Alan Foley reports from Breffni Park

PADDY SMALL STRUCK 1-3 as Dublin eased past Donegal in their Breffni Park semi-final, meaning the record books will show an asterix stating its shared Allianz League Division 1 title for 2021 with Kerry.

With Kerry having hammered Tyrone earlier in the day, it meant that there would be no final regardless, so the meeting of Dublin and Donegal was effectively for half a title and it was Dessie Farrell’s team who came home at walking pace.

Donegal scored the final 1-2 of the match as the shadows stretched under the lights to make it look that little bit closer than it was.

Just 15 days out from their Ulster SFC opener against Down, Donegal manager Declan Bonner made six changes from the programme team, none of which included a return of captain Michael Murphy, wrapped in cotton wool ahead of Newry.

There was a bit of a challenge match feel initially, with points being traded at either end, a lot of deliberate build-up play and, like it or lump it, plenty of bodies piling back when the need arose. Dublin grasped control late in the first half and never looked back

James McCarthy was denied what would’ve been a quite bizarre goal on eight minutes when he won possession outside of the 45 and tried to lob Shaun Patton, only for the ball to bounce towards goal and then wide.

A Caolan McGonagle score gave Donegal a deserved 0-5 to 0-4 lead at the first water-break but the second quarter was Dublin’s. Until then, Dessie Farrell’s team were relying on Cormac Costello’s frees and Con O’Callaghan.

Ciaran Kilkenny’s point on 27 minutes edged Dublin in front for the first time and then, a minute later, they broke and the move finished off with a well-taken goal as Paddy Small rounded Patton to shoot home. That made for a 1-8 to 0-7 half-time Dublin lead.

Three Dublin points at the start of the second half dunted Donegal back further back, with Sean McMahon, Brian Fenton and Kilkenny scoring. Donegal, with Patrick McBrearty continuing his fine form in recent weeks – he’d scored 0-20 in three outings in the ‘mini Ulster championship’ as the northern section of Division 1 was known – with another six points, Donegal kept the scoreboard ticking. 

Whatever chance they had of really clawing their way, Evan Comerford in the Dublin goal saved well from Oisin Gallen, who drove low and hard, on 52 minutes. A goal did finally come for Donegal with a couple of minutes to play, when substitute Eoghan McGettigan netted to give some cheer to those supporters who had made the trip to Cavan.

Scorers for Donegal: Patrick McBrearty 0-6 (2f, 1m); Eoghan McGettigan 1-1; Caolan McGonagle, Michael Langan 0-2 each; Brendan McCole, Odhrán Mac Niallais, Niall O’Donnell 0-1.

Scorers for Dublin: Cormac Costello 0-6 (5f, 1 ’45); Paddy Small 1-3 (1m); Con O’Callaghan 0-3; Ciaran Kilkenny 0-2; Sean McMahon, Brian Fenton, Brian Howard, Aaron Byrne 0-1 each.


Shaun Patton;

Eoin McHugh, Stephen McMenamin, Brendan McCole;

Ethan O’Donnell, Ryan McHugh, Odhrán McFadden-Ferry;

Caolan McGonagle, Michael Langan;

Ciaran Thompson, Odhrán Mac Niallais, Hugh McFadden;

Patrick McBrearty, Niall O’Donnell, Oisin Gallen.


Conor O’Donnell for Mac Niallais (29)

Caolan Ward for McMenamin (half-time)

Eoghan McGettigan for Gallen (55)

Eunan Doherty for McFadden-Ferry (55)

Daire O Baoill for N O’Donnell (57)

Jason McGee for McFadden (57)

Tony McCleneghan for E McHugh (64)


Evan Comerford;

Michael Fitzsimons, David Byrne, Sean McMahon;

James McCarthy, Eoin Murchan, Brian Howard;

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Brian Fenton, Peadar Ó Cofaigh Byrne;

Paddy Small, Ciaran Kilkenny, Niall Scully;

Colm Basquel, Con O’Callaghan, Cormac Costello.


Eric Lowndes for Murchan (half-time),

Sean Bulger for Basquel (50), 

Tom Lahiff for Ó Cofaigh Byrne (55)

Aaron Byrne for Scully (55),

Conor McHugh for Kilkenny (62)

Philly McMahon for Fitzsimons (62)

Shane Carthy for Small (68)

Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)

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