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Report: Donegal win well, but miss out on semi-finals

Harry Óg Conlon of Queen's University challenges Donegal's Leo McLoone. Photo: Donna McBride

Harry Óg Conlon of Queen’s University challenges Donegal’s Leo McLoone. Photo: Donna McBride

Donegal 3-17 Queen’s University 3-05

By Chris McNulty in Ballybofey

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MICHAEL Murphy and Colm McFadden hit a combined 2-10 as Donegal sauntered to a twelve-point win over Queen’s University Belfast on Wednesday night in Ballybofey.

The big win wasn’t enough to secure a passage into the semi-finals with Monaghan hammering Fermanagh on the same night to edge the best runners-up spot, although this was another good evening at the office for Jim McGuinness and company.

Ryan Rafferty’s hat-trick of goals helped deny Donegal an even greater margin of victory – but McGuinness will still have been pleased with a comfortable win for his Tir Chonaill side.

Rafferty hit a pair of first-half goals and added another early in the second half to bring some semblence of respectability to the scoreboard for the students – who only score their first point in the 44th minute.

Murphy cracked home a superb goal straight after Rafferty’s second at the tail end of the first half to help Donegal lead by a strange 1-7 to 2-0 scoreline at the interval.

While Rafferty found the net for a third time nine minutes into the second half, McFadden fired home a 53rd minute goal to pave the way for a comfortable conclusion that included another Donegal major, netted by Rory Kavanagh.

It was another useful night for Donegal, who welcomed Christy Toye into competitive action again, the St Michael’s man contributing well following his introduction at half-time, scoring a point midway through part two.

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It was his first appearance for Donegal since the 2012 All-Ireland final and his was a welcomed return on a night when Neil Gallagher was superb in his first start of the year, with Murphy and McFadden having the needles sharpened well.

Neil McGee also made a first start of 2014, with Karl Lacey and Paul Durcan returning to the side, while Leon Thompson was back for his first start since being recalled to the panel.

Donegal rolled off four points in the opening quarter of an hour, with two frees by Murphy adding to the first point by McFadden with Neil Gallagher getting in on the act with an excellent curling effort from around 40 metres out.

Queen’s – managed by Ballyshannon man Anthony McGrath – were right back in it when Ryan Rafferty rounded Paul Durcan for a goal following a move engineered by Donegal panelist Martin McElhinney in the 18th minute.

McFadden (free), Murphy (free) and Darach O’Connor slotted over for the hosts, but they were stunned when Queen’s bagged a second goal in the final minute of the first period.

Again it was Rafferty who fired home, tucking past Durcan and punishing a moment of hesitancy in the Tir Chonaill rearguard.

But Donegal’s response was emphatic, Murphy brilliantly drilling to the net from 20 metres out, his blistering effort giving Michael Cunningham no chance of making a stop.

Donegal might well have been further in front at the short whistle, but Odhrán MacNiallais’ ball across goal just eluding the advanced Frank McGlynn, who seemed perfectly-poised to palm to the net.

Murphy extended the lead with a neat score just 20 seconds into the new half, but goal-hungry Queens struck another major as Rafferty completed his hat-trick by palming home from a pass by Ryan Murray.

But for the goals, Queens would’ve drawn a blank until the 44th minute, when wing-back Ryan Mallon popped over their first point.

Donegal added a second goal when McFadden drilled home from Toye’s assist, just moments after being denied by Cunningham from point-blank range.

Queen’s weren’t helped by three black cards in the second half, with Gerard Collins, Ryan Murray and Jack Dowling all having to leave the action.

Donegal smelled blood and they turned the screw in search of the goals that would’ve secured a semi-final spot.

Toye slotted over to raise a huge cheer from the home fans as he landed a point on his return, while Malin’s Stephen McLaughlin added his name to an ever-growing roster with his first senior point for Donegal.

Murphy and McFadden continued to roll over points and, three minutes from the end, Kavanagh finished off from close range after Murphy and McFadden combined to tee up the chance.

Kavanagh also clipped over a point and replacement midfielder Matthew Smyth completed the rout in added-on time.

DONEGAL: Paul Durcan; Eamon McGee, Neil McGee, Eamonn Doherty; Frank McGlynn, Leo McLoone (0-1), Karl Lacey; Neil Gallagher (0-1), Gary McFadden; Antoin McFadden, Leon Thompson, Odhrán MacNiallais; Colm McFadden (1-4, 2f), Michael Murphy (1-6, 5f), Darach O’Connor (0-1).
Subs: Christy Toye (0-1) for Thompson (half-time), Rory Kavanagh (1-1) for G.McFadden (half-time), David Walsh for Lacey (half-time), Stephen McLaughlin (0-1) for O’Connor (46 mins), Matthew Smyth (0-1) for Gallagher (67 mins), Thomas McKinley for A.McFadden (67 mins).

QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY: Mick Cunningham; Conal McNulty, Che Cullen, Darren O’Hanlon; Ryan Mallon (0-2), Gerard Collins, Paddy Burns; Aaron Finden, Harry Og Conlon (0-1); Conor Maginn (0-1), Aidan Brogan, Martin McElhinney; Ryan Murray (0-1), Rory Grugan, Ryan Rafferty (3-0).
Subs: Killian Moynagh for McNulty (17 mins), Mícheál McCann for Collins (black card, 46 mins), Jack Dowling for McElhinney (49 mins), Turlough Gallagher for Findon (53 mins), Michael Monan for Murray (black card, 57 mins), Ross McGarry for Dowling (black card, 66 mins)

REFEREE: Brendan Rice (Down).

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