DONEGAL 0-10 ROSCOMMON 1-05
REPORT BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT MARKIEVICZ PARK
IT was a game that had to be seen to be believed, but Donegal minors held on for dear life to see off Roscommon in Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final.
In teeming rain at Markievicz Park, Donegal came under a late siege from Roscommon, but Declan Bonner’s boys stood firm to book a spot at Croke Park on August 31.
It was a struggle in those tense late moments when Roscommon threw utensils along with the sink at Donegal, who came up against a puzzle as complex and rigid as they’re likely to face this season, regardless of where their voyage now sails.
Fergal O’Donnell’s side camped twelve players inside their ’45 for practically the entire game with only their forward triumvirate of Noel Gately, Hubert Darcy and Kevin Smyth in Donegal’s half.
It proved a test of real mettle for Donegal, who perhaps weren’t as patient as they could have been, although there were suggestions that Roscommon mightn’t have broken rank even if Donegal had attempted to draw them out a little more.
Four points by excellent wing-back Cian Mulligan proved crucial for Donegal.
The Gaoth Dobhair man had an outstanding game and his points were a real highlight. Two of them came in a third quarter that saw Donegal turn a 0-5 to 0-4 half-time lead into a seemingly comfortable 0-10 to 0-4 advantage.
When Gately smashed past Danny Rodgers thirteen minutes from the end, however, Roscommon sensed an upset could be on the cards. Gately picked his spot from distance having been fed by Killian Bannon and the blistering finish threatened to turn the tie on its head.
There would have been few early leavers among the 2,676 attendance as Roscommon sought a means of getting back. Darcy fired over to leave just two between them heading into the final three minutes.
The shackles came off the beaten Connacht finalists and they were oh so close to inflicting what would have been an unbearable defeat on Donegal. Gately and Darcy attempted to outfox the Donegal rearguard, but they couldn’t succeed in breaching the line while Smyth saw a free come back off an upright.
In added-on time at the end, Evan McGrath let fly only for Mulligan to make a decisive block that turned it away for a ’45. Try as they might, the Rossies couldn’t pick he locks as Danny Monagle and Tony McClenaghan kept a tight grip on it to steer Donegal over the line.
When Campbell blasted over to give them a 0-5 to 0-4 interval lead it was just the tonic as they assessed a draining first period.
Donegal came out to make a stamp on things and scored five in a row to open up a commanding six-point lead. Mulligan started them off with a fine score just thirty seconds after the re-start and it kicked Donegal on.
Campbell (free), Lorcan Connor (free), Mulligan and Jamie Brennan added points and Donegal looked home and hosed.
When Gately hit the net the tide turned and Donegal were pailing water by the time Cathal O’Hagan gave a final, sharp blow of the whistle.
DONEGAL: Danny Rodgers; Danny Monagle, Ciarán Gillespie, Colm Kelly; Cian Mulligan (0-4), Tony McClenaghan, Andrew McClean; Niall Harley, Caolán McGonigle; Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Lorcan Connor (0-1, 1f), Michael Carroll (0-1); Jamie Brennan (0-1), John Campbell (0-3, 2f), Stephen McBrearty.
Subs: Ethan O’Donnell for McClean (half-time), Christian Bonner for Harley (48 mins), Connall O’Boyle for Carroll (51 mins), Stephen McMenamin for Campbell (56 mins), Conor Doherty for Brennan (56 mins).
ROSCOMMON: Shane Mannion; Jack Connaughton, Evan McGrath, Eoin Fallon; Keelan Beirne, Fergal Lennon, Luke Carty; Conor Murray, Ronan Raftery; Cathal Callinan (0-1), Brian Stack, Killian Bannon; Hubert Darcy (0-1), Kevin Smyth (0-3, 3f), Noel Gately (1-0).
Subs: Brian Kelly for Callinan (41 mins), David Connaughton for Bannon (51 mins), John Gannon for Carty (56 mins).
REFEREE: Cathal O’Hagan (Tyrone).
SEE MONDAY’S DONEGAL NEWS FOR FULL COVERAGE