Hurling & Camogie

Josh Cronolly McGee goals seal Nickey Rackard glory for Donegal

The strikes from the sub swung this final away from Mayo

Donegal's Stephen Gillespie
Donegal captain Stephen Gillespie lifts the Nickey Rackard Cup after yesterday’s final win over Mayo at Croke Park. Picture: Sportsfile (Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

Nickey Rackard Cup final Donegal 3-17 Mayo 0-22

TWO smashing goals in from super sub Josh Cronolly McGee helped Donegal snatch a dramatic Nickey Rackard Cup victory over Mayo in a thriller in Croke Park.

Cronolly McGee struck in space in three minutes to overhaul a Mayo team who led from the off but were devastated by a magnificent comeback on a day when Donegal also hit 18 wides.

Those goals came in the 63rd and 66th minutes and turned a Mayo lead of 0-20 to 1-13 into a four-point victory for the Ulster side.

A delighted Donegal boss Mickey McCann said: “The character and mindset of the team to come from trailing by five and six points for long periods before getting the win and that was really special.

“It is a nice way to win and the boys are ecstatic and it is great to get back up to the Christy Ring which was always our aim.

“We had a lot of wides and the occasion did get to some of our boys but we showed great heart and we really got on top and the only time you want to be leading is at the end.”

Cronolly McGee’s first goal was a real cracker as he smashed the sliotar to the net after great work by another sub Ronan McDermott to level the match at 2-15 0-21.

Two minutes later he first-timed the sliotar to the net to put Donegal ahead for the first time since the 10th minute.

Mayo looked shell-shocked as a rampant Donegal finished out the match with fine points from the excellent Ruairi Campbell and Stephen Gillespie.

It looked bleak for Donegal when Mayo led 0-15 to 0-9 midway through the second half.

But a flicked Ruairi Campbell goal from a Gerry Gilmore effort that dropped short gave them new hope and they had that surging finish where the power of their bench proved crucial.

Mayo opened smartly with a well-struck point from John Heraty in the third minute. This was added to by Eoin Delaney as Donegal struggled to settle.

But Brian MacIntyre got them off the mark with a well-struck point in the fourth minute and the lively Ruairi Campbell levelled matters.

That set the pattern for a cagey first half where Mayo always looked the sharper side and wasteful Donegal hit eight wides.

Danny Cullen and the accurate Shane Boland swapped points and Gerry Gilmore nudged Donegal in front in the 11th minute.

Liam Lavin and Campbell traded points and Mayo were gradually getting a foothold with a Boland point putting them into a 0-7 to 0-6 lead.

Mayo goalkeeper Bobby Douglas then landed a mammoth free from 85 metres which seemed to lift the whole team.

A batted-out ball from the Donegal defence only went straight to Cormac Phillips who converted to push the gap out to 0-9 to 0-6.

Donegal’s Liam McKinney had a half chance of a goal but his effort was well saved by Mayo ‘keeper Douglas at the expense of a 65 which Gilmore converted.

But Mayo were increasingly finding gaps in the Donegal defence and Delaney and Sean Kenny made it 0-12 to 0-7 before a McKinney point left Mayo leading 0-12 to 0-8 at the break.

McGee Cronolly, Peter Kelly and Oisin Grant came on for Jack O’Loughlin, Sean Ward and Brian MacIntyre but Mayo’s dominance continued as quick points from Boland and Sean Kenny extended their lead to 0-15 to 0-9

But Campbell’s goal gave renewed hope to Donegal.

However, Boland continued to pop over the points for Mayo.

It was then that 37-year-old Danny Cullen took a firm grip on proceeding along with another veteran Sean McVeigh, who also hit some vital scores.

Shell-shocked Mayo continued to battle to the finish but there was no denying Donegal who held out for a most memorable victory.

Donegal L White; C Curran; S Gillespie; G Browne; S McBride; J O’Loughlin; S McVeigh (0-2); G Gilmore (0-6, 0-2 frees, 0-1 65); C O’Grady; C Gartland; L McKinney (0-2); B McIntyre (0-1); S Ward; D Cullen (0-2); R Campbell (1-3).

Subs J Cronolly McGee (2-0) for O’Loughlin (h-t); P Kelly (0-1) for McIntyre (h-t); O Grant for Ward (h-t); R McDermott for Gartland (48); P Doherty for Browne (59).

Mayo B Douglas (0-01 frees); S Kenny (0-3); O Greally; C Murray; C Hession; D Kenny; E Collins; D Huane; J Heraty (0-1); S Regan (0-1); A Philips (0-1); L Lavin (0-3); S Boland (0-9, 0-4 frees); C Philips (0-1); E Delaney (0-02).

Subs K Feeney for A Philips (52), M Farrell for Heraty (64), J Burke for C Philips (65).

Referee P Owens (Down)