletic fullback Finian Hanley, Murphy is willing to do anything in the course of 70 minutes to bring a favourable result Donegal’s way.

The captain keeps Colm McFadden young, he rewards Ryan McHugh’s constant motion with point-blank sights of goal, he even becomes a defensive-minded wing back when the system demands it.

“We’re a group of footballers who are always hungry for success,” said the 25-year-old. “It doesn’t always go our way, but that’s life.

“You’re going to get the knocks as well as the successes in life.

“We’ve got a number of brilliant lads and we’re very, very friendly as a group of players and we want to do our best for ourselves and do our best, more importantly, for Donegal.”

This contest can be narrowed down to Murphy versus Hanley. Having stood beside Neil Gallagher for both throw-in’s, Murphy was irrepressible as a traditional full forward when it mattered most.

After 43 minutes he ended their barren scoring spell with a free only brought into range after Hanley said something to annoy referee Eddie Kinsella.

Impossible ball

Moments later Murphy won an impossible ball from behind and over Hanley’s head before bouncing up and pointing.

A colossus, no other footballer in the country could repeat his feats with such regularity but Galway were naive to think Hanley could handle him alone.

Next he drew the foul which led to a McFadden’s third point.

The end came swiftly as Murphy again soared above Hanley before softly punching possession into McHugh’s hand. Just as he silenced Dublin last year, the dagger was planted in Galway this time as he slid the ball low to the net.

Kevin Walsh’s team were decent, well-organised and still overrun.

McFadden started and finished like a freight train as it felt like Galway would be consumed by this strategically advanced power game.

McBrearty’s sixth minute goal made it 1-2 to 0-1. That came from calamitous Galway defending.

Leaving a two on two situation – McFadden and McBrearty against Johnny Duane and Cathal Sweeney – seemed nothing short of naive. McFadden fed McBrearty who practically walked the ball into the Hill end goal.

Galway chipped away with Gary Sice frees and a Thomas Flynn point from distance while a lovely score by Paul Conroy left it level, 1-4 to 0-7, at the interval.

It helped that Donegal ceased scoring after McBrearty’s 16th minute point – which really should have been a Frankie McGlynn goal – until Murphy’s 44th minute free.

"There is a pattern there in all our games where we started very well and fall away after 15 minutes," Rory Gallagher conceded.

“It is something we are aware of and are keen to address. Then the second half we come out all guns blazing. We need to be more consistent.

“Obviously you start at a hundred mile an hour and you tire a wee bit, other teams get to grips with you as well, but it is something we are going to have to address.”

Each county had a serious black card scare but Kinsella felt it prudent to flash yellows at Sice and then Murphy for high arm fouls.

Worst enemy

Donegal finally started to dominate possession around midfield in the second half while Odhrán Mac Niallais sparked to life with two vital points. And then there was Murphy.

Yet they remain their own worst enemy; McBrearty brought the wide count up to ten, it finished at 14, one less than the Ulster final. At least McFadden was on song.

A black card did eventually come but Paddy McGrath can feel justified considering it was a three-point game on 51 minutes. The corner back became the sacrificial lamb, denying a probable goal when hauling Flynn to ground. Sice pointed the free but Galway needed so much more.

Anyway, Donegal were relentless to the end with Christy Toye plundering a third goal as they looked awfully like how they were last year or 2012 and nothing like 2013 when Mayo destroyed them.

DONEGAL: 1 Paul Durkin; 3 Neil McGee, 4 Eamonn McGee, 2 Paddy McGrath; 17 Éamonn Doherty, 7 Frank McGlynn, 5 Ryan McHugh (1-0); 8 Neil Gallagher, 14 Michael Murphy (capt, 0-3, two frees); 21 Hugh McFadden, 11 Odhrán Mac Niallais (0-3), 12 Mark McHugh; 19 Martin O'Reilly, 13 Patrick McBrearty (1-2), 15 Colm McFadden (0-4, one free).

Subs: 6 Anthony Thompson for E McGee, 9 Martin McElhinney for M O'Reilly (both half-time), 18 Declan Walsh for P McGrath (black, 52 mins), 22 Leo McLoone for P McBrearty (53 mins), 10 Christy Toye (1-0) for H McFadden (67).

GALWAY: 1 Brian O'Donoghue; 3 Finian Hanley, 4 Cathal Sweeney, 2 Johnny Duane; 7 Gareth Bradshaw, 6 Gary O'Donnell, 5 Liam Silke; 8 Fiontán Ó Curraoin, 9 Thomas Flynn (0-1); 10 Gary Sice (0-4, all frees), 11 Paul Conroy (capt, 0-1), 12 Michael Lundy; 15 Danny Cummins (0-1), 13 Adrian Varley (0-2), 14 Damien Comer (0-1, free).

Subs: 22 Patrick Sweeney for P Conroy, 26 Shane Walsh (0-1) for A Varley (both 56 mins), 21 Peadar Óg Ó Gríofa for D Cummins (62 mins), 17 Seán Denvir for M Lundy (66 mins), 20 Michael Martin for T Flynn, 24 Enda Tierney for G Sice (both 68 mins).

Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent