McGuinness hails Donegal new kids for 'fresh impetus'
Donegal 2-11 Monaghan 0-10
JIM McGuinness has a contented look about him these days.
After watching his side defeat Monaghan by seven points yesterday, the Donegal manager hailed the newcomers to his starting 15. Still chastened from their defeat by Monaghan in last year's Ulster final, Donegal set to work early here, and goals by Odhran MacNiallais and Colm McFadden set the tone.
MacNiallais superbly netted seven minutes in, powering past Rory Beggan from 15 metres after the defence opened up in front of him. The 21-year-old has firmly established himself in the side and was Tir Chonaill's chief marksman with 1-3.
The encouraging signs were again plentiful for Donegal, in front of 6,500 supporters in Letterkenny. Even not at their best, they were still comfortable winners. Ryan McHugh – 'a very fit boy with a great football brain', in McGuinness' words – gave another reminder of his refined touch, while Martin McElhinney put in a fine shift.
"The new faces have given us a fresh impetus and that's good for the older players as well," McGuinness said. "Eamon McGee is there in the stand today and Paddy McGrath is there to come back. Those are good problems to have down the line. Young boys are coming in and pushing. There is no set 15 any more. You have six subs now as well if you have the numbers to use them."
Donegal bagged their second goal in the 18th minute when one of the old guard, McFadden, turned home from close range after Dermot Molloy engineered an opening.
Rory Kavanagh, McFadden, MacNiallais and McElhinney hit points as Donegal led 2-4 to 0-4 at the interval and their advantage should have been greater.
Beggan smothered an effort by Leo McLoone seven minutes into the second half after the centre-back latched onto a pass from teenage sub and league debutant Darach O'Connor.
All Star Conor McManus had been Monaghan's only scorer in the first half and even though Fintan Kelly, Jack McCarron, Beggan ('45') and Dessie Mone got in on the act, Monaghan's fate was long since sealed.
Michael Murphy landed a free to stretch the lead to eight points midway through the half, while Patrick McBrearty, also on as a sub, gave a gentle reminder to his manager with a brace of excellent long-range points.
Monaghan did get in behind, but Dermot Malone had a weak effort saved by Paul Durcan and had another cleared off the line by a combination of Karl Lacey and Martin O'Reilly.
MacNiallais had the final say, setting up Declan Walsh for a score, before scoring himself with the last kick.
McGuinness said: "We're happy with the performance. They worked hard and set the tone very early in the game and brought it through to the final kick. We were playing against the breeze in the first half and it turned, so we were against it in the second half as well.
"We did really well on our own kick-outs against the breeze in the first, but we had to contend with it again in the second. They pushed up and squeezed us more, which made it a battle."
The Monaghan panel attended Mass in St Eunan's Cathedral before the game, but there was no divine intervention for the Farney County.
Manager Malachy O'Rourke said: "When we gave them that lead it was always going to be hard to peg it back. Donegal had more urgency than us. Donegal were hungrier and we have to accept that."
SCORERS – Donegal: O MacNiallais 1-3, C McFadden 1-2 (1f), P McBrearty 0-2, R Kavanagh, M McElhinney, M Murphy (f), D Walsh 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 0-5 (3fs), J McCarron 0-2 (1f), Beggan ('45'), D Mone, F Kelly 0-1 each.
DONEGAL – P Durcan 7; K Lacey 7, N McGee 7, R McHugh 8; F McGlynn 7, L McLoone 7, A Thompson 6; R Kavanagh 7, M McElhinney 8; M McHugh 6, C Toye 6, O MacNiallais 9; C McFadden 7, M Murphy 6, D Molloy 7. Subs: N Gallagher 6 for Kavanagh (42), P McBrearty 7 for Toye (42), D O'Connor 7 for Molloy (42), M O'Reilly 5 for McElhinney (63), D Walsh 5 for McGlynn (69).
MONAGHAN – R Beggan 6; R Wylie 6, D Wylie 6, F Kelly 6; C Walshe 6, K Hughes 6, C Boyle 6; G Doogan 5, P Finlay 5; T Kerr 5, C McGuinness 5, P Keenan 5; D Malone 5, J McCarron 6, C McManus 7. Subs: P Donaghy 5 for Kerr (26), D Clerkin 6 for Finlay (h-t), K O'Connell 6 for Keenan (h-t), D Mone 7 for Boyle (42), V Corey 6 for R Wylie (52).
REF – B Cassidy (Derry)