Donegal 3-12 Galway 0-11
By John Fogarty
Donegal recovered from a massive 30 minutes without a score to put away Galway and seal an All-Ireland quarter-final against Mayo next Saturday.
Some second-half brilliance from Odhran Mac Niallais, Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy paved the way for Donegal when they were out of ideas for so long towards the end of the first half and beginning of the second.
In an attritional battle played out in front of a 25,665 crowd in Croke Park, Galway, in truth, had too many under-performing forwards while McFadden was excellent in delivering quality ball to Murphy in the second half. Mac Niallais, who was also superb at restarts, kicked two magnificent points as well.
Donegal trailed by one before the 45th minute when they reeled off the first of three points in succession. They lead by three points when they sealed the game in the 60th minute, McFadden finding Murphy who teed up Ryan McHugh beautifully to finish to the net. Substitute Christy Toye added another goal in injury-time.
Donegal were faster than Galway out of the traps although it was Danny Cummins who opened the scoring in the first minute. Mac Niallais and Colm McFadden kicked two beauts from distance. From the kick-out following McFadden's opening point, Donegal pounced on a Thomas Flynn error and a ball was sent into McFadden who fed McBrearty to flash the ball to the net.
Galway were hardly spooked though even when Murphy moved inside in the 10th minute and were two points behind in the 13th minute after a Gary Sice free and a successful Flynn effort. Donegal returned fire with their own brace but McBrearty's 16th minute point turned out to be their last score of the half.
Boos rang around the stadium in the 16th minute from Galway supporters and those Sligo and Tyrone fans who stayed around as Donegal put together a series of lateral and backward hand-passes faced by Galway's 15-man defensive guard. The dissatisfaction seemed misdirected considering it was Galway who were putting so many behind the ball.
Yet the Tribesmen looked sharper going forward and a Sice free in the 24th minute was followed by an Adrian Varley fisted point when the corner forward may have had a goal chance. Sice then converted a soft free before Paul Conroy sent over the equaliser with a wonderful strike in the 34th minute.
Donegal manager Rory Gallagher said the team had concerns following their recent defeat in the Ulster Championship final, but delivered the performance needed.
"I'm delighted with the second half... there's a wee bit of a hangover after a defeat," he said.
He also paid tribute to the impact his experienced players made coming off the bench.
"We were a bit too pedestrian ourselves, but that changed in the second half … [the players] that came in made a big difference, and it's great to have that experience as well."
Scorers for Donegal: P McBrearty (1-1); C McFadden (0-4, 1 free); O Mac Niallais, M Murphy (2 frees) (0-3 each); R McHugh, C Toye (1-0 each); L McLoone (0-1).
Scorers for Galway: G Sice (0-4, frees); A Varley (0-2); D Cummins, T Flynn, P Conroy, D Comer (free), S Walsh (0-1 each).
Subs for Donegal: A Thompson for É McGee (inj), M McElhinney for M O'Reilly (both h-t); D Walsh for P McGrath (black, 51); L McLoone for P McBrearty (54); C Toye for H McFadden (68); David Walsh for C McFadden (70+2).
Subs for Galway: S Walsh for A Varley, P Sweeney for P Conroy (both 57); P Ó Gríofa for D Cummins (63); S Denvir for M Lundy (67); M Martin for T Flynn, E Tierney for G Sice (both 69).
DONEGAL: P Durkin; N McGee, É McGee, P McGrath; R McHugh, F McGlynn, É Doherty; N Gallagher, M Murphy; M McHugh, H McFadden, O Mac Niallais; C McFadden, P McBrearty, M O'Reilly.
GALWAY: B O'Donoghue; F Hanley, C Sweeney, J Duane; G Bradshaw, G O'Donnell, L Silke; F Ó Curraoin, T Flynn; G Sice, P Conroy, M Lundy; D Cummins, A Varley, D Comer.
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois)