Donegal survive scare to book Ulster semi-final spot
Neil McGee sent off but Fermanagh miss penalty just before interval
Donegal’s Ryan McHugh is chased by Fermanagh’s Declan McCusker and Richard O’Callaghan during the Ulster SFC quarter-final at Ballybofey. Photograph: Lorcan Doherty/Inpho/Presseye
Donegal 2-12 Fermanagh 0-11
Donegal survived a scare just before half-time to eventually outclass Fermanagh in the last of the Ulster quarter-finals in MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey.
With two points between the sides, a high ball into the Donegal area was fielded by Seán Quigley. The full forward was dispossessed by Neil McGee, who seemed to strike out as he tried to burst out.
McGee was shown a straight red card and Fermanagh awarded a penalty, but Quigley was unable to convert as Donegal goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley made a fine save.
It was a big talking point at half-time as Fermanagh had finished the first half really well. But they were never really able to make anything of the numerical advantage in the second period as Donegal upped the tempo.
Any chance of an upset was put to bed as early as the 44th minute when Donegal got their second goal, a score of real quality with Odhrán Mac Niallais on the end of a sweeping move to palm home.
The goal put Donegal 2-7 to 0-8 in front and they went on to add the next three points to lead by seven in the 52nd minute. In the middle of this period of dominance Fermanagh lost one of their better performers, full back Che Cullen.
From there to the end, it was academic as Fermanagh were toothless in attack and Donegal did not miss their talismanic defender McGee. Indeed, one of the statistics of the game was that Fermanagh failed to hit a wide in the second half and had just one point from play in that period.
“If you were to take out the 10 or 12 minute period before half-time, I thought we were very good,” said Donegal manager Rory Gallagher.
“I thought we were way the better team and I thought we were comfortable really in the end.
“Once the second goal went in, we went 2-7 to 0-8 up and then we were 2-10 to 0-8 up and at eight points, we made the decision, let’s just get out of here. Don’t leave too many gaps at the back and get out of here with the win.”
As for the sending off, Gallagher said of McGee: “He’s the best full back in the country, but we’ll look at the evidence. We’ll see what the story is, but if he’s out, he’s out.”
Donegal looked in control until just before half-time when it all kicked off. Points from Patrick McBrearty and Frank McGlynn had Donegal on the board inside five minutes.
Fermanagh hit back with Tomas Corrigan converting a free after a high tackle from Rory Kavanagh (which saw the St Eunan’s man withdrawn five minutes later). Barry Mulrone levelled on 10 minutes, but then Donegal took a grip, thanks to a wonderful period from Mac Niallais.
Firstly Martin O’Reilly outstripped the Fermanagh defence and fisted a point when in on goal, but then on 14 minutes, Martin McElhinney and McGlynn were involved before the latter’s pass to Mac Niallais, who rifled past Christopher Snow.
Seán Quigley responded with a mighty effort from fully 55 metres but quick points from Eoin McHugh and a Patrick McBrearty free after Mac Niallais was fouled and Donegal were five clear.
They almost got a second goal when Mac Niallais found McBrearty with a long, diagonal ball. The Kilcar man broke through two tackles but his goalbound effort was very well saved by an advancing Snow.
But Fermanagh kept plugging away with Eoin Donnelly beginning to get a grip at midfield. Corrigan from a free and Donnelly from play reduced the margin to three and while Mac Niallais hit a wonder point to edge Donegal four clear, two Corrigan frees had the margin down to two as the game entered added time.
Then came the red card for Neil McGee and the penalty save by McGinley from Quigley, which left the half-time score, Donegal 1-6, Fermanagh 0-7.
DONEGAL: Mark Anthony McGinley; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee; Ryan McHugh, Frank McGlynn (0-1), Anthony Thompson; Rory Kavanagh, Hugh McFadden; Eoin McHugh (0-2), Martin McElhinney (0-1), Odhrán Mac Niallais (2-1); Patrick McBrearty (0-3, one free), Michael Murphy (0-1, free) Martin O’Reilly (0-2).
Subs: Leo McLoone for Kavanagh (13 mins); Christy Toye for McLoone (h/t); Rory Kavanagh for McGlynn (53 mins); Mark McHugh for McElhinney (58 mins); Colm McFadden (0-1, free) for McBrearty (70 mins).
FERMANAGH: Christopher Snow; Mickey Jones, Che Cullen, Marty O’Brien; Declan McCusker, James McMahon, Barry Mulrone (0-1); Eoin Donnelly (0-1), Aidan Breen; Paul McCusker, Ryan Jones (0-1), Richard O’Callaghan; Ruairi Corrigan, Sean Quigley (0-1), Tomás Corrigan (0-7, seven frees).
Subs: Damien Kelly for Cullen (b/c); Niall Cassidy for R Corriga ( both 47 mins); Ryan Lyons for Breen; Conall Jones for McMahon (both 58 mins); Daniel Teague for P McCusker (65 mins); Ciaran Flaherty for O’Brien (72 mins).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)