Donegal show that old mettle to end Monaghan’s reign
Jim McGuinness says Ulster final win in Clones exceeds any since he took over as manager
Monaghan’s Ryan Wylie and Dick Clerkin with Donegal’s Neil McGee. Photograph: Morgan Treacy / Inpho
It is Donegal’s third Ulster title in four years under Jim McGuinness and their first time to beat Monaghan in summer football since 1983. Even more remarkably, this title marks 13 Ulster wins in 14 days out.
Afterwards, the Glenties man said the victory exceeds any since he took over as manager.
It was no rose garden in Clones, with Monaghan setting up another blue and white brick wall and asking the Donegal men to break away through it. A year ago, as All-Ireland champions, they seemed to hit a mental wall in addition to a ferocious and brave Monaghan task. Today, they displayed their old virtue of patience and played and thought their way to a third Ulster title in four seasons.
Not even the rare occurrence of a Monaghan goal- gifted by the even rarer occurrence of a spilled ball by Frank McGlynn punished by Chris McGuinness – could break the concentration.
Superior shooting led the way: Patrick McBrearty, named in the starting team but held in reserve, came in after 20 minutes and hit three huge points in a performance of real leadership. Neil Gallagher had an immense influence at the heart of the park and Paul Durcan’s kick-outs were sublime in their variety and accuracy.
Donegal led from the start to finish and although really heroic efforts from Vinny Corey, Dessie Mone and Colin Walshe kept the champions in contention until the final whistle, it was a low-key show of domination by Jim McGuinness’s team.
Whether McGuinness and Donegal can generate a burst similar to 2012 for Croke Park remains to be seen. Today was all about Ulster: they celebrated this win just as much as they did their All-Ireland triumph of 2012. Three jersey changes, all soaked in blood, bore testimony to the level of collisions.
Both McGees departed for surgery while Ryan McHugh, who tortured the Monaghan cover with the clever and elusive game so reminiscent of his absent brother Mark, was probably the most influential player on the field.
If Michael Murphy never plays Monaghan again, he might be happy.
Again, he was shadowed diligently by Vinny Corey and couldn’t exert a central influence but did hit the monster free which more or less ended Monaghan’s year of champions.
The first half was a grind. As expected, Donegal announced three significant changes before the parade, with Karl Lacey and Gallagher coming into the starting line. Both made big contributions, with Gallagher keeping possession moving through midfield and taking a majestic kickout from Paul Durcan as both sides pressed hard on restarts.
Lacey has rediscovered the energy and timing which set him apart two years ago and needed it in the 32nd minute when he made up lost ground to partially block a terrific goal chance for Monaghan’s Fintan Kelly.
That chance arose from an aggressive press from the Ulster champions on a Donegal free out; Lacey tried to find Michael Murphy but his pass was cut out by Gollogly and saw a rare burst of sunlight in the Donegal cover.
The half chance illuminated the nature of the game perfectly. Both teams were too wary of one another to go and express themselves. In any event, there was no space to do so.
Donegal’s half-backs and half-forwards tried a variety of combinations to unlock the brilliantly organised Monaghan defence and were rewarded with two fine points from play from Odhran MacNiallais.
Monaghan couldn’t repeat the early scoring burst which set them up this time last year but stayed in touch with a sensational point from the 50-yard line by Paul Finlay, who also added two frees.
The half was interrupted with a few dust-ups and several long breaks in play, including one in which Michael Murphy lay on the field following an off-the ball incident. Dick Clerkin, vehemently protesting innocence, was handed a yellow card.
Donegal were organised and showed none of the lethargy of 12 months ago but it was easy to see that this Monaghan side has a talent for getting under their skin.
Their nerve might have broken when McGuinness goaled and the Monaghan blood was up but the calm and skilled response, engineered by the leadership of Leo McLoone and Gallagher, saw them work three points without reply.
It was a bright example of the composure and grace under pressure which Donegal have come to exhibit under Jim McGuinness. Ulster champions again, then, and nobody will really fancy playing them. Sounds familiar.
Donegal: 1 P Durcan, 3 N McGee, 2 E McGee, 7 P McGrath; 5 A Thompson (0-1), 22 K Lacey 6 F McGlynn,; 26 N Gallagher (0-1), 9 C Toye; 4 R McHugh (0-1), 14 M Murphy (0-2 frees), 12 O MacNiallais (0-3); 11 L McLoone, 17 D O’Connor , 15 C McFadden (0-4 frees).
Substitutes: 13 P McBrearty (0-3)for D O’Connor (26 mins), 10 R Kavanagh for C TOye (47 mins), 8 M McElhinney for O MacNiallais (58 mins), 18 D Walsh for L McLoone (61 mins), 20 D Molloy for C McFadden (66 mins),
Monaghan: 1 R Beggan (0-2 , 1 free 1 50); 4 C Walshe, 2 R Wylie, 3 D Wylie; 5 D Mone, 6 V Corey (0-1), 7 F Kelly; 8 D Hughes, 9 D Hughes; 10 P McKenna, 11 S Gollogly, 12 P Finlay (0-4, 3 frees); 13 D Malone, 14 K Hughes (0-1), 15 C McManus (0-1).
Substitutes: 26 C McGuinness (1-0) for P McKenna (45 mins), 23 E Duffy for S Gollogy (52 mins), 20 K O’Connell for F Kelly (61 mins), 22 P Donaghy for 13 D Malone (61 mins), 31 G Doogan for D Clerkin (67 mins).
Referee: D Coldrick.