Donegal see off 14-man Longford after stern test in Ballybofey
DONEGAL 0-12 LONGFORD 0-7
For long periods, this was threatening to become an ordeal for Donegal but, finally, they did enough to see off Longford.
Donegal supporters in the healthy 9,915 watched for long periods through the gaps in their fingers on an evening of 33 wides (17 of them by Donegal).
They were lifted considerably in a three-minute spell just before the hour that finally gave them a sight of the winning post.
Patrick McBrearty, Jamie Brennan and Eoin McHugh reeled off the scores that broke Longford’s resistance.
Brennan’s was the score of the game, a delicious finish after Karl Lacey and Michael Murphy provided the ammunition.
In those moments, Donegal had victory in the nostrils for the first time.
Longford were down to 14 men by that stage, James McGivney sent off for a 49th minute foul on Eoghan Ban Gallagher that earned him a second yellow card.
The entire Longford half-forward line had their evenings ended due to ill-discipline as Daniel Mimnagh and Darren Gallagher were black carded. With a full compliment, they might have been able to add to what is a considerable list of scalps.
For the first time since 2010, the green and gold bunting won’t be upon Donegal lampposts for the Ulster final.
Back then, the tenure of John Joe Doherty came to an abrupt end following a qualifier hammering by Armagh in Crossmaglen. That Saturday evening seven years ago, Longford were beating Mayo at Pearse Park, though Donegal and Mayo managed to get their stars in line thereafter.
Longford, meantime, maintained a reputation as summer enders with the likes of Derry, Down and Monaghan falling to the Midlanders in recent years.
At half-time, Denis Connection’s team was threatening to claim their biggest scalp yet.
Three frees by midfielder David McGivney and another from Robbie Smyth helped Longford into a 0-4 to 0-3 interval lead.
Had Longford corner-forward Smyth managed to get his paws properly on a ball at a time when he found himself in space between Neil McGee and Mark Anthony McGinley, a goal surely was on the cards. As it was, Donegal breathed a collective sigh of relief.
A 50-metre free by Michael Murphy and a delightful point by Patrick McBrearty couldn’t rise Donegal.
Martin McElhinney brought a renewed and needed edge to proceedings for Donegal. McElhinney landed a point late in the first half and curled over to level the game 10 minutes into the second half.
In a good spell for Donegal, Rory Gallagher’s team kicked seven out of eight points with Eoin McHugh in on the act on a daring run from deep.
Donegal were full of nerves and still lacking the qualities that defined them in the League.
The nine-point Ulster semi-final loss to Tyrone was still in their system, but for now they’ll be content just to have their names in Monday morning’s draw.
At this stage, when the lives are out, any win will do.
SCORERS - Donegal: P McBrearty 0-5 (4f), M Murphy 0-3 (3f), M McElhinney 0-2, J Brennan, E McHugh 0-1 each
Longford: D McGivney, R Smyth 0-3f each, D Masterson 0-1
DONEGAL - MA McGinley; P McGrath, N McGee, C Ward; E McHugh, R McHugh, E Gallagher; M Murphy, J McGee; M Carroll, F McGlynn, M Langan; C Thompson, P McBrearty, M O’Reilly.
Subs: M McElhinney for Carroll (28), H McFadden for J.McGee (49), J Brennan for O’Reilly (53), M McHugh for McGlynn (55), K Lacey for Langan (56), P Brennan for Gallagher (65).
LONGFORD - P Collum; D Masterson, P McCormack, B Gilleran; D McElligot, M Quinn, D Reynolds; John Keegan, D McGivney; D Mimnagh, J McGivney, D Gallagher; R Smyth, L Connerton, B McKeon.
Subs: C Berry for Mimnagh (bc, 26), L Moran for Gallagher (bc, 41), A Farrell for McKeon (65), R McIntyre for D.McGivney (65), J Kelly for Connerton (70).
REF - P Hughes (Armagh).