Final agony for Donegal in Clones

A dejected Ryan Bradley, Ross Wherity and Leo McLoone, Donegal, at the end of the game

A dejected Ryan Bradley, Ross Wherity and Leo McLoone, Donegal, at the end of the game

IT WASN’T so much the day the music died, but the volume was turned considerably down.
Donegal’s bid for a third Ulster title in a row came to a painful and surprise halt in Clones yesterday as Monaghan turned the tables and lowered Tir Chonaill’s colours.
The most surprising aspect was the manner of it all.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Donegal’s performance was flat for too long and too many of their stellar names just couldn’t rise to the levels which made them kings.
Karl Lacey had started his first competitive game for the county since the All-Ireland final, but the loss of Mark McHugh to a combination of concussion and a dead leg just ten minutes in was a travesty.
Four points in arrears already, Donegal would have four of their subs introduced by the time the ball was thrown in for the second half.
Donegal couldn’t reel in the deficit as Monaghan stayed in control, retained composure and reduced Donegal to frustration.
“Overall you’d have to say that Monaghan were the better team,” said a dejected Jim McGuinness.
“They were hungrier and they were more clinical when they got their chances.”
Donegal’s was a display devoid of the characteristics that made them kings.
Neil Gallagher came in and brought about a greater fight in Donegal, but all too often they lacked that cutting edge that had been their forte.
It took everyone, including their manager, by storm.
McGuinness said: “We trained very well in the lead up to the game and the games at training were going very well.
“We didn’t see that coming in terms of being flat.
“Monaghan got a couple of scores on the board early on and got a foothold in the game.
“We were finding it difficult to get space and there were a few decision that, if they’d gone for us, we could have been a bit closer.”
There was one incident just before half-time when Michael Murphy appeared to have been dragged down by Vinny Corey, but officials didn’t spot anything untoward.
Management were furious, but McGuinness opted to hold his counsel.
He said: “We have no excuses. The better team won, that’s the bottom line.
“They had more hunger, passion and they got their game plan right. You have to take your hat off to them.
“We weren’t our usual selves. We’ll have to look at our performance. It’s too early to say why.
“It’ll be about us sitting down, looking at the game and evaluating it. We’ll try to move forward based on that.”
And so to the famous six-day turnaround.
On Saturday night, Donegal play Laois in a round four qualifier looking to end the horrid run of provincial runners-up who face the dreaded prospect of a game six days later.
McGuinness said: “We have six days, there’s no point crying about it.”

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