Donegal 0-17 Monaghan 2-10: “A convincing display,” was Donegal manager Rory Gallagher’s take on an Ulster SFC semi-final replay win that was way more comfortable than the scoreboard suggests.
While the momentum swings in the drawn game made for a gripping first instalment at Kingspan Breffni Park seven days earlier, there was no disputing Donegal’s dominance on Saturday night as they advanced to a sixth Ulster final in a row.
“I thought last week we were the better team and I thought we were this week as well, by a good shot,” said Gallagher.
“Probably missing a few chances last week stopped us from putting up a bigger score.
“We’d have been disappointed only to come away with 1-11 last week but we rectified a lot of that this time, without actually getting in on goal.
“But at the same time the admiration in our dressing room for Monaghan is huge. They keep coming and coming and they don’t miss many chances.
“Who knows? We could meet them again.”
In order to mix it with the big boys in August, Monaghan would need big improvement in the qualifiers.
They were second best in every department and a lack of pace in their defence was ruthlessly exposed by Donegal’s serious running power.
Marty O’Reilly, Ryan and Eoin McHugh have added legs to this team and Gallagher clearly identified that mobility — and not the much talked about positioning of Michael Murphy — was the key to winning this replay.
They burst out of the blocks, hitting the first five points before Shane Carey registered Monaghan’s opening point in the 17th minute.
Goals from Carey and Conor McManus (penalty) kept Monaghan in touch, but they were fortunate to only trail by 0-10 to 2-2 at the break, as free-running Donegal dictated the terms with seven different scorers by half-time.
O’Reilly caused mayhem every time he ran at Donegal and won frees which Paddy McBrearty and Michael Murphy were happy to convert. Too many Monaghan players under-performed and while they improved in the second half — Conor McCarthy particularly unlucky when his chip over the goalkeeper crashed off the crossbar with 10 minutes to go — they could have no complaints, as they tamely relinquished their hold on the Anglo Celt.
Gallagher admits a fourth Ulster title in six years for Donegal in a fortnight’s time would be “massive” for his players.
“I’ve been involved with the boys for five of the last six years and enjoyed every minute of it but I do feel this one would be special.
“We won three (Ulster titles) in the last five years and every single one of them is very special, but this one would be massive.
“When you’re involved in coaching or management, all you hope for is that your team gives you everything, and they have done that.
“Winning galvanises everybody, and we came out of it with no injuries, which is great.”
Both sides finished with 14 men but it had no impact on the result.
Rory Kavanagh was sent off five minutes from the end for two yellows while Karl O’Connell could not be replaced after his black card in the final minute as Monaghan had already used six substitutes.
Jack McCarron and McCarthy made an impact when coming on for Monaghan, but the fact Malachy O’Rourke replaced three of his defenders suggests where the problems lay.
Leaking 17 points was a chronic systems failure considering they were playing with two sweepers and also had Darren Hughes dropping back to help out.
“We just never got going,” admitted O’Rourke.
“In the first half especially, Donegal were playing much better.
“They were using the ball better, they were coming running at us at angles and we weren’t coping with it that well.
“Obviously, the two goals kept us in the game but we wouldn’t have been happy with how we were playing.
“We always felt that even though we weren’t playing well, that if we could hang in the game, that things would turn.
“In the second half we were a lot better. Donegal always had that bit of a lead and we weren’t able to close that gap.”
Scorers for Donegal:
M Murphy (0-5, 4 free, 1 45); P McBrearty (0-4, 3 frees); M O’Reilly (0-3); F McGlynn, R Kavanagh, A Thompson, M McElhinney, M McHugh (0-1 each)
Scorers for Monaghan:
C McManus (1-4 (pen, 1f, 1 ‘45’); S Carey (1-1); J McCarron (0-2); C Walshe, C McCarthy, O Duffy (0-1 each)
MA McGinley; P McGrath, C Gillespie, E McGee; R McHugh, K Lacey, F McGlynn; R Kavanagh, O MacNiallais; A Thompson, M McElhinney, E McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, M O’Reilly
M McHugh for Thompson (BC, 34), C Toye for McElhinney (53), M McElhinney for MacNiallais (70), EB Gallagher for O’Reilly (70)
R Beggan; C Walshe, D Wylie, R Wylie; K Duffy, V Corey, F Kelly; K Hughes, K O’Connell; O Duffy, R McAnespie, S Carey; D McKenna, D Hughes, C McManus
N McAdam for D Wylie (HT), D Malone for McKenna (HT), C Boyle for R Wylie (46), C McCarthy for Carey (49), J McCarron for K Hughes (53), D Mone for Kelly (64)
Maurice Deegan (Laois)
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