BY CHRIS MCNULTY
MATCH-WINNER Leo McLoone said Donegal’s win over Derry on Sunday was a ‘tribute to the panel’ after his 39th minute goal delivered the goods in a typically claustrophobic Ulster Championship clash.
McLoone applied a neat finish having taken a delightful pass from Frank McGlynn. Donegal blitzed Derry with 1-5 in the opening 13 minutes of the second half. When Derry turned the screw late in the day and went in search of salvation it was McLoone who fired over the clinching Donegal score.
“Delighted,” beamed the Naomh Conaill man.
“It’s great to come into Derry and get a win. It was a very tight game and it’s great to come through it.
“It’s a tribute to the panel that we have, not just from one to twenty-six. Every man trains hard and it was a tribute to the whole panel to win.”
Neither of Neil Gallagher, Rory Kavanagh or Martin McElhinney started for Donegal, who lost Mark McHugh last month after he opted out.
Donegal appeared shot but Jim McGuinness’ side came up trumps.
McLoone said: “The midfielders did very well with Rory and Neil out. We held on and stuck to what Jim told us to do. It paid off.”
Donegal were 0-6 to 0-4 in arrears at half-time, but that purple patch at the outset of part two paved the path to an Ulster semi-final.
McLoone said: “In the first half we missed a few. We knew if we could convert them in the second half that we’d be in a good position.”
Four minutes into the second half, Michael Murphy came out to catch an Anthony Thompson ball in. His off-load found McGlynn, who gave it off to McLoone.
“Some days they go for you, some they don’t,” mused the Glenties man.
“Thank God the ‘keeper got nothing on it.
“I didn’t go for power and it worked. You just don’t know what’ll happen when it leaves your boot. Thankfully I got enough on it. It’s good to get one.
“I’m happy. It’s a team performance all the same. Everyone worked hard. I got on the end of them, but others were creating them.”
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.