Donegal used a high scoring full-forward line as the catalyst for an opening day senior football victory over Cork. They also needed some excellent saves from keeper Brian Cuilinan; one was outstanding at full stretch before getting to the finish line.
Granted if Cork had got a result it would certainly have been a steal to say the least as Donegal played some tremendous football. They worked the ball out from the defensive end with players backing each other up constantly.
Cork was never able to get enough quality ball into their own full forward line, where Dan Doona and Jerald McCarthy will do better as the year goes on.
The first half was a meandering one with three distinct turns in its progress. Donegal stormed out the gate and had a 1-3 to 0-1 advantage after 10 minutes. The goal arrived after a long run from Keith Scally before it was advanced to Mickey Annette, who fired hard to the net.
Cork had a tremendous response in a 60 second span at the quarter mark when they had back to back net shakers. They could have had a third but Cuilinan stopped a Jerald McCarthy drive. He was powerless, however, when first Jason Kelly took a Peter Hatzer pass to fire to the net -- Alan Raferty did most of the work. The second was after a Dan Doona pass set McCarthy free.
After a Conor Lynam free, Cork had their third goal when Mickey Lenehan was pulled down and Kelly slotted the penalty to the net for a 3-1 to 1-4 advantage.
That was cancelled out immediately when Annette won the break from the kickout and fed Enda Gaffney, who fired admirably to the net. It left the sides level at the break.
Donegal broke the game open in the first 10 minutes of the second half. They had four of the first five scores with Lynam (two), Scally and Gaffney on the board against a McCarthy point for Cork.
When a long ball from Sean Kinahane was fisted to the net on the second opportunity, by CJ Molloy, O’Mahoney stopped his first touch. It was a 3-8 to 3-2 Donegal lead.
Cork did have the next three points, but they were chasing the contest. Excellent defensive play from Scally, Raymie Keane and Shane Boyle, plus two brilliant saves from Cuilinan kept Donegal in the lead.
The winners added to their total with the final two points of the game, with Cuilinan again stopping a last grasp Tom Hardwick goal effort.
The winners had a number of prominent performances. Cuilinan is a brilliant shot stopper; he was worth his weight in this one. Keith Scally and Shane Boyle both had good defensive outings. Scally is an exceptional ball carrier and loves to help out the attack. Kinahane and Mannion won the midfield in the second half but had a number of problems with Alan Raftery in the early going. PJ Flanagan did a lot of work when switched to a defensive role, while Annette, Lynam and Gaffney were brilliant.
For Cork, Liam Jennings had a very good hour. We are told he is also a handy hurler so look to see more from him.
Raftery in loose play was very active. Francie Cleary (first half), Jerald McCarthy when he was given supply, and Doona and Kelly, who will both have plenty to say about Cork’s championship chances, showed flashes.
Donegal: 1 Brian Cuilinan, 2 Steven Lynch, 3 Donnacha O’Dwyer, 4 Raymond Keane, 5 Shane Boyle, 6 Keith Scally (0-1), 7 Mike Molloy, 8 Sean Kinahane, 9 Sean Michael Mannion (0-1), 10 Paul McGinley, 11 PJ Flanagan, 12 Mickey Annette (1-1), 13 Conor Lynam (0-4), 14 CJ Molloy (1-0), 15 Enda Gaffney (1-3). Subs: Ciaran Slattery, Liam Deane, Tom Moran.
Cork: 1 Darren O’Mahoney, 2 Shaun McNamee, 3 Liam Jennings (0-1), 4 Paddy Harrington, 5 Derek Courtney, 6 Darren Walsh, 7 Peter Hatzer, 8 Alan Raftery, 9 Danny Lehane, 10 Francie Cleary (0-1), 11 Jason Kelly (2-1), 12 Mickey Lenaghan, 13 Jerald McCarthy (1-1), 14 Dan Doona (0-2), 15 Cathal Hatzer. Sub: Tom Hardwick.
Man of the match: Keith Scally (Donegal).
Referee: Tommy Fahey (Waterford).