Thursday 26 April 2018

Donegal roll back the years to dethrone old Ulster rivals

Donegal 0-17 Monaghan 2-10

Donegal players Christy Toye and Michael Murphy celebrate after their victory over Monaghan in last night’s Ulster football championship replay. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donegal players Christy Toye and Michael Murphy celebrate after their victory over Monaghan in last night’s Ulster football championship replay. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donegal's Rory Kavanagh of Donegal in action against Monaghan's Darren Hughes during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay in Cavan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Monaghan's Ryan McAnespie action against Odhrán Mac Niallais of Donegal during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Donegal's Mark Anthony McGinley celebrates his side's victory against Monaghan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Seán McGoldrick

Donegal's best days might be behind them but they rolled back the years last night to knock defending title holders Monaghan out of the Ulster series and reach the provincial final for a record sixth consecutive time.

It was a particularly significant win for Donegal boss Rory Gallagher as it was the first time during his tenure that his remodelled side that got the better of Malachy O'Rourke's team.

This is also the first time that Monaghan will be involved in the second round of the All-Ireland qualifiers since O'Rourke took over, though on paper they have a relatively straightforward home encounter against Longford next weekend.

Even though they conceded two goals to Monaghan for the first time since this most intense rivalry began in 2013, a much more disciplined performance from the Donegal defence was the key as they conceded only two points from frees.

Martin O'Reilly was the unsung hero hitting three points from play and significantly five of the Donegal forwards scored from play whereas only three of the opposition forwards got on the scoresheet.

There was a very low-key start to the contest with just one two scores in the opening eight minutes - both from Donegal while Monaghan squandered three chances at the other end. With Rory Kavanagh making a much bigger impact than in the drawn game, Donegal had doubled their advantage by the 15th minute with points from Murphy ('45) and Martin McElhinney.

Read more: Replay skirmish just the beginning of Tyrone's long war

But the contest was turned on its head it the space of two minutes. Shane Carey opened the Monaghan account with a dubious point which the umpires hesitated before awarding but there was no denying his opportunism and McManus' vision less than a minute later.

Uncharacteristically, the Donegal defence were caught napping and McManus popped a close-in free - awarded for a foul on himself - to the unmarked McCarthy who slid the ball past Mark Anthony McGinley.

Donegal held their nerve, however, and both Darren Hughes and McManus were fortunate not to get black-carded but crucially Rory Gallagher's side hit the next three scores. But the contest took another unexpected twist three minutes before the break.

Referee Maurice Deegan ruled that Anthony Thompson had fouled Monaghan corner-back Ryan Wylie just inside the Donegal penalty area, even though it was Eoin McHugh who appeared to impede the defender. Regardless, it was a case of double jeopardy for Donegal was Thompson was black-carded - he was replaced by Ryan McHugh and McManus dispatched the penalty.

Against all the odds the game was level and the frustrating thing for Donegal was that they had conceded two of the worst goals imaginable; the concession of the penalty was totally unnecessary but again the Donegal response was positive as they hit two late points to deservingly lead 0-10 to 2-2 at half-time.

Initially the scoring rate increased immediately after the break with the sides sharing two points each. Rory Beggan, however, continued to have problems finding his colleagues with his restarts but Donegal twice let them off the hook with Murphy ('45) and McBrearty (free) missing chances to extend their side's lead.

But at the other end the poverty of the Monaghan attack was underlined when Conor McManus landed two shots into the arms of Donegal goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley - it was the fifth time that they had dropped shots short and just to add to misery Rory Beggan was wide with a long-range free.

Monaghan had introduced four of their substitutes with 20 minutes left but although Donegal seemed in control the game was in the melting pot and just to emphasise the point Monaghan subsitutute Conor Boyle made it a one-point game in the 52nd minute.

Donegal finally made their dominance count hitting three of the next four points with two excellent efforts from play from McBrearty and Reilly to lead by three. But Donegal's capacity for coughing up goal chances surfaced again with less than ten minutes remaining.

A mistake by Karl Lacey let substitute Conor McCarthy in on goal but his audacious chip over the advancing McGinley but it clipped off the crossbar and rebounded to safety. Rory Kavanagh was sent off after picking up a second yellow and Monaghan finally find their mojo with McManus converting two frees and substitute Jack McCarron hitting his second point since his introduction to cut the deficit to a point.

As the tension mounted the next break went to Donegal when Karl O'Connell was forced to haul down Ryan McHugh, leaving Monaghan down to 14 men. Murphy nailed the free to leave it a two-point game but the drama was far from finished with five minutes of injury time played. Donegal tried to play down the clock and nearly paid the price with Colin Walshe leaving one point between the sides again with a minute left.

And there was one chance left for Monaghan to send the game into extra-time when they were awarded a free from 48 metres. Goalkeeper Rory Beggan opted to come forward but surprisingly he opted to go short. They worked the ball down the right but Kieran Duffy's shot dropped short - it was the story of the game from a Monaghan perspective with six of their efforts dropping short.

Scorers - Donegal: M Murphy 0-5 (3f, 45), P McBrearty 0-4 (3f), M O'Reilly 0-3, F McGlynn, R Kavanagh, A Thompson, M McElhinney, M McHugh 0-1 each; Monaghan: C McManus 1-4 (pen, f), S Carey 1-1, J McCarron 0-2, C Walshe, O Duffy, C Boyle 0-1 each.

Donegal: MA McGinley; P McGrath, C Gillespie, E McGee; E McHugh, R McHugh, F McGlynn; R Kavanagh, O MacNiallais; A Thompson, M McElhinney, K Lacey; P McBrearty, M Murphy, M O'Reilly. Subs: M McHugh for Thompson (BC) 33; C Toye for McEhinney 52; McElhinny for MacNiallais 69, E Gallagher for O'Reilly 74.

Monaghan: R Beggan; C Walshe, D Wylie, R Wylie; K Duffy, V Corey, F Kelly; K Hughes, K O'Connell; O Duffy, R McAnespie, S Carey; D McKenna, D Hughes, C McManus. Subs: N McAdam for D Wylie h-t; D Malone for McKenna h-t; C Boyle for D Wylie 46; C McCarthy for Carey 49; J McCarron for K Hughes 52; D Mone for Kelly 63.

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

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