Paddy McBrearty produces stellar display to down Cork and set up Dublin clash
DONEGAL 0-21 CORK 1-15
NO team has shocked Dublin to quite the same degree as Donegal in this, the Dubs' era-of-plenty.
The defeated Ulster finalists produced a tactical annihilation of Jim Gavin’s heavily-favoured All-Ireland champions in the 2014 semi-final and after eventually crushing a lively Cork this afternoon, they set up another crack at a Dublin team carrying the same weighty billing.
The presumption that Cork would fall quickly to a team with greater reason for having bigger ambitions was exploded early on here.
At one stage in the first half, they led by five points and were worth every bit of it and probably a small bit more.
The most startling sight of that period was the sheer openness of the Donegal defence.
Routinely, Cork got joy out of the simple act of sending their kick-outs long and they found space and time much more freely available than any other opponent this summer.
A disconnect existed between their full-back and half-back lines and Cork had the possession and invention to exploit it.
After Colm O’Driscoll bombed forward to score his second point to give Cork a 0-6 to 0-4 lead in the 15th minute, Paul Kerrigan took a quick free close to Donegal’s goal, played and one-two with Eoin Cadogan and then cut back inside his man and slammed a shot into the roof of Mark Anthony McGinley’s net.
There and then, Cork looked in much better shape and a more settled frame of mind
Their problem, in essence, was Paddy McBrearty.
The Kilcar man has been an enigmatic presence in the Donegal attack since arriving onto the senior scene as a teenager but yesterday may have been his finest work.
He had seven points scored by half-time, five from play. By the end, he had 11 points bagged, only four of which arrived via frees in what was probably the most virtuoso performance of any inside forward in this year’s Championship.
Cadogan was his marker but collectively, Cork couldn’t stop McBrearty taking the ball on the wrap-around and his economy was incredible.
He kicked no wides and finished the match with 10 points and even if McBrearty was forced into a more marginal presence in the second-half, his influence on the match was easily the most pronounced.
Still, it said something of Cork’s collective effort that they went into the break a point up and when the teams re-emerged, all had changed utterly.
Stylistically, the second-half was a different game entirely.
Donegal returned to type.
They dropped everyone into their own half upon the very frequent occasion of a Cork possession.
They ceded every kick-out and dared Cork break them down.
Peadar Healy took off his target man, Peter Kelleher, and brought on another specialist ball-carrier, Paddy Kelly.
It was that sort of half – all tight, arching runs and short off-the-shoulder flick passes, poking and jabbing and trying to loosen the chains.
The have-a-go-hero stuff of the first-half was abandoned as the match became a much more cautious, tactical battle.
Both put 15 men behind the ball and unsurprisingly, it was Donegal who were the more comfortable with the new terms of engagement.
In Ryan and Eoin McHugh, they had the smoother, more penetrative ball-carriers and while the teams traded points for the first 20 minutes of the half, Donegal took over in the 55th minute.
They kicked six on the bounce, including three from McBrearty and each from one of the McHughs that started the match and when they fully locked their defence, Cork had no way through.
The Revels were limited to just four points in the second half and thus Donegal marched on, with Dublin's scent in their flared nostrils.
SCORERS – Donegal: P McBrearty 0-11 (4f), R McHugh 0-3, E McHugh, M Murphy (1f) 0-2 each, K Lacey, F McGlynn, O MacNiallais 0-1 each. Cork: P Kerrigan 1-1, D O’Connor, K O’Driscoll, C O’Driscoll, Tom Clancy, C O’Neill (1f) 0-2 each, S Powter, Tomás Clancy, A Walsh, M Collins o-1 each.
DONEGAL: M McGinley; P McGrath, E McGee, N McGee; K Lacey, M O’Reilly, F McGlynn; O MacNiallais, M Murphy; E McHugh, R McHugh, A Thompson; E McHugh, R Kavanagh, P McBrearty. Subs:C Gillespie for E McGee (44), L McLoone for Kavanagh (46), C Toye for Thompson (55), M McHugh for McGlynn (61), E Doherty for McGee (68), H McFadden for McElhinney (71)
CORK: R Price; Tom Clancy, E Cadogan, S Cronin; S Powter, C O’Driscoll, Tomás Clancy; A O’Connor, I Maguire; K O’Driscoll, M Collins, M Hurley; D O’Connor, P Kelleher, P Kerrigan. Subs: A Walsh for O’Connor (36), P Kelly for Kelleher (42), C O’Neill for O’Connor (47), B O’Driscoll for Tom Clancy (48), J O’Rourke for K O’Driscoll (62), A Cadogan for Powter (68)
REF: P Neilan (Roscommon)