Ulster SFC Semi Final:
Derry 0-10 Donegal 1-9
By Orla Bannon in Clones
Donegal are through to a fifth Ulster final appearance in a row after emerging with a hard-fought win over Derry at Clones on Saturday evening.
Scores were at a premium in a defensive semi-final and while Derry were never in front, they made Rory Gallagher’s side fight all the way.
The sides were level at 0-5 at half time and Donegal effectively won the game in the 10 minute spell after half time when they outscored Derry by 1-3 to 0-1. Marty O’Reilly popped up with his second goal in as many games in the 45th minute and although Derry closed to within two points on several occasions, Donegal closed the gaps down in the closing stages.
Derry picked up two black cards late on and finished the closing minutes with 14 men having already used all six subs, but can take heart from their spirited display. Rory Gallagher won’t be happy his team only scored one point after O’Reilly’s 45th minute goal – or that they went 20 minutes without scoring in the first half.
However, they survived a big scare and will be relieved to have made it to another provincial final from the difficult side of the draw.
It looked ominous for Derry early on when Donegal eased into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after 11 minutes. Enda Lynn had a goal chance for the Oak Leafers in the first minute, which Paul Durcan kicked clear, but the favourites were quickly into their stride with Odhran MacNiallais, Paddy McBrearty and Christy Toye all scoring from play.
McBrearty also tagged on a free and he looked the most dangerous of Donegal’s forwards, with Michael Murphy again sitting deep in a free role with Neil Gallagher taking spells at full-forward. Derry were living off scraps of possession and were struggling to gain possession from their kickouts, but Donegal failed to push home their advantage.
They kicked seven first-half wides and dropped two efforts short into the arms of goalkeeper Thomas Mallon. With each miss, Derry grew in confidence and they hit three points in a row to draw level at 0-4 each after 22 minutes.
Eoin Bradley’s tap-over free was followed by a superb score from Caolain O’Boyle, who turned sharply onto his right after winning Kevin Johnston’s pass in and slung the ball over from 35 yards. Mark Lynch popped up with the equaliser in a suffocating game with precious few clear cut openings.
Although they were doing good work out the pitch, Donegal were struggling once they got to the Derry ’45’ and didn’t score for 20 minutes. Colm McFadden, back in the team after missing the win over Armagh with a virus, came up with the goods with a point from a tight angle to put Donegal in front again.
However Chrissy McKaigue came forward for the first time in the game and scored from distance to again bring Derry level at 0-5 apiece. Thomas Mallon ensured the scores stayed that way at half time after pulling off a smart save from Michael Murphy.
Mallon didn’t have a save to make in the first round win over Down but he dived superbly to his right to deny Murphy a fisted goal, from Ryan McHugh’s long ball in, just before the break. Donegal turned the screw and outscored Derry by 1-3 to 0-1 in the 10 minutes after the restart.
An outrageous long-range point from Michael Murphy was the highlight with Martin McElhinney and McFadden also raising white flags before Martin O’Reilly pounced for his second goal in as many games.
Neil Gallagher’s strong run punched a big hole through the middle and he laid it off to O’Reilly, whose low shot across goal fizzed into the far corner to put Derry 1-8 to 0-6 ahead after 45 minutes.
That could have been curtains for the underdogs but they battled on with a Lynch free and Caolain O’Boyle’s point, after a reverse pass inside from Bradley, reducing the deficit to three points with 20 minutes still to go. Sub Benny Heron reduced the gap to two points with Derry still fighting and playing like they believed they could cause an upset.
Just when they thought they’d cleared the danger with a few half blocks, Michael Murphy picked up the loose ball and broke their hearts with a 35m score with six minutes to go. Ciaran McFaul curled one over from the wing for Derry to again leave two points in it but the last few minutes were marred by bad-tempered flare-ups as the play became messy and broken up.
Brendan Rogers, playing only his second ever game for Derry, was black carded for a foul on MacNiallais that sparked a melee in the 66th minute. After things calmed down, Ciaran McFaul’s challenge on Ryan McHugh sparked another row and saw the player pick up Derry’s second black card in the 69th minute.
Derry finished the game with 14 men having already used six substitutes but their race was run as Donegal closed down the game and booked a safe passage through to a fifth Ulster final in a row. They will face Monaghan on July 19, the third year in a row the sides have met in the decider.
Scorers for Derry: E Bradley 0-2 (2f), C O’Boyle 0-2, M Lynch 0-2 (1f), C McKaigue 0-1, N Holly 0-1, C McFaul 0-1, B Heron 0-1
Scorers for Donegal: M O’Reilly 1-0, C McFadden 0-2, M Murphy 0-2, P McBrearty 0-2 (1f), O MacNiallais 0-1, C Toye 0-1, M McElhinney 0-1
DERRY: Thomas Mallon; Oisín Duffy, Brendan Rogers, Dermot McBride; Kevin Johnston, Chrissy McKaigue, Ciarán McFaul; Niall Holly, Fergal Doherty; Seán Leo McGoldrick, Mark Lynch, Enda Lynn; Daniel Heavron, Eoin Bradley, Cailean O’Boyle. Subs: B Heron (0-1) for McGoldrick (47), L McGoldrick for Duffy (48), T O’Brien for Lynn (51), N Loughlin for Bradley (62), E Lynn for O’Boyle (65), C McAtamney for Rogers (BC, 66)
DONEGAL: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Éamonn McGee; Martin O’Reilly, Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn; Neil Gallagher, Martin McElhinney; Christy Toye, Odhrán MacNiallais, Ryan McHugh; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden. Subs: M McHugh for McFadden (57), A Thompson for Toye (61), H McFadden for McElhinney (69), D Walsh for McBrearty (70)
Referee: Noel Hickey (Clare)
Report courtesy of GAA.ie