Donegal 2-18 Fermanagh 0-12
By Brendan O’Brien
Donegal sucked all the energy and drama out of Ulster final day on Sunday afternoon, strolling to a 12-point win against a Fermanagh side that never looked capable of mounting the challenge needed to upset the odds.
The only thing remotely out of the ordinary here was the sight of DUP leader Arlene Foster walking into the ground shortly before throw-in. A Fermanagh native, she was on hand to brief the press on the sideline ten minutes before the game started.
It was a bizarre sight.
So too was the picture presented by the first fifteen or so minutes when a Fermanagh outfit that had reached this juncture thanks to a fastidious defence threw numbers into attack but it paid little dividend and Donegal eventually found their stride.
An Eoghan Ban Gallagher goal after 15 minutes, and another three-pointer from Ryan McHugh on the half-hour, provided the glitz on the scoreline for a Donegal side that was operating at a different level to their opponents.
Manager Declan Bonner has fashioned a side capable of mixing attack with defence, youth with experience, and there were trojan efforts by many an individual here regardless of the numbers of their backs or their passports.
Ryan McHugh was his metronomic best, buzzing up and down the field creating openings and havoc. Newer faces such as Michal Langan and Jamie Brennan were superb and so too Gallagher who claimed 1-1 from play and did so much more else besides.
Fermanagh lost players to tactical substitutions, black cards and one, Ryan Jones, to a combination of yellow, black and red. The 14 men were run ragged by the end, even if they kept chipping away against the odds and the sense of inevitability.
How much does it tell us about Donegal?
Time well tell but they are through to the Super 8s now so we will see them at least thrice more before the summer is out. They have momentum, talent, structure and a raucous following to work off. Their summer is only starting.
Scorers for Donegal: E Ban Gallagher (1-1); M Murphy (0-4, 3 frees); R McHugh (1-0); C Thompson (0-3, 1f); P Brennan (0-2); P McGrath, O Mac Niallais, M Langan, P McBrearty, J Brennan, M McHugh, D O’Connor and C Mulligan (all 0-1).
Scorers for Fermanagh: Sean Quigley (0-4 frees); Seamus Quigley (0-3, 1f); B Mulrone, E Donnelly, C Jones, C Corrigan and R Corrigan (all 0-1).
Donegal: S Patton; P McGrath, S McMenamin, EB Gallagher; F McGlynn, P Brennan, R McHugh; H McFadden C Thompson; O Mac Niallias, M Murphy, L McLoone; P McBrearty, M Langan, J Brennan.
Subs: D O Baoill for McBrearty (38); C Ward for Brennan (56); A Thompson for Mac Niallias (60); C Mulligan for Langan (62); M McHugh for C Thompson (64); D O’Connor for Brennan (67).
Fermanagh: P Cadden; K Connor, J McMahon, M Jones; B Mulrone, C Cullen, L Cullen; E Donnelly, R Jones; P McCusker, D McCusker, A Breen; S Quigley, C Jones, C Corrigan.
Subs: E McHugh for Connor (32); C McManus for M Jones and Seamus Quigley for P McCusker (both HT); T Clarke for Corrigan (44); R Corrigan for Sean Quigley (56); D Teague for D McCusker (66).
Referee: D Gough (Meath).