The first ten minutes of this encounter gave little indication of the blizzard of exciting hurling to come from Donegal in their best performance of the year. Mayo were weakened from the start with the news that captain Keith Higgins was not going to play and nor was corner back Conor Murray. Yet their dominance of the early stages everywhere except the scoreboard suggested they would extend their 100% start to the league.
Eoin Delaney hit their opening point after two minutes and by the time Riche Ryan equalised for the home side in the sixth minute Mayo had already squandered a goal chance and recorded four wides from good positions. The visitors dominance began to fade thereafter and by the first half water-break three Declan Coulter frees had the home side 0-4 to 0-1 ahead.
It was still a low-scoring 0-4 to 0-2 with ten minutes to the break before Donegal exploded into a commanding lead with three goals and three points between then and the half-time whistle. The first was kicked to the net by Richie Ryan in the 25th minute and six minutes later the deluge began with a Bernard Lafferty point followed quickly by a duo of goals from Declan Counter. A long range Sean McVeigh point made it 3-6 to 0-2 on a stunned Mayo. The Connacht side briefly rallied with quickfire points from Corey Scahill, Adrian Phillips and a brace from Shane Boland but Declan Coulter, in the third minute of additional time, left it 3-7 to 0-6 with the last puck of the half.
Mayo rang the changes at the break with three substitutions but Donegal were on a roll. Two more points from Bernard Lafferty, two Coulter frees and points from Richie Ryan and Gerry Gilmore left them 3-14 to 0-8 ahead when Ronan McDermott batted in Donegal’s fourth and final goal on the cusp of the second water break.
Donegal began to empty the bench but still scored the next three points – two from substitutes Conor O’Grady and Ruari Campbell. Five points in succession from Mayo and the final score of the game – a Ruari Campbell free – gave Donegal an 17 point victory. With four points from a possible six Donegal have secured a second season in Division 2B – Derry and Roscommon, but not both of them, can still reach four points. A rampant Kildare, who put Donegal to the sword in style last week, again ran up the scores putting 5-17 past Derry’s 1-14 in the other Roinn 2B game today.
Donegal can now look forward to the defence of the Nickey Rackard Cup, starting at the end of June when they play Mayo again in Letterkenny. They now have a two week break before their final league game of the season when they travel to play Derry on June 6th.
REFEREE: Kevin Parke (Aontroim)
Go raibh maith agat to Geraldine Diver for the photos.