Dublin dethroned by stunning Donegal

Dublin 0-17 Donegal 3-14, Croke Park

Last year's All-Ireland champions Dublin were dethroned in stunning fashion at Croke Park as Donegal swept through to their second final in three years.

The Dubs failed their first real test of the 2014 Senior Football Championship as two-goal hero Ryan McHugh played the lead role in a tactical master-class from manager Jim McGuinness.

It was a first Championship defeat for his Dublin counterpart Jim Gavin whose side were overwhelming favourites to retain the Sam Maguire Cup - but the Ulster title holders sprung the shock of the summer to set up a September 21 meeting with Kerry.

The victory, watched by 81,500 spectators, completed a memorable double for the county as the Donegal minors had earlier made history by reaching their first ever All-Ireland final.

The Donegal and Dublin senior sides played out a dour 2011 semi-final that was won by the Metropolitans (0-8 to 0-6), but today's action-packed encounter will certainly be remembered for all the right reasons.

The mind games began before the throw-in with both managers opting to make two late changes - David Walsh and Rory Kavanagh were added to the Donegal attack, while Jack McCaffrey and Cormac Costello came into the Dublin team.

A pacy break right from the start saw Kavanagh involved immediately and he was floored by James McCarthy as he fielded possession. McCarthy earned a yellow card and captain Michael Murphy pointed the close-in free.

Paul Flynn flighted over the leveller for Dublin inside two minutes and pressure on the Donegal defence yielded a turnover and Bernard Brogan's first point of the afternoon.

Diarmuid Connolly rasped over the Blues' third on the trot, driving through the ball from distance, and their pace and movement was too much to handle as Flynn curled over another.

As Donegal's heavily stacked defence drew breath, they were relieved to see Stephen Cluxton send a difficult '45' wide of the target and late inclusion Costello was also wayward from play.

Brogan was smothered out as Eoghan O'Gara sought him out for a goal chance before Karl Lacey broke forward to end Donegal's 11-minute spell without a score - 0-4 to 0-2.

Cluxton rose high to prevent McHugh from adding to the Tir Chonaill men's tally, with the subsequent counter attack ending with Flynn nabbing his third of the day.

Connolly matched his team-mate with a booming effort from the left and the margin was out to five points - 0-7 to 0-2 - after defender Philly McMahon finished well.

The talismanic Murphy replied with a beautifully curled free, but Dublin's long range shooting was on a different level at times as a one-two between Alan Brogan and O'Gara saw the former split the posts.

Kavanagh kept the Ulstermen in touch and goalkeeper Paul Durcan did likewise at the other end, getting down very well to save a low goal-bound shot from Connolly. The St. Vincent's clubman did manage to take his tally to 0-3, outfoxing a couple of defenders with a solo, sidestep and a crisply-struck shot.

Credit to Donegal though, they fired back with three successive points which lit the touch paper for their rousing all-round performance. McHugh and Odhran Mac Niallais, who fetched a number of high balls, found their range before Murphy hit his first from play for a 0-9 to 0-7 scoreline.

McGuinness' charges suddenly turned the tables as they powered forward from midfield and took the game by the scruff of the neck, controlling possession and shooting with great precision.

They went ahead just before half-time. Going the direct route, a high ball in caused problems for Cluxton and his defence as Murphy freed it up for the supporting Colm McFadden who found the unmarked McHugh and his placed effort went through the legs of Rory O'Carroll and into the net.

Another muscular burst from midfielder Mac Niallais won a free which McFadden pointed. However, Dublin succeeded in countering for an injury-time reply from Flynn, who supplied the finishing touches to a McCaffrey-inspired attack and left his side just 1-8 to 0-10 behind.

Gavin brought Nicky Devereux on for the start of the second half which saw Alan Brogan and McFadden hit early wides.

The Dubs were caught cold for McHugh's second goal in the 39th minute, Frank McGlynn and Neil Gallagher building a promising attack along the right sideline before Anthony Thompson turned superbly into space and flicked the ball across for the unmarked McHugh to palm home past Cluxton.

Donegal kept their foot on the gas with McHugh setting up McFadden for a fisted point, but there was no initial panicking from the defending champions as the Brogan brothers pointed in quick succession for 2-9 to 0-12.

Paddy McBrearty made an instant impact off the bench as he provided the assist for a well-taken point by the marauding McGlynn. Tellingly, Bernard Brogan and O'Gara kicked poor wides as Dublin started to struggle.

Their defence was left hopelessly exposed as Donegal broke through the middle once more and Mac Niallais' well-timed hand pass gave McFadden the time and space to step past both Michael Fitzsimons and Cluxton and roll in the third goal.

The goal scorer tagged on a pointed free for good measure and Donegal were now in dreamland with an eight-point advantage (3-11 to 0-12). Dublin dug their heels in with an excellent individual score from Connolly and a Bernard Brogan free.

Again though, Dublin's defence showed signs of crumbling. Lacey's quick free and clever play from Murphy released McHugh for what would have been his hat-trick, but Cluxton palmed his rising shot over for a point.

Substitute Paddy Andrews cancelled that one out and Connolly clipped over a free for 3-12 to 0-16, with Donegal having to replace Neil McGee who was black carded for a deliberate collision with Jonny Cooper.

The Tir Chonaill men, who tasted All-Ireland glory in 2012, looked increasingly comfortable as the minutes ticked by. Durcan and Neil Gallagher gave them a platform for possession from kick-outs and Paddy McBrearty, whose younger brother Stephen had starred for the minors today, soon took centre stage.

McBrearty lobbed over a lovely left-footed point on the hour mark to keep his county on course. Contrast that with Dublin's lack of composure in scoring situations - Kevin McManamon, Bernard Brogan and Connolly were all wayward as the Blues' wides tally hit 13 (nine in the second half alone).

Donegal looked supremely confident as McBrearty doubled his scoring contribution with a monster effort. Paddy Andrews replied but that proved to be Dublin's final score.

Gavin unloaded his bench but too many of his players were off colour and they ended the game playing as individuals as their desperate search for goals came to a frustrating end - McManamon went closest with a drop-kicked attempt.

Donegal lost corner back Paddy McGrath to a black card in injury-time, but they were already out of sight by that stage having squeezed the life out of a team that looked destined for back-to-back All-Irelands.

DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Michael Fitzsimons, Rory O'Carroll, Philly McMahon (0-1); James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper, Jack McCaffrey; Michael Darragh Macauley, Cian O’Sullivan; Paul Flynn (0-4), Cormac Costello, Diarmuid Connolly (0-5, 0-1f); Alan Brogan (0-2), Eoghan O'Gara, Bernard Brogan (0-3, 0-1f).

Subs used: Nicky Devereux for McCaffrey (half-time), Kevin McManamon for Costello (41), Dean Rock for O'Gara (48), Paddy Andrews (0-2) for A Brogan (53), Darren Daly for Cooper (62), Paul Mannion for O'Sullivan (69).

DONEGAL: Paul Durcan; Eamonn McGee, Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath; Anthony Thompson, Karl Lacey (0-1), Frank McGlynn (0-1); Neil Gallagher, Odhran Mac Niallais (0-1); David Walsh, Leo McLoone, Ryan McHugh (2-2); Rory Kavanagh (0-1), Michael Murphy (0-3, 0-2f), Colm McFadden (1-3, 0-2f).

Subs used: Christy Toye for Walsh (27 mins), Paddy McBrearty (0-2) for McLoone (43), Declan Walsh for N McGee (58, black card), Martin McElhinney for Kavanagh (61), Darach O'Connor for McFadden (64), Martin O'Reilly for Mac Niallais (70); Paddy McGrath (70+3, black card).

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

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