In one of the most anticipated Canton debuts in recent memory, Diarmuid Connolly traded blue for green and gold and led Donegal to a 4-13 to 1-08 victory over the Connemara Gaels.
|Dermot Connolly drives past Dave Lynda (Photo: Brian Rooney)|
Connolly started center forward with Dave Lynda handed the unenviable task of marking the former Footballer of the Year. Lynda more than held his own, holding Connolly to a single point, but the Dublin star didn’t need to score to orchestrate the Donegal attack.
The Gaels had the first real chance of the match — a golden opportunity for goal in the opening minutes, but Hugh Boyle stymied Sean Mulkerrins shot after the Connemara half-back had burst through the Donegal lines.
Oisin O’Neill put Donegal on the board with a free, then got on the end of an inch-perfect entry pass from Connolly. O’Neill sent a fine pass of his own across the field to Shane Carthy, who sidestepped a defender and finished into the bottom corner.
Though the game would slow down in the second half — with temperatures hovering around 95 degrees throughout the contest — the opening minutes were played at a frenzied pace.
Connemara had a second goal chance in the early going as Des Connolly passed it across the square to Pat O’Donnell, but Boyle was equal to the moment again. He made a diving stop to deny the goal and the Gaels eventually finished the play with a wide.
At the other end of the pitch, a Gaels short kickout went straight to one of the last players on the planet you’d want receiving it. Connolly immediately kicked it back inside to O’Neill, who found Carthy coming off the shoulder for another Donegal green flag.
A third goal came on the very next possession. Ciaran McFaul rose to claim the kickout in midfield, then charged forward with teammates on both sides. He chose to play O’Neil, who gave it back inside the square for McFaul to punch home.
The Gaels kicked a series of wides, but eventually got on the board via a Des Connolly free and trailed 3-02 to 0-02 when the whistle blew for the first water break.
Liam Silke was next to score, driving from his half-back perch to tap over a point for Donegal. Connemara replied on the next possession as Colman Mulkerrins won the long ball in, handed it off to Ryan Galvin, and watched Galvin launch a point.
Michael Carroll, O’Neill, and McFaul pointed to give Donegal a 3-07 to 0-03 lead at the break.
Donegal scored the first three points of the second half as O’Neill, Sean Donnelly, McFaul found the target. They kept control of the match as it neared the second half water break, then brought Eoin McHugh on for Connelly.
The Gaels scored a fine point on a hard-charging run by Noel Graham, who carried through the Donegal midfield and found Rory O’Connor for a score. McHugh answered that with a long run of his own, soloing down the left wing until a defender intervened, then worked it to McFaul who sent the umpire reaching for the green flag.
O’Connor buried a late penalty for Connemara, but Connolly’s summer in Boston started with a 4-13 to 1-08 win.
Hugh Boyle, Niall Keenan, Liam Silke, Neil McAneney, Jason Noctor, Sean Doherty, Michael Carroll, Shane Carthy, Ciaran McFaul, Diarmuid Connolly, Sean Donnelly, Lee Carr, Oisin O’Neill Subs: Nicky Kelly, Conor Small, Tiernan Flanagan, Darren Doherty, Dylan Wall, Eoin McHugh
Eoin Connolly, David Black, Martin O’Connor, Sean Mulkerrins, Dave Lynda, Kieran Killean, Colm Brennan, Stephen O’Brien, Pat O’Donnell, Kenny Clovigan, Colman Mulkerrins, Ryan Galvin, Des Connolly Subs: Tyler Flaherty, Glen Malone, Christy Cunningham, Rory O’Connor, Donal Rooney, Liam Costello, AJ McGuire, Noel Graham