Donegal claim Division 2 title with 10-point turnaround against Meath

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It was the result most expected but Donegal’s journey to the Allianz League Division 2 title was anything but straightforward at Croke Park.

Trailing by eight points after a terrible start, the Ulster champions forced a 10-point turnaround on the scoreboard to ultimately win by two.

Captain Michael Murphy did most to make that happen with another powerful display, scoring seven points and playing a key role in Jamie Brennan’s 58th-minute goal.

That was the score that finally broke Jekyll and Hyde Meath who have now coughed up significant leads against Donegal twice in a matter of weeks.

Back in early February they were four points up in the final quarter of their group game in Ballybofey only to lose by two.

And they let slip that eight-point advantage this time to lose by the same margin as Donegal capped promotion by adding a piece of silverware.

Donegal will now march forward with confidence to their Ulster SFC quarter-final clash with Fermanagh on May 26.

As for Meath, they’ll start their preparations for a Leinster SFC Round 1 clash against Offaly on May 12.

Andy McEntee’s Meath will take heart from their great start as they roared into a 1-6 to 0-1 lead after just 13 minutes.

Full-forward Mickey Newman was terrific, scoring three points during that blitzkrieg and creating the goal for Thomas O’Reilly in the 11th minute.

It didn’t quite fall asunder for Meath after that but they never regained the upper hand and Donegal slowly but surely reeled them in.

Meath famously led slip an eight-point half-time lead against Westmeath in the 2015 Championship and were seemed powerless to prevent this one getting away from them too.

Donegal claim Division 2 title with 10-point turnaround against Meath

They still led 1-10 to 0-8 at the break but added just five second-half points and only one from open play, a Graham Reilly effort.

Donegal, in contrast, were at their best after the break as they reeled off a series of excellent points from the likes of Oisin Gallen, Murphy, Jason McGee and Niall O’Donnell.

Gallen and McGee ran Murphy close for the Man of the Match award and Gallen was involved in the 58th minute goal that put Donegal ahead for the first time.

It was a stunning move of quick, precise passing that picked Meath’s defence apart as Gallen fed Murphy who played in Brennan on the left to slam home.

Meath never recovered and lost defender Shane Gallagher to a 70th minute red card following a black card on top of an earlier yellow.

Donegal scorers: M Murphy 0-7 (0-5f, 2m), J Brennan 1-2, O Gallen 0-4, N O’Donnell, J McGee 0-2 each.

Meath scorers: M Newman 0-5 (0-2f, 0-1m), T O’Reilly 1-1, C O’Sullivan (1f), B McMahon 0-2 each, G Reilly, B Dardis, B Menton, S McEntee, B Brennan 0-1 each.

Donegal: S Patton; S McMenamin, B McCole, P McGrath; L McLoone, R McHugh, E Ban Gallagher; J McGee, H McFadden; D O Baoill, N O’Donnell, C McGonagle; J Brennan, M Murphy, O Gallen.

Subs: N McGee for McCole (14), Eamonn Doherty for McLoone (h/t), M Langan for McGonagle (44), E McHugh for O Baoill (54), F McGlynn for R McHugh (71).

Meath: A Colgan; S Gallagher, C McGill, S Lavin; J McEntee, D Keogan, R Ryan; B Menton, S McEntee; C O’Sullivan, B McMahon, B Brennan; B Dardis, M Newman, T O’Reilly.

Subs: G Reilly (0-1) for McMahon (35), D Campion for Brennan (43), J Conlon for O’Reilly (65), G McCoy for S McEntee (67).

Ref: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).

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