Allianz Football League Division Donegal 1-9 Galway 1-9 Chris McNulty in Letterkenny
Paul Conroy had one last chance to scrape the win but, ultimately, Donegal and Galway ended with a share of the spoils.
The sun beamed down on a crisp February Sunday in Letterkenny and Conroy, with a free from out on the stand side, seemed sure to win it for the Tribesmen.
At the vital moment, his effort trailed to the left and wide. Seconds later, the hands were shaken as David Coldrick called time on a tepid and error-ridden contest.
Both will have been content with a point, although neither will be too pleased with how they arrived at the conclusion.
It has been a testing start to 2023 for Donegal, who saw their talisman, Michael Murphy, and their rock, Neil McGee, call time on their respective inter-county careers in 2022. The recent hamstring injury that will rule Patrick McBrearty, just appointed Murphy’s successor as captain, for the foreseeable was the latest set-back for new manager Paddy Carr.
At half-time here, they were 1-6 to 1-3 in front when the short whistle sounded.
Donegal went from then until the 67th minute without registering a score until Oisin Gallen finally ended their famine.
Galway had nosed in front with Conroy and Matthew Tierney on target before Gallen struck.
Conor O’Donnell levelled and Donegal still needed Jason McGee to post after a fisted Rob Finnerty point restored Galway’s slender advantage.
Donegal hit something of a purple patch from the 17th minute with Jamie Brennan, Caolan McGonagle and goalkeeper Shaun Patton, on his home turf at O’Donnell Park – a venue at which Donegal have struggled over the years – stroking the points, the latter’s coming via a fine 50-metre free.
In the 25th minute, John Daly, perched right beneath his own crossbar, with the margin for error swaying somewhere between slim and none, was penalised for a throw and Donegal were given a penalty.
Gallen managed to beat Conor Gleeson, Galway’s goalkeeper, from the spot, but only just. Gleeson got a firm hand to the ball, but Gallen’s effort squeezed in.
The umpire behind Gleeson’s goal had barely dropped their green flags when the man in the white coat at the other end was reaching for his.
Just 43 seconds after Gallen converted, Tierney gathered possession and, after cutting a swathe into the Donegal rearguard, tucked past the advancing Shaun Patton to narrow Galway’s deficit to two, 1-5 to 1-3.
A beauty from Michael Langan had Donegal three ahead at the break.
Donegal’s profligacy in front of the posts allowed Galway to creep back and Tierney evened the abacus again in the 52nd minute.
Caolan McColgan stepped in with an excellent intervention to deny Finnerty during a period when Donegal were in danger of kicking the day away.
Substutute Peadar Mogan scurried in for a late Donegal goal chance, but was blocked and the end-to-end finale concluded with Conroy narrowly missing the chance to seal a win for the visitors.
Donegal scorers: Oisin Gallen (1-0pen) 1-2; Conor O’Donnell 0-2; Shaun Patton (f), Jamie Brennan, Caolan McGonagle, Michael Langan, Jason McGee 0-1 each
Galway scorers: Matthew Tierney (1 ’45) 1-3; Paul Conroy (2f), Rob Finnerty 0-2 each; Cathal Sweeney, Peter Cooke 0-1 each.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Mark Curran, Brendan McCole, Martin O’Reilly; Caolan McColgan, Stephen McMenamin, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Caolan McGonagle, Jason McGee; Michael Langan, Daire Ó Baoill, Conor O’Donnell; Hugh McFadden, Oisin Gallen, Jamie Brennan. Subs: Peadar Mogan for O’Reilly (half-time), Rory O’Donnell for McFadden (60), Johnny McGroddy for Ó Baoill (68)
Galway: Conor Gleeson; Jack Glynn, Sean Kelly, Eoghan Kelly; Dylan McHugh, John Daly, Cathal Sweeney; Paul Conroy, Cillian McDaid; Matthew Tierney, Peter Cooke, Johnny Heaney; Patrick Kelly, Gerard Davoren, Ian Burke. Subs: Rob Finnerty for Davoren (half-time), John Maher and Ryan Monaghan for Cooke and P Kelly (49), Dessie Conneely for McDaid (55).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)