DONEGAL 2-19 FERMANAGH 1-13
Report by Chris McNulty at Fr Tierney Park
SCORELINES sometime don’t paint the full picture – and this National Hurling League clash was a case in point.
Donegal began their League campaign with a win over Fermanagh that was much more comprehensive than the end margin of nine points reflected.
First-half goals by Lee Henderson and Enda McDermott set Ray Durack’s side up for the win and it was a pretty straightforward day at the office for the 2013 Nicky Rackard winners.
Fermanagh were helped by the prolific Sean Corrigan, who hit 1-9 of their total, but aside from the Lisbellaw man it was a pretty insipid challenge from Seamus McCusker’s men. On a sticky surface at Fr Tierney Park, Fermanagh were able to get closer than they might’ve expected to Donegal, who would be confident of a much bigger win if they met on solid ground later in the year.
The dismissal of midfielder Daniel McTeague, for an off-the-ball strike on Enda McDermott in the 24th minute, didn’t held the Fermanagh cause a great deal. Donegal were dominant all over. Danny Cullen was excellent at midfield for the Tir Chonaill men and the Setanta man was the conductor of an impressive Donegal orchestra that had Henderson playing the tunes, with the corner forward chipping in with a fine 1-7.
Cullen himself hit three points from midfield and gave a strong display alongside Paul Sheridan in the middle third, while the powerful presence of Sean McVeigh and the McDermotts aided greatly as Donegal took control.
Durack lined out with eleven of his Nicky Rackard-Cup winning team from last summer, with Justin Browne, Martin Bonner, Sheridan and Kevin Campbell those elevated to the starting XV for this season opener. It didn’t take long for Donegal’s superiority to become evident.
Henderson popped over three early points, two frees and a ’65, to give his team a foothold.
Donegal had a sniff of a goal chance in the 14th minute when Ciaran Matthewson was thwarted after a Henderson free was batted down by Curry on the edge of the square.
Donegal reeled over a trio if quick-fire points. Sheridan, on his home turf, arched over Donegal’s first score from play in the 15th minute and, after winning the sebsequent puck-out, Cullen delightfully slotted over having teed himself up with a sublimed piece of skill.
Another Henderson free put Donegal six to the good and the afternoon was becoming a real ordeal for the Erne men by the time Donegal rattled the net in the 21st minute.
Matthewson showed a clean pair of heels to Shane Mulholland, but had his attempt blocked by Curry, only for Henderson to emphatically drill home.
Corrigan and Francis McBrien briefly stemmed the green and gold waves, but their challenge was significantly weakened when midfielder Teague saw red in a moment of off-the-ball madness, spotted by an eagle-eyed linesman.
Corrigan kept their tally growing, but with Fermanagh on the floor Durack’s men pressed down on their throats.
Cullen, McVeigh and Henderson clipped over and Donegal landed a second goal when McDermott converted after Matthewson was denied by an acrobatic save from Curry.
Thirty seconds later, McDermott sailed over a superb point to stretch Donegal’s lead to eleven (2-10 to 0-5) at the changeover.
Corrigan, easily his side’s most potent threat, hit the net just 80 seconds into the second half, finishing first time after full-back Declan McGarry’s kicked effort cannoned off Paul Burns’s crossbar.
Fermanagh never looked like making a big impression on things, though and Donegal continued to roll over the points with Matthewson and Cullen supplementing an ever-growing tally from Henderson.
On another day Donegal could have hit even more goals. Campbell sent one effort across goal and when Matthewson picked up the pieces his attempt was just off-target.
St Eunan’s man Eugene Organ has been returned to the Donegal panel and he found himself with a sight of goal, but again Curry stood firm after the chance was made by club colleague McVeigh.
Fermanagh thought they had a second goal, but sub David McGorman had his strike ruled out for a square ball infringement. Despite Corrigan, Ryan Bogue and McBrien – who was their only point-scorer from play – on the mark,
Donegal were sailing along nicely and they could have been out the gate only for the presence of Curry in the Erne goal. Nine minutes from the end, he stood firm to save from Campbell’s powerful drive.
But Donegal closed out well as Matthewson, McVeigh and Aodh Ruadh man Ciaran Kilgallon raised white flags to seal a fine nine-point win for the Division 3A favourites.
DONEGAL: Paul Burns; Martin McGrath, Joe Boyle, Justin Browne; Christopher McDermott, Jamesie Donnelly, Martin Bonner; Paul Sheridan (0-1), Danny Cullen (0-3); Ronan McDermott, Enda McDermott (1-1), Sean McVeigh (0-2); Lee Henderson (1-7, 4f, 2 ‘65), Kevin Campbell, Ciaran Matthewson (0-4, 2f).
Subs: Paddy Hannigan for Browne (46 mins), Eugene Organ for R.McDermott (46 mins), Ciaran Kilgallon (0-1) for Henderson (58 mins), Michael McGee for Kilgallon (68 mins).
FERMANAGH: Mark Curry; Shane Mulholland, Declan McGarry, Eoin Mahon; Fergus Bannon, John Paul McGarry, Francis McBrien (0-2); Ryan Bogue (0-2, 1f, 1 ’65), Daniel Teague; Martin Beggan, Eoin Morrissey, Tomas Cleary; Paul McGoldrick, Shea Curran, Sean Corrigan (1-9, 9f).
Subs: Barry Duffy for Morrissey (42 mins), David McGorman for Cleary (48 mins), Matthew Teague for Curran (56 mins), Oisin Boyle for D.McGarry (64 mins), Joseph Gavin for Bannon (69 mins)
REFEREE: Brendan Sweeney (Cavan).