Division Two Football League Final: Donegal recover to beat Meath 1-17 to 1-15

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Declan Bonner lauds second-half display as Donegal fight back to beat Meath

Donegal fought back from eight points down after 13 minutes to beat Meath 1-17 to 1-15 in the Football League Division Two Final at Croke Park.

Meath looked in total control as Thomas O'Reilly's goal helped them lead 1-6 to 0-1 as Michael Newman was causing Donegal's defence huge problems.

While Donegal improved, Meath still led 1-10 to 0-8 at half-time.

But as Michael Murphy excelled, Donegal chipped away at Meath's lead before Jamie Brennan's goal put them ahead.

Brennan's goal, inevitably set up the imperious Murphy, came in the 58th minute as Donegal moved 1-16 to 1-14 ahead.

Helped by some keep ball in the closing stages, Donegal held on as Meath's Shane Gallagher was sent off in injury-time for his black card trip on Brennan following his earlier yellow card.

Thomas O'Reilly scores Meath's early goal
Thomas O'Reilly notched Meath's only goal

A comfortable Meath victory looked on the cards as they produced a lightning start to take an eight-point lead.

After two Newman points helped them lead 0-4 to 0-1 by the fifth minute, the target man then set up O'Reilly's goal after winning one of several aerial balls which he won in the first half.

Such was Donegal's difficulties as the deficit was extended to eight, manager Declan Bonner hauled off young defender Brendan McCole after only 13 minutes with veteran full-back Neil McGee coming on.

The change seemed to do the trick as Donegal responded with a quickfire run of four points in five minutes with Brennan on target twice in addition to youngsters Oisin Gallen and Niall O'Donnell.

The impressive Gallen's second point of the first half reduced Meath'ss lead to three minutes in the 31 minutes before Declan Bonner's side had an escape as Michael Newman's goal was correctly ruled out for his own square ball after Bryan McMahon's sensational run.

Meath seemed to have got over that blow as points from the outstanding Cillian O'Sullivan and O'Reilly left them five clear at the break.

Immediately after the break, Barry Dardis blazed wide a glorious goal chance which could have re-established an eight-point lead for Meath.

And while Donegal did reduce Meath's lead to only two points following Murphy scores on 44 and 45 minutes, the Royal seemed to have wrested back a degree of control after a Graham Reilly point was followed by a superb Dardis free.

However, Donegal outscored Meath 1-4 to 0-1 in the closing 24 minutes of play as Brennan's 58th-minute goal was the key score.

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