Derry 0-8 Donegal 1-10
Donegal qualified for the semi-finals of the Dr McKenna Cup after they proved too strong for Derry at Celtic Park tonight.
It wasn’t a game that will last long in the memory as it was defensive encounter that never really caught fire.
Declan Bonner’s team led by two points at the break, but they really kicked on after the break.
They raced ahead and Caolan Ward’s fantastic goal put them eight in front with just 12 minutes of normal time remaining.
Derry finished the game strongly but the damage was already done at that stage, and Donegal held on to reach the semi-finals of the Dr McKenna Cup.
Derry were defeated in Rory Gallagher’s first game in charge against Monaghan.
Donegal fared out better against the Farney county, winning by a point, and they knew that as long as they avoided defeat in Celtic Park, they would advance through to the semi-finals.
Declan Bonner made four changes to his starting line-up from that outing against Monaghan with Michael Lynch, Conor Morrison, Ethan O’Donnell and Michael Carroll coming into the team for Shaun Patton, Daniel Clarke, Ryan McHugh, and Jamie Brennan.
Donegal dominated the early exchanges and they could have had a goal in the third minute but Dáire Ó Baoill’s powerful shot was saved by Odhran Lynch. Michael Langan converted the resulting ’45’.
Ryan Bell got Derry off the mark, but both teams were slow to settle into the match.
Donegal dropped two efforts short before Peadar Mogan nudged them back in front again with a free after Jeaic Mac Ceallbhuí was held off the ball by Conor McAtamney.
Rory Gallagher set his team up defensively and they were happy to drop 13 or 14 bodies back into their rearguard.
Their tactics were working well and they drew level in the 18th minute when Emmet Bradley launched over an impressive free.
Donegal’s play was slow and lateral at times, but Mogan did show what he can do with a lovely point from play.
Caolan Ward tagged on a rare point off his left foot, but that proved to be the last score of an underwhelming first half with neither side playing anywhere near to their potential offensively.
Derry drew first blood in the second half with a lovely effort from Ryan Bell. However, Michael Langan restored Donegal’s two point lead immediately with a point from play after good work from Conor O’Donnell.
Donegal were patient in possession and they were content to wait for the right opportunity to present itself and Ó Baoill scored a terrific point in the 49th minute.
Bonner’s side soon moved four ahead with an exquisite effort from Naomh Conaill’s Ethan O’Donnell.
Derry badly needed a score and Ben McCarron delivered it with an attacking mark.
Andrew McClean replied with a point with his first touch after being introduced, and Langan then lofted over a lovely score from distance.
Donegal were dominant in the aerial exchanges, and they swooped for a goal in the 58th minute when Conor O’Donnell released Caolan Ward and he rifled high to the net.
Derry found themselves eight points in arrears but they kept going with a point from Conor McCluskey and a brace from Ryan Bell.
Ciaran Diver scored Donegal’s first point in 14 minutes, before Bell concluded the action with a free for the Oak Leaf county.
Donegal ran out five point winners and they go through to the semi-finals as Section A winners, and they will take on Monaghan on Sunday.
Derry: Odhran Lynch; Conor McCluskey (0-1), Padraig McGrogan, Cathal Mulholland; Conor Doherty, Carlus McWilliams, Ryan Dougan; Emmet Bradley (0-1, 1f), Conor McAtamney; Ciaran McFaul, Niall Toner, Eoghan Duffy; Ben McCarron (0-1, 1m), Ryan Bell (0-5, 2fs), Danny Tallon. Subs: Christopher Bradley for Toner (29 mins), Declan Cassidy for McAtamney (48 mins), Oran Armstrong for McCarron (52 mins), Liam McGoldrick for Dougan (53 mins), Oisin McWilliams for Duffy (58 mins), Peter Hagan for McWilliams (61 mins).
Donegal: Michael Lynch; Caolan Ward (1-1), Brendan McCole, Conor Morrison; Jeaic Mac Ceallbhuí, Conor O’Donnell, Paul Brennan; Caolan McGonagle, Michael Langan (0-3, 1 ’45’); Eoin McHugh, Ethan O’Donnell (0-1), Daire Ó Baoill (0-1); Peadar Mogan (0-2, 1f), Michael Carroll, Eoghan McGettigan. Subs: Ciaran Thompson for Carroll (46 mins), Daniel Clarke for McGettigan (48 mins) Andrew McClean (0-1) for E.O’Donnell (53 mins), Ciaran Diver (0-1) for E.McHugh (58 mins), Aaron Deeney for Ward (60 mins).
Referee: Sean Laverty (Antrim).