Donegal started their 2014 league campaign in the best possible fashion, dishing out a 2-19 to 1-9 hammering to Laois on a cool and breezy afternoon in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Ódhran Mac Niallas got the game’s first goal to give his team a 1-01 to 0-2 lead after 12 minutes and Jim McGuinness’s men could have had several more first-half goals, but thanks to some poor shooting in front of the Laois posts they had to settle for a 1-06 to 0-05 lead at the break.
However Colm McFadden opened the second half with a powerful strike for the game’s second goal and when Laois were reduced to 14 men on account of a straight red card shown to corner-back Denis Booth, the hosts never looked like getting back into the tie.
Ross Munnelly broke a 36-minute scoring drought with his free kick in the 61st minute, and John O’Loughlin’s late goal was of nothing more than statistical value. From the start Donegal looked like they could cut open the Laois defence at will, but with the wind blowing at the backs of the hosts, Laois were still able to kick two of the game’s first three points.
Once the midlanders turned over possession however, they looked in big trouble - one break, after an errant handpass, allowed Anthony Thompson to set up Mac Niallais for a simple volleyed goal, giving Donegal a two-point lead.
The sides continued to trade scores throughout the first half but Donegal’s points were coming much easier, while Laois needed moments of inspiration from Munnelly and John O’Loughlin to work the scoreboard.
Two points from Michael Murphy made it 1-06 to 0-05 just before half-time.
Laois were extremely fortunate not to concede further goals when Graham Brody blocked Frank McGlynn’s shot, and Booth produced a last-gasp block to deny McFadden, respectively.
The big Donegal inside forward wasn’t to be denied at the start of the second half however as he rattled the Laois net with his team’s first attack after the resumption, shooting past Brody from the edge of the square after Leo McLoone made good ground through the middle to create an overlap off his left shoulder.
Murphy added a ’45, his second of the game, before Laois were dealt another body blow in the 44th minute.
Another surging Donegal run resulted in Mark McHugh bearing down on the Laois goal and, once Booth raised his elbow in a frontal charge on the IT Sligo student, a red card was always likely to result.
Conor Lane duly sent off the Heath clubman and with an extra man, Donegal ran riot for the remainder of the tie.
McFadden tapped over the free for Booth’s challenge and his team went on to add six more points - the pick of which was a stunning, 50-metre drive from substitute Paddy McBrearty under pressure - before Laois could respond.
Laois tacked on 1-04 in the closing 10 minutes to give their home supporters something to shout about, but they will still go into next weekend’s fixture on the bottom of the table, while Donegal have consolidated their position as the strong favourites to bounce right back up into Division 1.
Laois: G Brody; D Booth, M Timmons, P O’Leary (0-01); D Strong, P McMahon, A Ryan; K Meaney, J O’Loughlin (1-01); J Finn, D Kingston (0-02, frees), B Sheehan; D Conway (0-01), E O’Carroll (0-01), R Munnelly (0-03, 0-02 frees).
Substitutes: P Begley for McMahon (10 – temporary), Begley for Ryan (HT), P Cahillane for Finn (HT), R Kehoe for O’Carroll (47), S Attride for Sheehan (57), E Lowry for Attride (70)
Donegal: P Durcan; K Lacy, N McGee, R McHugh; F McGlynn, L McLoone, A Thompson (0-01); R Kavanagh, M McElhinney (0-02); M McHugh (0-01), C Toye (0-01), O Mac Niallais (1-01); C McFadden (1-03, 0-02 frees), M Murphy (0-06, 0-02 frees, 0-02 ’45), D Molloy (0-01).
Substitutes: D Walsh for Lacy (42 mins), P McBrearty (0-01) for Molloy (47), H McFadden (0-02) for Kavanagh (47), M O’Reilly for Toye (53), E Doherty for McGlynn (63), S McLaughlin for Mac Niallais (66).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)