Donegal cruised through their Ulster SFC preliminary round with an emphatic win over Down at Pairc Esler, but there are injury doubts over skipper Michael Murphy for the quarter-final against Derry on 11 June.
Jamie Brennan's goal and five Paddy McBrearty points helped them to a 1-15 to 0-08 interval lead,
Caolan Mooney pulled back a goal for Down, but the straight red card dismissal of full back Gerard McGovern left them in a hopeless position.
McBrearty fired home his side’s second goal, and they were never troubled by the Mourne men.
Donegal raced into an early lead with four points in the opening five minutes, two of them from Murphy, who also popped a pass to Ryan McHugh for a tidy score.
The pace of Liam Kerr, Corey Quinn and Caolan Mooney gave the Mourne men thrust, but no genuine penetration against a packed defence, and, forced to recycle, they missed a number of chances from difficult ranges.
The men from the north-west manufactured scores from similar scenarios due to their intricate movement, a support runner or a clever step inside or out.
McBrearty, a master of the art, and Peadar Mogan helped Declan Bonner's side to a 0-06 to 0-04 lead at the first drinks break, all of Down’s scores coming from Barry O’Hagan.
McHugh grabbed every opportunity to find space and demand the ball, and the dynamic wing back had three points on the board by the halfway stage, one of them a delightful effort from distance.
But the home side kept themselves very much in the hunt as O’Hagan maintained his accuracy, with Liam Kerr chipping in with a couple of points.
Ten minutes before the break, they were just two points adrift, but Donegal stepped on the gas to shoot 1-05 in the closing stages of the half, despite the loss of Murphy, who went into the game with concerns over a hamstring injury and lasted less than half an hour.
McBrearty brought his tally to five, and a kick-out calamity for Down saw Rory Burns’ ill-judged restart put Mooney under pressure.
Michael Murphy watches on as Jamie Brennan scores a controversial goal for Donegal. They lead Down by 10 points at the break.— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) June 27, 2021
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He was dispossessed by Odhran McFadden Ferry, and substitute Jamie Brennan smashed the ball to the net.
At 1-15 to 0-08, Donegal were virtually out of sight, and even ten minutes with 14 men, due to Stephen McMenamin’s black card just before the break, didn’t slow their march.
Down pulled back a goal through Mooney, who drilled low to the net from Liam Kerr’s assist, but their situation became utterly hopeless when full back Gerard McGovern was shown a straight red card for a high tackle on Langan.
O’Hagan continued to produce delightful touches as he brought his tally to eight, but Donegal were in total control, maaintaiing their focus whiole their opponents were now operating largely off the cuff.
A 1-3 salvo had them out of sight soon after the second drinks break, with Langan sending McBrearty in to dance his way around a defender before picking his spot in the Down net in the 62nd minute.
The home side did have a goal chance, but Shaun Patton pulled off a spectacular flying save from Stephen McConville’s fisted effort to keep them out.
Down: R Burns; P Fegan, G McGivern, G Collins; P Laverty, D O’Hagan (0-01), D Guinness; C Mooney (1-00), R McEvoy; L Kerr (0-02, 1f), C Doherty, B O’Hagan (0-08, 3f, 1 mark); C McCrickard, L Middleton, C Quinn.
Subs: S McConville for McEvoy (41), D Savage for Middleton (41), J Guinness (0-01) for Kerr (45), C McCartan for Fegan (55), K McKernan for McCrickard (58)
Donegal: S Patton; B McCole, N McGee, S McMenamin; R McHugh (0-0-4), O McFadden, E Ban Gallagher; H McFadden, C McGonigle; C Thompson (0-01), N O’Donnell (0-01), M Langan (0-04, 1f, 1 ’45); P McBrearty (1-06, 0-4f), M Murphy (0-02, 1f), P Mogan (0-03).
Subs: E McHugh (0-01) for McCole (26), J Brennan (1-01) for Murphy (29), E O’Donnell (0-01) for Thompson (53), C O’Donnell (0-01) for N O’Donnell (55), P Brennan for McGee (62)
Referee: M Deegan (Laois)