A Kenny Feeney goal 20 minutes from time was the deciding moment in this entertaining encounter that saw Mayo get off to a winning start in the National Hurling League in Castlebar on Sunday. Feeney and Keith Higgins were the main men for Mayo with the two scoring a combined 1-9 between them over the 70 minutes.
Mayo were pushed hard by a spirited Donegal side that overcame the loss of wing-back Christopher McDermott who was shown to the line early in the second half to reel in a lead that was at one stage eight points to just four at the final whistle.
Mayo dominated the opening exchanges of the game playing with the aid of a strong wind into the Dublin road end of the ground and were leading by 0-5 to 0-0 after the opening 20 minutes with Cathal Freeman and Keith Higgins both scoring two points each and Kenny Feeney adding the other from a placed ball.
Doegal should have registered a few scores themselves with Lee Henderson missing three scorable frees in that period and wing forward Paul Nelson crashing the ball off the crossbar with a snap shot 12 minutes in. Donegal did hit the next three points of the game with corner forward Kevin Campbell taking over the free taking duties and hitting three in a row from the 23rd to 27th minute.
That scoring burst woke up Mayo who had fallen off the pace following their opening salvo and they went on to hit the next five scores of the game before the median whistle. Keith Higgins drove over a free from out near midfield then Eoghan Collins slung over one from well out the park, with Kenny Feeney tacking on two from frees and Joseph McManus adding the other to send Mayo in leading by 0-10 to 0-3 at the turn around.
The second half saw Donegal come out of the blocks hard and they closed that gap back to just four points in the space of ten minutes with Campbell slotting two more points from frees and Lee Henderson one from play. That scoring burst was the all the more impressive due to the fact that Donegal were reduced to 14 men three minutes into the half when Christopher McDermott was shown a second yellow card.
The decisive score of the game came on the 50 minute mark when Keith Higgins played a long ball into the danger area and Kenny Feeney got in behind his man and was able to pull on the ball on the deck to send it past Paul Burns in the Donegal goal to put his side 1-10 to 0-6 in the lead. The Tooreen man followed that up thirty seconds later with a point from a free and Mayo had the cushion they needed to see out the closing 20 minutes of the game.
Donegal did make a good fist at overturning that lead with Ciaran Matthewson slipping over four points before the end and half backs Jack O’Loughlin and Joe Boyle also getting on the scoreboard, but it was too little, too late as Mayo held on to take what could be two vital points in this division.
Mayo: Kenny Feeney (1-5, 4f ), Keith Higgins (0-4, 1f ), Cathal Freeman (0-2 ), Sean Regan (0-1 ), Joseph McManus (0-1 ), Eoghan Collins (0-1 )
Donegal: Ciaran Matthewson (0-5, 3f 1 65’ ), Kevin Campbell (0-4, 4f ), Lee Henderson (0-1 ), Jack O’Loughlin (0-1 ), Joe Boyle (0-1 ), Bernard Lafferty (0-1 )
Mayo: Donal O’Brien; Shane Morley, Patrick Connell, Adrian Brennan; Austin Lyons, Gerard McManus, Kieran Kiely; Eoghan Collins, Ciaran Charlton; Cathal Freeman, Keith Higgins, Gary Nolan; Kenny Feeney, Sean Regan, Joseph McManus. Subs: Cory Scahill for Kieran Kiley (ht ), Darren McTighe for Ciaran Charlton (50 ), Noel Casey for Austin Lyons (55 ), Shane Boland for Sean Regan (60 ), David Harrision for Keith Higgins (70 )
Donegal: Paul Burns; Martin McGrath, Dara Grant, Pauric Doherty; Jack O’Loughlin, Joe Boyle, Christopher McDermott; Stephen Gillespie, Paul Sheridan; Lee Henderson, Sean McVeigh, Paul Nelson; Ciaran Matthewson, Ronan McDermott, Kevin Campbell. Subs: Bernard Lafferty for Lee Henderson (55 ), Sam Doherty for Paul Sheridan (60 ), Shane Gallen for Martin McGrath (63 ), Paddy Hannigan for Kevin Campbell (33 )
Ref: Johnny Murphy (Limerick )