Derry 0-10, Donegal 1-09
It was a case of deja vu for Derry at Clones on Saturday evening as Martin O’Reilly’s 44th minute goal sent Donegal into an Ulster Final meeting with Monaghan.
As has been the case in the previous two meetings between the counties, Donegal’s produced a second half scoring spree - this time 1-02 in five minutes - which effectively won them the game.
Five minutes into the second period, with the game poised at 0-7 to 0-6 and nothing between the teams, Rory Gallagher’s men went through the gears with O’Reilly’s goal proving the match-winner as he accepted a pass from Neil Gallagher before stepping around Thomas Mallon and rolling it into an empty net.
The disappointment for Derry was this was a game they dominated for long periods without ever taking the scores they should have.
Brian McIver’s men started very brightly and could have had a goal inside the opening minute when Eoin Bradley’s high ball toward Cailean O’Coyle was broken down by Donegal but recycled instantly by Fergal Doherty to Enda Lynn whose low shot was well blocked by Paul Durcan rushing ff his line.
An Odhran Mac Nailis point was the game’s first score but a Bradley free quickly cancelled it out as the Oak Leafers produced a number of telling early defensive blocks.
With both teams setting up with similar systems, O’Boyle’s presence at full forward looked like it could paid dividends with the Lavey man causing bother every time Derry sent a high ball in. Indeed O’Boyle almost had the ball in the net on seven minutes when he touched Mark Lynch’s high ball over the head of Durcan but Eamon McGee got back on the line to clear.
Despite an impressive opening few minutes, Derry were having trouble securing their own kick-outs and it was constantly inviting Donegal pressure.
Patrick McBrearty had Rory Gallagher’s men in front and Derry’s failure to win possession from Mallon’s kicks brought
further scores for McBrearty again, from a ‘45’, and Christy Toye.
Three points down, a succession of Donegal wides was helping to keep Derry in the game and when Sean Leo McGoldrick threatened to burst through on goal he was crowded out only for Enda Lynn to be fouled as the ball broke loose. Bradley helped himself to a second free of the game but it took until the 18th minute for Derry to register their first point from play as Kevin Johnston’s excellent ball in allowed O’Boyle to turn and fire over the bar from 30m for 0-4 to 0-3.
Lynch then reminded the Clones crowd what he was capable of by striding inside the Donegal 45 and firing over the bar to level things up on 21 minutes.
With the rain falling steadily, handling conditions were difficult and the game descended into a patchy period during which neither team was able to dominate. Donegal were guilty of uncharacteristically poor shooting while Derry failed to take advantage of numerous good shooting positions.
An excellent Colm McFadden point after breaking two tackles finally got the scoreboard moving again on the half hour but it took Chrissy McKaigue only 60 seconds to level after taking a Bradley pass and sending a lovely shot between the posts.
Michael Murphy, who was having a very quiet game, almost announced his arrival in the game in style three minutes before the break when he got a great contact to a high centre but Mallon produced a superb save, diving to his left to turn away what looked a certain goal as the sides went into the break level.
Donegal signalled their intent within seconds of the restart with a long ball which was inches too long for Murphy who was loitering on the edge of the square but it didn’t take long for McFadden to edge them in front with an excellent score under pressure.
Sean Leo McGoldrick wasted a glorious chance to equalise after more good work from O’Boyle. Eoin Bradley then wasted further chances, one from a free, before Murphy showed how it was done with an outrageous score from 55m, his first point of the day on 40 minutes for 0-7 to 0-5.
Niall Holly got Derry’s first score of the second half, his first in the Ulster Championship, but as they have done so often in the past, Donegal caught steeped up a gear to take a stranglehold. First, Martin McElhinney grab a lovely point before, from the subsequent kick-out, Neil Gallagher was able to win the ball without challenge and feed O’Reilly for the game’s crucial opening goal.
Derry responded well with points from Lynch (free) and O’Boyle and Terence O’Brien, Benny Heron and Liam McGoldrick were introduced to try and restore some energy to the Oak Leafers.
A cleverly worked short free from Lynch set Heron up for his first score since coming on to bring the deficit back to 0-11 to 0-09 as Derry made it three points in succession.
When Donegal substitute Anthony Thompson was needlessly fouled, McBrearty looked to have missed his chance when he sent the free against the post but the rebound broke to Murphy who imperiously sent it back between the posts to restore Donegal’s three point advantage.
Ciaran McFaul was able to close that gap back to two with a nice score before two black cards derailed the Oak Leaf challenge. The first for Brendan Rogers was possibly harsh for a trip on Mac Nailis which may have been accidental but Ciaran McFaul can have no complaints for hacking down Ryan McHugh with two minutes left.
The frustration for Brian McIver was Derry had the chances but didn’t take them. O’Reilly’s one piece of opportunism won it for the Ulster champions.
Derry: Thomas Mallon; Oisín Duffy, Brendan Rogers, Dermot McBride; Kevin Johnston, Chrissy McKaigue, Ciarán McFaul (0-1); Niall Holly (0-1), Fergal Doherty; Sean Leo McGoldrick, Mark Lynch (0-2, 1f), Enda Lynn; Daniel Heavron, Eoin Bradley (0-2, 2f), Cailean O’Boyle (0-2). (Subs) Benny Heron (0-1) for SL McGoldrick, 46mins; Liam McGoldrick for O Duffy, 47mins; Terence O’Brien for E Lynn, 50mins; Niall Loughlin for E Bradley, 62mins; Enda Lynn for C O’Boyle, 64mins; Conor McAtamney for B Rogers (Black Card), 66mins;
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamonn McGee; Martin O’Reilly (1-0), Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn; Neil Gallagher; Martin McElhinney (0-1); Christy Toye (0-1), Odhran Mac Niallis (0-1), Ryan McHugh; Patrick McBrearty (0-2, 1 forty-five), Michael Murphy (0-2), Colm McFadden (0-2). (Subs) Mark McHugh for C McFadden, 57mins; Anthony Thompson for C Toye, 61mins; Hugh McFadden for M McElhinney, 70mins; David Walsh for P McBrearty, 72mins.
Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare)