Donegal leave Clare for dust to book spot in All-Ireland quarter-finals

Jim McGuinness’s side were 13 points ahead by half-time in Castlebar

Donegal's Ryan McHugh celebrates scoring a goal during the Al-Ireland SFC Round 3 game against Clare at Hastings MacHale Park in Castlebar. Photograph: Natasha Barton/Inpho
All-Ireland Group 3, Round 3: Donegal 2-23 Clare 0-5

Just as the rainclouds lifted from the mountains in the distance, the picture in MacHale Park became a little clearer too – Donegal were just two points shy of their record score in a championship match.

Ryan McHugh and Oisín Gallen scored the goals as Donegal made light work of Clare. The Banner were no match for Donegal who bypass next weekend’s preliminaries and go straight into the All-Ireland quarter-finals, albeit with a nod to their Ulster foes Tyrone whose win over Cork sees Jim McGuinness’s men through.

Donegal were 13 points ahead (1-11 to 0-1) at half-time in Castlebar, where McHugh rifled past Tristan O’Callaghan just five minutes in.

As O’Callaghan reached for the ball, even in that early moment, the Clare goalkeeper seemed in for a busy afternoon.

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Emmet McMahon curled over the game’s first score, but few if any of the 5,137 in attendance will have been surprised at what happened next.

Donegal moved through the gears, Gallen offloaded to McHugh. The Kilcar man has seen his own graph, like Donegal’s, move firmly upwards since his return to the fold this year and his goal set the tone.

At almost the exact point in the second half, Gallen got the better of O’Callaghan to finish off a second goal for the Ulster champions.

Defeat in Cork 14 days previously removed Donegal’s hands from the controls of their destiny, but they kept up their own end with little fuss.

Conor O’Donnell, a much-heralded youngster from Carndonagh, came off the bench after a year out to clip two points in the second half, one of 11 Donegal players to score.

DONEGAL: S Patton; M Curran (0-1), B McCole, E Gallagher; R McHugh (1-4), C McGonagle, P Mogan (0-1); C Moore (0-1), M Langan (0-1); S O’Donnell (0-1), C Thompson (0-2), O Doherty; P McBrearty (0-5), O Gallen (1-4, 0-2 45), N O’Donnell.

Subs: C O’Donnell (0-2) for Curran, D O Baoill (0-1) for Doherty (both h-t); S McMenamin for Gallagher (42 mins); H McFadden for Langan (50); K McGettigan for Mogan (57).

CLARE: T O’Callaghan; M Doherty, C Brennan, R Lanigan; A Sweeney, C Rouine, I Ugweru; B McNamara, M Garry; D Walsh, D Coughlan, G Murray; C Downes, A Griffin, E McMahon (0-4, 0-3f).

Subs: D O’Donnell (0-1, f) for Downes (h-t); D Nagle for Murray (41 mins); J Curran for Walsh (49); S Griffin for A Griffin (54); C Burke for Ugweru (65).

Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).