Donegal 0-15 Monaghan 1-09
Donegal are the kings of Ulster once again, their famed defensive strategy working the oracle once again as they squeezed out holders Monaghan in front of a sell-out crowd at Clones.
A first championship win over their Farney men since 1983 was achieved in the manner which GAA supporters in the north have become accustomed to.
Monaghan’s attacking efforts were suffocated by masses of yellow shirts, but the former provincial champions did manage to get in for a second half goal that got them right back into contention.
However, Jim McGuinness’ men flicked the intensity button once again and closed out the game in typical fashion.
The sight of one of the game’s great full forwards stationed around the middle of the field for almost the entire game was not something to excite the purist, but skipper Michael Murphy did make a sizeable contribution, and hammered over two late frees - one a massive effort from 60 yards.
Monaghan’s own attacking talisman was held in check by Neil McGee - with the assistance of many others - and managed just one point all afternoon, a token effort in stoppage time.
Donegal were ultra-cautious in their willingness to commit men to the attack, but nevertheless, registered the game’s opening three points as the defending champions started sluggishly.
Karl Lacey, a late addition to the starting fifteen, got forward to slot over the opener before Odhran MacNiallais fired over a spectacular effort from wide on the left.
Full-back Neil McGee made a thundering run forward to win the free that Colm McFadden converted for a 0-3 to 0-0 advantage by the 14th minute, before Paul Finlay got the Farney men off the mark with a free.
Anthony Thompson made the overlapping run to restore the three points advantage, and McFadden’s second made it 0-5 to 0-2.
But Monaghan managed to prise open a crack in a massed Donegal defence to craft a goal chance. Stephen Gollogly released Fintan Kelly, but his shot was superbly blocked by Lacey for a ’45 - which goalkeeper Rory Beggan slotted between the posts.
MacNiallais and Finlay swapped points, but worryingly for Monaghan ace attacker Conor McManus had not even had a shot at the posts and they went in trailing by 0-6 to 0-4 at the break.
Monaghan dispensed with the sweeper system, however they still struggled to break through the walls of Donegal defenders.
The Tir Chonail men soaked up spells of pressure to break at pace, hitting their opponents on the counter-attack, and easing further clear through MacNiallais and Paddy McBrearty.
McFadden’s fourth free made it double scores at 0-10 to 0-5 ten minutes after the restart. Yet Monaghan continued to probe and they were rewarded with a 49th minute goal.
Frank McGlynn coughed up possession and substitute Chris McGuinness seized upon the loose ball to smacked a perfectly placed shot into the bottom corner of Paul Durcan’s net.
Now it was a one point game, but Donegal once again turned up the pressure and the intensity to close out the tie - out-scoring their opponents by five points to three in the remaining 22 minutes.
Murphy converted two inspirational frees, one a massive effort from 60 metres.
Ryan McHugh was a key figure in those closing stages, getting forward to set up a couple of scores from McBrearty. It was a reflection of Monaghan’s day that Conor McManus didn’t manage to hit the target until stoppage time.
Donegal: P Durcan, E McGee, N McGee, F McGlynn, A Thompson (0-1), K Lacey (0-1), P McGrath, N Gallagher, C Toye, R McHugh (0-1), L McLoone, O MacNiallais (0-3), D O’Connor, M Murphy (0-2, 2f), C McFadden (0-4, 4f).
Subs: P McBrearty (0-3) for O’Connor, R Kavanagh for Toye, M McElhinney for MacNiallais, D Walsh for McLoone, D Molloy for McFadden
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-2, 1f, 1 ’45), R Wylie, D Wylie, C Walshe, D Mone, V Corey (0-1), F Kelly, D Clerkin, D Hughes, P McKenna, S Gollogly, P Finlay (0-4, 3f), D Malone, K Hughes (0-1), C McManus (0-1).
Subs: C McGuinness (1-0) for McKenna, O Duffy for Gollogly, K O’Connell for Kelly, P Donaghy for Malone, G Doogan for Clerkin
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).