DONEGAL 0-12 FERMANAGH 2-05
BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT FR TIERNEY PARK
DONEGAL staved off a stirring Fermanagh comeback to end their Dr McKenna Cup campaign with a slender victory that wasn’t enough to stop the Erne side from advancing to the semi-finals of the competition.
Donegal appeared to have copper-fastened the win in an encouraging first half after which they led 0-10 to 0-3. When Frank McGlynn stretched that margin further at the outset of part two, Fermanagh’s goose looked cooked.
Pete McGrath’s side fought back and goals from Marty O’Brien and Sean Quigley came agonisingly close to denying Rory Gallagher a win against his native county.
Fermanagh have a big winter of work behind them, which was clear in the closing chapter against Donegal who trailed off after making such a bright start.
With Paul Durcan, Eamon McGee and Neil Gallagher in for their first starts of the year and with Michael Murphy appearing as a sub in the second half, Gallagher returned some more of his leading lights into action.
Gallagher, Christy Toye and Martin McElhinney bossed the midfield exchanges in the opening half, but Fermanagh fought back and there were concerning signs as they inched ever closer.
Indeed, a last-gasp free from Quigley, which was a chance to tie the game, dropped short.
That they were even in with a shout by then was largely down to their goalkeeper, Thomas Treacy.
Just 90 seconds into the game, Gallagher’s visio picked out Eoin McHugh, but his powerful effort was beaten away by Treacy, who denied Daniel McLaughlin later in the half when he, too, was threaded in by Gallagher.
Treacy came to Fermanagh’s rescue again in the second half, saving from McHugh for a second time just after the resumption while corner-back Paddy McGrath elected to go for goal when he found himself in an advanced position on Treacy. Again the Devenish stopped was equal to the shot, McGrath’s attempt turned out for a ’45, depriving the Ardara man s first goal for the county.
Fermanagh had hit back with a goal in the 42nd minute. O’Brien got on the end of a fast-paced Erne move that involved Ryan Jones, Darren McQuade and James McMahon, who off-loaded for O’Brien to drill past Durcan.
The big Four Masters man was in for his first game since the All-Ireland final and caught four high balls that dropped into the square. Adjudged by the umpire to have carried one of them, a 45th minute shot by Ruairi Corrigan, over the line, Durcan was glad to see referee Niall McNamee award a free after being barged by Quigley.
The big Roslea full-forward did manage to get in for a goal, though, firing home emphatically in the 56th minute to bring Fermanagh to within two points. McGlynn and sub Dermot Molloy (who popped over after Murphy’s ’45 came off the upright) scored Donegal’s only two points of the second half and the hosts didn’t score at all for the last 20 minutes.
With Damian Kelly – who had turned down an opportunity to join the squad last summer – and Quigley (free) on target, Fermanagh reduced the deficit to just a point.
Quigley, though, couldn’t keep his composure with an injury-time free.
It was a far cry from the Fermanagh that had proved an obliging opponent at times in the first half, but still the 17 wides will surely be of concern to manager Pete McGrath.
Donegal made light work of the Erne challenge in the first half and, while there was plenty of food for thought in the second half, the first had plenty of good signs.
Martin O’Reilly and Ryan Jones traded early scores before Ciaran McGinley and Quigley did likewise. Donegal soon assumed control of the game. They hit seven unanswered scores, with O’Reilly scoring two frees to add to points from Daniel McLaughlin (2) Ryan Malley, Eoin McHugh and a wonderful long-range effort from Gallagher.
McHugh swung over his second in the final minute of the half for a 0-10 to 0-3 advantage.
The heavy underfoot conditions at Fr Tierney Park didn’t help a leg-weary Donegal, whose manager, Gallagher, said afterwards had been coming on after 10 days of ‘heavy training’.
When Hugh McFadden was black-carded in the 46th minute, the board went up and number 26 entered the action. It was a first sight of Murphy in competitive action in 2015 and a reminder that the start of the big games is just around the corner.
For Gallagher, there was another good performance from Martin O’Reilly, while McFadden worked manfully and showed well although his finishing let him down with a goal chance he flashed wide in the first half, while Eoin McHugh, Ciaran McGinley and Daniel McLaughlin have done their chances no harm at all.
DONEGAL: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Eamon McGee, Declan Walsh; Eoin McHugh (0-2), Frank McGlynn (0-1), Ciarán McGinley (0-1); Martin McElhinney, Neil Gallagher (0-1); Mark McHugh, Christy Toye, Martin O’Reilly (0-3, 3f); Daniel McLaughlin (0-2), Hugh McFadden, Ryan Malley (0-1). Subs: Dermot Molloy (0-1) for N.Gallagher (42 mins), Michael Murphy for H.McFadden (47 mins), Gary McFadden for McLaughlin (59 mins), Eamonn Doherty for Toye (62 mins), Cory Gallagher for McGlynn (65 mins), Ciaran McCaughey for McElhinney (67 mins).
FERMANAGH: Thomas Treacy; Conor Quigley, James Allen, Tiarnan Daly; Declan McCusker, James McMahon, Marty O’Brien; Richard O’Callaghan, Conall Jones; Barry Mulrone, Darren McQuade, Sean McManus; Ryan Jones (0-1), Sean Quigley (1-2, 1f), Daniel Kille (0-1f). Subs: Ruairi Corrigan for Kille, Eoin Donnelly for O’Callaghan, Paul McCusker for McManus (all half-time), Mickey Jones for Daly (47), Damian Kelly (0-1) for C.Jones (50), Eoin McManus for McQuade (52).
REFEREE: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.