Down 1-10 1-9 Donegal

Dan Gordon and Neil Gallagher
Dan Gordon battles with Neil Gallagher in the Division 1 clash at Newry

Down made a winning start to their NFL Division One campaign as they edged out Donegal in an entertaining clash.

Liam Doyle's sixth-minute goal helped the Mournemen take a 1-3 to 0-1 lead at Newry but Donegal fought back to trail 1-5 to 0-6 at the interval.

Martin McElhinney's 50th-minute goal looked to have turned the game in Donegal's favour as they moved two up.

However, Down hit four of the last five scores although Dermot Molloy missed two late chances to level for Donegal.

While both teams were missing regulars going into the game, Donegal's hand looked stronger.

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Down manager James McCartan is happy as his understrength side edge out Donegal at Newry in the National League opener

Down paraded league debutants Owen Costello and Kevin Quinn in the full-back line while a number of the Mourne players lined out despite carrying niggles.

However, the home team made a fast start with Aidan Brannigan, Benny Coulter and Doyle all registering quickfire points.

Stephen Griffin opened Donegal's account in the fifth minute but Doyle then lashed in a tremendous goal 30 seconds later after running onto a long diagonal ball from midfield.

The goal seemed to stir Donegal from their early slumber and they outscored Down 0-4 to 0-2 during the remainder of the first half.

Donegal looked to have struck a crucial blow when McElhinney finished off a fine move to find the net with a low shot past Brendan McVeigh on 50 minutes.

The goal put Donegal two ahead and you would have backed the Ulster champions to go on and win at that stage.

However, a Doyle free and Brannigan's second point of the night - after he had been substituted but then re-introduced as a blood replacement - brought the sides level again.

Doyle then brought up his tally to 1-4 as he nudged Down ahead again and Con Garvey doubled the Mourne County's lead after an unlikely fetch in the Donegal defence by the dimunitive but lively Conor Laverty.

In truth, Donegal should still have secured a draw in the closing stages as substitute Molloy slotted a fine point but he then missed two further chances, which included a 40-metre free deep into injury-time.

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