By Mark Jones
Dublin lost their unbeaten record in Div. 1A of the National Football League when Donegal took the precious points with a deserved 1-8 to 0-9 victory Sunday at Ballyshannon. Dublin now have to win their final two games to be sure of the playoffs, while if results go their way, Donegal could also make the knockout stages.
The winning manager, Declan Bonner, wasn’t overly concerned with the future as he witnessed an overdue success following three defeats by one-point margins.
"A lot of people have written us off already, but we knew within the camp that there’s more in this side," he said.
Despite Dublin’s quick start with the wind at their backs, Donegal defended intelligently and, crucially, they grabbed a goal coming up to the interval.
Brian McLaughlin’s low cross was driven into the net by Brian Roper and from then on the home team never lost the initiative.
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As the Dublin attack struggled — only Dessie Farrell could have been pleased with his afternoon’s work — Aidan Sweeney, John Duffy, Noel Hegarty and Roper all scored points to emphasize Donegal’s superiority.
Armagh 2-10, Cork 2-9
Cork, who like Dublin had been previously unbeaten, went down to Armagh at Pairc Ui Rinn where an injury time score by Peter Loughlin did the trick. It finished 2-10 to 2-9 in favor of the Ulster county who now join Cork and Dublin at the top of the table with seven points from five games.
It was a frustrating ending for Cork as they had battled back to draw level in the final minutes through Padraig O’Mahony when substitute Loughlin outjumped goalkeeper Des McAuley to punch the ball over the bar for the match-winning point.
Philip Clifford struck with two goals for Cork. However, Armagh were not to be deterred and Diarmuid Marsden and Cathal O’Rourke responded in kind.
Tyrone 1-13, Galway 0-7
Peter Canavan kept Tyrone in the hunt for a playoff place when he masterminded a 1-13 to 0-7 victory over Galway at Tuam. Canavan was in brilliant form, scoring 0-6 and setting up a goal for Matt McGleenan after a superb run.
Galway didn’t help their cause when both Ray Silke and John Divilly were sent off, while Tyrone midfielder Ciaran McBride also received his marching orders for a second bookable offense.
Kildare 0-10, Clare 1-5
In Div. 1B leaders Kildare survived the sending-off of Willie McCreery to see off the challenge of Clare by 0-10 to 1-5 at Ennis. Nine other players, five from Kildare and four from Clare, were booked in a testy game.
Although Kildare were under tremendous pressure in the closing stages, Karl O’Dwyer was able to seal his team’s win with a glorious point a minute from time. Earlier, a Ger Keane goal had put Clare in front and when McCreery was sent off for a second yellow card, the Leinster champions had to dig in.
However, they showed great character as Clare surged forward and Brian Lacey, John Finn and Anthony Rainbow shored up the defense.
Derry 0-11, Meath 0-5
Meath turned in their most disappointing performance of the campaign when they were well beaten 0-11 to 0-5 by Derry at Navan. Usually a loquacious analyst, all Meath manager Sean Boylan would say was "terrible."
For Derry’s part, it was a first win of the season for returning manager Eamonn Coleman and his stalwarts from the early 1990s, Anthony Tohill, Joe Brolly and Gary Coleman, who did the business this time.
Thanks mainly to the incisive form of Brolly in attack, Derry were ahead by 0-6 to 0-2 at the break and despite playing against the wind during the second half, they produced by far the better football.
Mayo 1-10, Monaghan 0-6
Mayo kept up the pressure on the leaders with a convincing 1-10 to 0-6 victory over Monaghan at Scotstown which moves them up into third place. A David Nestor goal after just six minutes put them on their way and with Pat Fallon and James Nallen leading the way in midfield, the result was never in doubt.
Monaghan came more into the contest after the changeover, but they were chasing a lost cause as Mayo picked off scores through James Horan, Maurice Sheridan and Michael Moyles with considerable ease.
Down 1-7, Laois 0-5
Laois remain rooted at the foot of the table after a missed penalty cost them dear at Newcastle where Down came through by 1-7 to 0-5. Ian Fitzgerald’s second-half spot kick flew tamely wide and Down responded with a late goal by Gregory Deegan which secured the win.
Div. 2A Results
Kerry were hard pressed as they scraped home by 1-7 to 0-9 against Limerick at Tralee. The winners were relieved to hear the final whistle as they managed only one point during the second half despite playing with the aid of a strong breeze.
The result leaves Kerry in second place behind Westmeath on scoring average.
€ Westmeath overcame previously unbeaten Wicklow in that ill-tempered game at Mullingar. It finished 1-17 to 2-9 with Ger Heavin bagging an impressive 0-8 for the winners.
€ Wicklow have 10 points along with Westmeath and Kerry, but they drop to fourth place behind Roscommon, who are also on 10 points in top-of-the-table logjam.
€ An early scoring spree by Roscommon that realized 1-7 without reply saw them cruise to a 1-11 to 0-8 victory over Antrim at Casement Park.
€ London claimed their first win of the campaign when they outclassed Kilkenny by 1-17 to 1-3 at Ballyragget. With the tonic of an early Julian Grimes goal, London were clear by 1-8 to no score at halftime.
Div. 2B Results
Carlow moved to the top of Division 2B following their 0-10 to 0-8 win over Cavan at Dr. Cullen Park. Sligo went second when they overcame Waterford by 2-10 to 1-7 at Markievicz Park and Fermanagh stayed in touch when they narrowly defeated Wexford by 2-5 to 0-10 at Enniskillen. Tipperary’s poor run continued when Longford took the spoils by 3-10 to 2-10 at Clonmel.
Offaly 0-7, Galway 2-11
A low-key National Hurling League game at Birr ended in Offaly slowly being ground down by Galway. It was a far cry from Offaly’s last, and more memorable, competitive outing at Croke Park, in September, and with Eugene Cloonan in sharp form, Galway proved too strong.
The dead-ball accuracy of John Troy kept the All-Ireland champions in touch, but a Cloonan goal, followed by a second from substitute Olie Canning secured a bloodless win for Galway.
Waterford IT 4-15, UCC 3-12
Hot favorites Waterford, capped a fine season when they were overwhelming winners of hurling’s Fitzgibbon Cup at Templemore. Leading by 13 points at one stage, they comfortably deprived UCC of a fourth successive title.
UCC, who had to cope with a big turnover of players this year, couldn’t cope with the class of Dave Bennett and Henry Shefflin, while Tipperary’s All-Star footballer, Declan Browne, switched codes with ease to score 2-2.
Rathnure 2-19, Ballygalget 1-8
As expected, Rathnure of Wexford booked their place in the All Ireland club hurling final with an easy win over Down’s Ballygalget at Parnell Park. Paul Codd almost turned the game into a one-man show, with a personal tally of 0-14, eight of which came from play.
The Ulster champions simply couldn’t cope with the scoring prowess of Codd. Rathnure now meet St. Joseph’s Doora-Barefield of Clare in the final on St. Patrick’s Day.