Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Uladh

Ulster SFC: Donegal defeat holders Derry

April 20th, 2024

Ulster SFC Quarter-Final

Donegal 4-11 Derry 0-17


Ulster will have new senior football champions for 2024 after Donegal ended Derry’s two year reign with a richly deserved victory in front of 14, 714 at Celtic Park on Saturday evening.

Jim McGuinness’ team fought back from a slow start to take control thanks to Daoire O’Baoill’s first half goal. The strike breathed life in Donegal’s challenge with their ability to win breaks on a superb long kick-out routine, designed to expose Derry’s high press. It brought countless goal opportunities with three of the four goals arriving off long Donegal kick-outs.

For Derry, this was a day to forget. The alarm bells won’t exactly be ringing after what was only Derry’s second defeat of 2024, but there will be plenty of soul searching ahead of the All Ireland series.

The opening minutes were going to script for the Ulster champions for whom 2023 Young Player of the year Ethan Doherty was in excellent form. It was Doherty who opened the scoring inside 90 seconds, a lead that was doubled four minutes later by a Paul Cassidy mark.

By that stage Derry had won Donegal’s opening three kick-outs to keep the visitors pinned back and could have been further ahead after Lachlan Murray fisted an effort off the post.

Donegal needed inspiration and found it though Caolan McGonagle and more specifically Ryan McHugh whose ability to win breaking ball gave McGuinness’ team a real foothold. The Tir Chonaill men switched kick-outs to a percentage game, going long and filling the target area with bodies and it paid real dividends as they took control.

It was from one such kick that McHugh sent McGonagle clear on the Derry goal but the Buncrana man’s shot was saved by Lynch at the expense of a ’45’ from which Gallen got Donegal up and running on the scoreboard.

A huge Conor Doherty point suggested Derry weren’t unduly fussed by the near miss but they should have been as Donegal hit 1-3 in seven minutes without response to take a grip of the half.

Points from McHugh and Daire O Baoill levelled at 0-3 apiece before McHugh’s second had Donegal in front for the first time on 15 minutes. better was to follow though as three minutes later McHugh again won the break and fed O Baoill to superbly lob a retreating Lynch for 0-3 to 1-04.

Derry were rattled, well everyone apart from Ethan Doherty who within seconds of the Donegal goal had grabbed his second score to leave only the goal between them.

From there until half-time it was tit-for tat, a Gallen free being cancelled out by a huge Paul Cassidy effort from the left. Chrissy McKaigue had a hint of a goal chance, but elected to fist a point before Peadar Mogan and Ethan Doherty swapped scores.

Derry’s display prompted early changes with Niall Toner and Gareth McKinless being introduced inside the half hour for Niall Loughlin and Padraig McGrogan who were both carrying injuries going into the game.

McGuigan’s first score of the game, a free after Niall Toner was fouled, brought it back to a one point game at 1-6 to 0-8 but Ciaran Moore responded with his first Donegal score of 2024 . Brenda Rogers had the final say of a half to leave it a one point game, but Derry had work to do.

And that workload increased greatly within two minutes of the restart when Patton’s brilliant long kick-out saw Niall O’Donnell flick it forward to O Baoill. Just like in the opening half, the Gaoth Dobhair spotted Lynch off his line and retreating. Just like in the opening half O Baoill took the shot on and flighted a lovely effort Lynch could only help over the line as he chased back.

Niall O’Donnell tagged on a point and suddenly Donegal were in complete control at 2-8 to 0-9.

A ‘big ask’ became almost ‘mission impossible’ on 45 minutes when Gallen despatched a penalty and Donegal were in dreamland at 3-8 to 0-10.

A black card for Niall O’Donnell offered Derry hope and points from Murray and McGuigan (f) brought them back into, but even with Patton forced off by injury, the Oak Leafers hopes were extinguished by a fourth Donegal goal with Mulreany showing he was equally adept at kick-out as Patton.

His long clearance was touched over the advanced Lynch which left the Tir Chonaill with a three on two, but Jamie Brennan didn’t need help, blasting past the final Derry defender to kill the game as a contest.

Scorers for Donegal: Daire O Baoill 2-1, Oisin Gallen 1-3, (1-0pen, 1f, 1 ’45’), Jamie Brennan 1-0, Ryan McHugh 0-2, Peadar Mogan 0-1, Ciaran Moore 0-1, Niall O’Donnell 0-1, Patrick McBrearty 0-1 (f), Ciaran Thompson 0-1.

Scorers for Derry: Ethan Doherty 0-4, Shane McGuigan 0-4 (2fs), Paul Cassidy 0-2 (1m), Brendan Rogers 0-2, Gareth McKinless 0-1, Chrissy McKaigue 0-1, Lachlan Murray 0-1, Ciaran McFaul, Conor Doherty 0-1.

Donegal: Shaun Patton, Mark Curran, Ciaran Moore, Peadar Mogan, Ryan McHugh, Caolan McGonagle, Shane O’Donnell, Ciaran Thompson, Michael Langan, Brendan McCole, Niall O’Donnell, Daire O Baoill, Jason McGee, Oisin Gallen, Aaron Doherty.

Subs: Gavin Mulreany for S Patton (inj), 55mins; Jamie Brennan for A Doherty, 57mins; Partrick McBrearty for N O’Donnell, 58mins; Odhran Doherty for J McGee, 66mins; Kevin McGettigan for M Curran, 69mins.

Derry: Odhran Lynch, Conor McCluskey, Christopher McKaigue, Diarmuid Baker, Conor Doherty, Eoin McEvoy, Padraig McGrogan, Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers, Ethan Doherty, Ciaran McFaul, Paul Cassidy, Niall Loughlin Shane McGuigan, Lachlan Murray.

Subs: Niall Toner for N Loughlin, 27mins; Gareth McKinless for P McGrogan, 28mins; Emmett Bradley for L Murray, 50mins; Donncha Gilmore for C McKaigue, 58mins; Eunan Mulholland for C McFaul, 65mins.

Referee: David Gough (Meath).

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