A skilful and cohesive Donegal team disposed of a lacklustre Sligo side to progress to round 3 of the Bank of Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifiers in Ballybofey today. Adrian Sweeney was irrepressible throughout the 70 minutes, amassing a seven point tally, while youngster Stephen McDermott and more experienced players Brian Roper and Jim McGuinness also played pivotal roles in Donegal's free-flowing, attacking display. Despite trailing by just two points at half-time (0-08 to 0-06), Sligo, who were outplayed in every area of the park, faded away badly in the latter stages of the game and eventually lost by five points – 0-16 to 0-11.
Johnny McCafferty's name appeared on the official match programme, however, he didn’t appear on the pitch, with Michael Hegarty preferred in the Donegal attack. Sligo registered the first score of the game when Dessie Sloyan slotted over a free from his hands in the second minute. Sligo had the majority of the possession early on, but converted three bad wides in the first five minutes.
Sweeney notched Donegal's first score from a simple free, and his second, from a difficult angle, signalled that he would be a handful for Sligo all afternoon. Michael McNamara was troubling Raymond Sweeney down the other end of the field and he scored an excellent point after Eamon O'Hara had displayed wonderful vision to provide him with the chance.
O'Hara was the instigator for Sligo again when he earned a free which Sloyan converted. McNamara and Niall McCready were booked by White before Sweeney's cunning off-the-ball running and good handling enabled him to get the better of Neil Carew and send the ball over the bar.
More strict refereeing from White saw Kevin Cassidy and Karol O'Neill receive yellow cards. McDermott embarked on a interweaving solo run and calmly slotted over a sweet score to buoy the home crowd. Nigel Clancy conceded what would prove to be one of many needless frees when he hopped the ball twice, and Sweeney was again on hand to punish.
John Gildea tried to emulate his young midfield partner McDermott when he sliced through an increasingly shaky Sligo defence. However, he couldn't match his team-mate's composure and he blazed his goal attempt wide, much to the fury of the better-placed McGuinness.
Another pointed free from Sloyan was followed by yet another breathtaking run and score from McDermott. 15 metres out, Kevin Cassidy failed to hit the target in the 29th minute, but Hegarty extended Donegal's lead from a free after McGuinness had drawn the foul.
Gerry McGowan pointed from play after he took advantage of poor handling from McCready. McDermott found yet more gaping holes down the centre but blasted wide on this occasion as Sligo somewhat remarkably managed to remain in touch. Sweeney and McPartland both added scores before the interval, as Donegal, despite their undoubted superiority only led by two points.
O'Neill made way for Kieran Quinn at the resumption, as Sligo looked to inject fresh impetus into their play. Nigel Clancy and veteran Paul Durcan linked well in the middle to carve open an opportunity which could have kick-started a revival. Ominously though, Clancy shot wide.
Sweeney and Sloyan, the most prized marksmen on either team, converted a free apiece before David Durcan reduced the margin to just one. McGowan missed a chance to level proceedings and soon afterwards Donegal had restored their two-point lead when a great Roper pass to Barry Monaghan produced a free. This time Hegarty was the man entrusted with the simple task of scoring.
John Haran replaced Christy Toye to bolster Donegal's resolve. Sweeney completed his scoring for the day with one of the finest points of the game, before McDermott, playing like a seasoned campaigner, picked out another stunning score from a testing centre field location.
Quinn cut the deficit to three, but two points from Haran and one from Roper saw Donegal ease into a commanding lead. Sloyan and O'Hara both added points from frees, but by this stage Donegal had done enough for a well-deserved victory. Similar to Meath yesterday, Brian McEniff's side have now signalled their true Championship potential.
Filed by James Boylan