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Published: 19:53 | 10/2/18

WATCH: Dublin pressure on Donegal kick-out proved crucial, says eir Sport's Horan

Dublin pressure on the Donegal kick-out eventually proved crucial in the Sky Blues' 0-20 to 0-15 Allianz Leagues Division 1 victory over Donegal at Croke Park on Saturday, according to eir Sport pundit James Horan.

Dublin went into the break 0-11 to 0-05 up following a second quarter surge led by Niall Scully, but Patrick McBrearty inspired a second-half Donegal comeback to get Declan Bonner's side back to within a point of the All-Ireland champions.

However, late scores from Paul Mannion, Eoghan O'Gara, Paul Flynn and Paddy Small helped secure Dublin's third consecutive league victory, following opening rounds wins over Kildare and Tyrone.

And former Mayo boss Horan believes the game got away from Donegal in the first half, as the Dublin midfield dominated the opening 35 minutes with repeated pressure on the Peter Boyle kick-out.

Donegal's first-choice goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley was injured in the Tir Chonaill's 2-18 to 3-14 opening league defeat to Kerry in Killarney on 28 January, and McGinley's understudy Boyle struggled for a second successive game with his kick-outs.

Aodh Ruadh clubman Boyle suffered what Bonner called "a baptism of fire" in Sunday's 1-12 to 0-14 defeat to Galway in Letterkenny, and again looked ill-at-ease kicking from the hand in Saturday's defeat to Dublin.

"Donegal started well, but after about eight or nine minutes, Dublin wrested momentum and started getting scores," Horan told Match Night Live.

"The kick-outs that followed the scores just increased the pressure on Donegal. 

"The majority of kick-outs are long, over the Donegal players, and Dublin are so strong in winning the midfield battle, winning frees, winning possession and attacking.

"The first instinct is to get it long, get it as far away as they can, but Dublin are hoovering it up.

"If that happens, you need to change your strategy - you can see the pressure is increasing on the goalkeeper when Donegal are getting hammered at the kick-out.

"There are a couple of dodgy kicks and from one of them Niall Scully scores one of his four first-half points."

However, Horan says Donegal are "making progress" and the two-time All-Star was impressed by the Tir Chonaill's second-half fightback.

"Right from the second half, Donegal were strong," he continued.

"Their main players stepped up - what a second half from Partick McBrearty after being starved [of the ball] in the first half.

"Ryan McHugh as well [was excellent]. The amount of support work they did, and their overall general attitude was very good.

"They pushed up on the kick-outs, they went for it a little bit more, they were a bit more aggressive in what they tried to do.

"Declan Bonner will be disappointed, and Donegal are under pressure in Division 1 [after three defeats from three matches} but overall that was a really good performance and they are making progress as a team."

eir Sport has live and exclusive coverage of 17 Saturday matches in the 2018 Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues. Coverage continues on Saturday, 17 February with 2016 All-Ireland winners Tipperary hosting Wexford at Semple Stadium in hurling's Division 1A [live on eir Sport 2, throw in 7pm], and Limerick facing Dublin at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick in Division 1B [live on eir Sport 1, throw-in 7pm].

Image: Inpho/Laszlo Geczo

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