Fourteen-man Donegal win battle with Fermanagh in Ballybofey

Fourteen-man Donegal win battle with Fermanagh in Ballybofey

Donegal 2-12 Fermanagh 0-11

14-man Donegal had to draw on all their experience to survive at Ballybofey, where Fermanagh threatened to cause an Ulster SFC upset.

After having full back Neil McGee sent off just before half-time, Rory Gallagher reorganised his side in impressive and efficient fashion, and two Odhran MacNiallais goals helped dig them out of a crisis.

In the end it was comfortable for the home side, with Fermanagh unable to chisel any advantage from their numerical superiority, and they scored just four points in the second half, three of them from Tomas Corrigan frees.

McGee will miss the semi-final clash with Monaghan, while the Erne men will look confidently to a run through the Qualifiers, a route which took them to an All-Ireland quarter-final last season.

Fourteen-man Donegal win battle with Fermanagh in Ballybofey

In front of a crowd of 15,918, Donegal had their opponents under sustained pressure throughout the opening quarter, with Frank McGlynn and Ryan McHugh pressing from deep to prise openings in the Fermanagh defence.

Early scores from Paddy McBrearty and McGlynn were cancelled out by a Tomas Corrigan free and a superb Barry Mulrone score.

And in the 13th minute, the home side’s dominance saw them strike a major blow. McGlynn made yet another incision and picked out Odhran MacNiallais, who smashed his shot past Chris Snow to the roof of the net.

When McBrearty clipped over a 19th minute free, Donegal led by 1-5 to 0-3 and appeared to be in firm control of the contest.

But Fermanagh got their defensive system sorted, and at midfield, a massive shift from Eoin Donnelly and Ryan Jones, with Declan McCusker and Barry Mulrone raiding along the flanks, saw them take control.

Donegal skipper Murphy struggled to exert an influence, and it was Pete McGrath’s men who prospered.

Tomas Corrigan converted three frees, and skipper Donnelly fired over an inspirational score from long range.

And in stoppage time, they were awarded a penalty by referee Maurice Deegan, who showed a straight red card to Donegal full back Neil McGee.

Fourteen-man Donegal win battle with Fermanagh in Ballybofey

However, debutant goalkeeper saved superbly from Sean Quigley’s kick, and the home side took a narrow 1-6 to 0-7 lead into the interval.

The sliced open the Fermanagh defence for a second MacNiallais goal ten minutes into the second half.

He punched to the net at the far post after Martin McElhinney, McGlynn and Marty O’Reilly had combined in an incisive move.

Despite the extra man, Fermanagh had lost all the momentum that had built up in the latter stages of the opening half, and they were unable to break the Donegal lines of defence.

Tir Chonail, on the other hand, with Murphy a commanding figure around the middle, strode forward with confidence, and points from O’Reilly and McBrearty had them ahead by seven at the beginning of the final quarter.

Fermanagh went 20 minutes without a score, until Corrigan knocked over his sixth free. Ryan Jones was also on target, but the Erne men lacked the guile and penetration to break down an experienced Donegal rearguard.

It was now a question of containment for a composed Donegal side who themselves scored just twice in the final 20 minutes, Eoin McHugh curling over his second and veteran Colm McFadden coming off the bench to convert a free.

Donegal: M McGinley, P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee, R McHugh, F McGlynn (0-1), A Thompson, R Kavanagh, H McFadden, E McHugh (0-2), M McElhinney (0-1), O MacNiallais (2-1), P McBrearty (0-3, 1f), M Murphy (0-1, f), M O’Reilly (0-2).

Subs: L McLoone for Kavanagh, C Toye for McLoone, Kavanagh for McGlynn, M McHugh for McElhinney, C McFadden (0-1, f)for McBrearty

Fermanagh: C Snow, M Jones, C Cullen, M O’Brien, D McCusker, J McMahon, B Mulrone (0-1), E Donnelly (0-1), A Breen, P McCusker, R Jones (0-1), R O’Callaghan, R Corrigan, S Quigley (0-1), T Corrigan (0-7, 7f).

Subs: D Kelly for Cullen (BC), N Cassidy for R Corrigan, R Lyons for Breen, C Jones for McMahon, D Teague for P McCusker, C Flaherty for O’Brien

Referee: M Deegan (Laois).

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