Donegal savage the Saffron men in second half to advance with ease
Donegal 3-19 Antrim 1-9
Even with a new-look side containing five Championship first timers, Donegal managed to cruise past Antrim to reach an Ulster semi-final.
Rory Gallagher’s side made light work of Antrim in a game that had the feel of a challenge game to it once Donegal got into their groove.
They could pull the experience of the likes of Patrick McBrearty - who scored 1-2 - Karl Lacey, Mark McHugh and Martin McElhinney off the bench, but it was an afternoon when they changed Donegal guard laid down its ambitious to keep the Tir Chonaill men among the top sides.
And once Jamie Brennan netted their opening goal, in the 31st minute, there was never any doubt about the result. Paddy McGrath bagged a first ever Donegal goal and McBrearty, who didn’t make the starting line-up owing to a quad injury, netted a third late in the day.
“We’d like to think that we’re one of the top teams in the province and one of the top teams in the country,” Gallagher said.
“It is nice to win. The reality is that we fully expected to win; we are operating out of division one, Antrim were relegated to division four and had a difficult 10 days. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked but in the second half we showed some moments.
“We expected to win, we have very talented footballers and that is why we operate in that division.”
The first goal came just a minute after Matthew Fitzpatrick - cleared of a proposed 48-week ban during the week - prodded wide of the Donegal goal.
Bundoran’s Brennan got on the end of a give-and-go between Michael Murphy and Micheál Carroll before finishing in style.
Antrim had an earlier goal opportunity but CJ McGourty shot wide from a similar position to Fitzpatrick.
McGourty top scored for Antrim with six frees, but the Saffrons were unable to put it up to Donegal. With a massive point from Hugh McFadden and a tidy effort from Brennan, Donegal were five up at the interval.
Corner-back McGrath had scored just two points for Donegal before now, but he slotted in a 62nd minute goal after a sweeping move involving Jason McGee, Martin McElhinney and Ryan McHugh.
Donegal got nine different players on the scoreboard with 1-6 coming from their bench.
McBrearty was unable to start because of a quad injury, but came off the bench to score 1-2, netting a fine goal in added time after cutting inside to blast past the helpless Chris Kerr.
A former Footballer of the Year - Karl Lacey - and former All-Star - Mark McHugh - were among the replacements on the mark while Michael Langan - another of the debutants - swung over a pair of excellent scores.
Antrim sub Conor Small broke through for a last-ditch goal that will hardly even have felt like a consolation for the Saffrons.
Antrim joint manager Frank Fitzpatrick said: “I suppose you are playing one of the top teams in Ireland. It's just a totally different level than we are used to.”