Donegal 2-11 0-16 Laois

Laois forward MJ Tierney holds on to the ball as Donegal's Frank McGlynn moves in to challenge
Laois forward MJ Tierney holds on to the ball as Donegal's Frank McGlynn moves in to challenge

Donegal clung on for a one-point win in Sunday's Football League Division Two final despite a fine comeback by Laois.

The Ulster men had a eight-point lead early in the second half but that was dramatically cut to one after Donegal's Adrian Hanlon was sent-off.

Skipper Michael Murphy netted a 19th-minute penalty and then set up Colm McFadden for the second goal soon after the restart.

When Laois scored seven points without reply they looked the likely winners.

But Donegal, beaten by Laois during the league campaign, just got over the line with Murphy and McFadden each contributing one goal and three points.

Now managed by former star Jim McGuinness, Donegal made an impressive start. They almost plundered a goal straight from the throw-in but Laois keeper Eoin Culleton dived to his right to paw Colm McFadden's fisted effort behind.

Captain Murphy booted over the resulting 45 for the first point of the final but Niall Donoher quickly levelled matters from play.

The Ulster county went close to a goal again when Dermot Molloy's low left-footed shot smacked off the far post.

Ryan Bradley of Donegal comes under pressure from Laois opponent Shane Julian
Donegal's Ryan Bradley comes under pressure from Shane Julian of Laois

Donegal edged ahead when Mark McHugh shot over the bar after McFadden's flick had sent him clear but the Laois response was swift again with centre half-forward John O'Loughlin registering from play.

The key moment of the first half came when referee Martin Duffy called a penalty when Murphy went down under the challenge of defender Darren Strong.

The verdict may have been harsh on Laois, but full-forward Murphy capitalised impressively with a superb penalty, taking his 2011 league tally to three goals and 28 points.

That goal proved to be the difference at the break as Donegal added points from McFadden (2) and Ryan Bradley while Laois scored through Ross Munnelly, an MJ Tierney free and Donoher.

However, the gap suddenly stretched to four within a minute of the restart.

Murphy immediately pointed on the resumption and that was followed by McFadden's goal from his skipper's unselfish lay-off.

It was a blistering start by Donegal but they suffered a setback when Adrian Hanlon was sent-off for a second yellow card offence.

Murphy extended the lead to 2-7 to 0-5 with a splendid sideline ball before Laois hit five unanswered points from play. Substitute Paul Cahillane and Munnelly got two each while wing half-back Strong completed his run of scoring in every league game this year.

Laois were now in the ascendancy against 14-man Donegal who were feeling the pressure of seeing their lead steadily dwindle.

Skipper Colm Begley made it six points without reply in 13 minutes to cut the gap to just two with 14 minutes still to go and then replacement forward Paul Kingston landed a free to make it a one-point game.

A timely McFadden free gave Donegal their first score in 20 minutes and Rory Kavanagh quickly added a point from play to make it 2-9 to 12 points.

Kevin Cassidy then landed a fine long-range effort and suddenly the Ulster men were ahead by four.

Tierney quickly replied for Laois but sub David Walsh went through to pop the ball over the bar.

Laois kept chipping away at Donegal's lead and, when Kingston's shot was tipped over by keeper Paul Durkan, the gap was down to two points.

Cahillane shot over in stoppage-time but there was no time left for the Leinster men to find a levelling score.

Donegal: P Durkan; M Boyle, K Rafferty, K Lacey; A Thompson, F McFlynn, K Cassidy; R Kavanagh, M McElhinney; A Hanlon, M McHugh, D Molloy; R Bradley, M Murphy, C McFadden.

Laois: E Culleton; D Booth, K Meaney, M Timmons; D Strong, S Julian, P O'Leary; P Clancy, B Quigley; C Begley, J O'Loughlin, N Donoher; R Munnelly, B Sheehan, MJ Tierney.

Referee: Martin Duffy (Sligo)

  • In the Division One final, Cork recovered from being eights points down to beat Dublin 0-21 to 2-14.