It’s not a game that will linger much longer in the memory, but Donegal saw off a resistant Fermanagh and book their spot in the Ulster SFC semi-finals.
Fermanagh 0-9 Donegal 0-15
By Chris McNulty at Brewster Park. Pictures by Evan Logan
Not until added time, when Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy and Man of the Match Jamie Brennan arched over a trio of points, were Donegal completely home and hosed.
Picture: Donegal’s Jamie Brennan looks for options during the game.
Fermanagh were within a goal and the memories fresh of a last-gasp goal in a semi-final last year to stun Monaghan.
Donegal, the defending Ulster champions, had enough nous about them down the home straight after a sometimes ugly contest in Enniskillen.
In a repeat of last year’s Ulster final and in a game that never promised to be pretty, Donegal handed Fermanagh a first home defeat in League or Championship football under Rory Gallagher’s management.
In front of 10,447, Donegal showed good patience to seal a semi-final meeting with Tyrone.
Michael Murphy announced his arrival to the stage with a brilliant long-range point four minutes into the second half and the Glenswilly man, while scoring just two points, was at the controls for long spells of a game of chess.
Now with the breeze in their sails, Donegal were starting to find a little something and Murphy soared over from 40 metres.
Ultan Kelm kept Fermanagh on the Donegal trail, but the visitors swept from right to left for Jamie Brennan to score his third of the day.
When Fermanagh turned Leo McLoone over and worked a 53rd minute score for Ciaran Corrigan, they were within a point.
McBrearty got under a dropping ball from Murphy ahead of Fermanagh ‘keeper James McGrath to fist a point and Ciaran Thompson suddenly had Donegal three to the good – seconds after Conall Jones dropped what seemed a routine free into Hugh McFadden’s arms.
Jamie Brennan found an inch of space in the claustrophobia to pop over Donegal’s first score in the 18th minute.
McBrearty converted a free won by Leo McLoone two minutes later and Donegal – frustrated until that point – were back on level terms.
Fermanagh’s mass defence hardly came as a surprise, but Donegal were forced to take shots from nigh-on impossible angles.
Donegal had registered six wides by the 20th minute as Fermanagh stuck to their plan to near perfection.
McBrearty was in for a first Donegal appearance since rupturing an anterior cruciate knee ligament in last year’s Ulster final and the Kilcar man inched his men in front with a 13-metre free.
Leo McLoone put two between the, but Ryan Jones landed a monster from the left-hand side and Ciaran Corrigan had Fermanagh level briefly, but Jason McGee pushed Donegal 0-5 to 0-4 in front as they parted ways following the first instalment.
Kelm – one of three Championship debutants named by Gallagher – showed no nerves as he surged down the left channel to fist over the game’s opening score in the fifth minute.
Kelm might have eyed up the bullseye, but the Erne Gaels man took the economical option and lifted over the black spot. Daniel Teague, who was lurking inside, might have had another opinion of the outcome.
Jonny Cassidy, another of those thrust into Championship heat for the first time, was blinded by the lights when the possibilities opened in front of him midway through the opening half.
Cassidy, who has strong Donegal connections, was caught between his options and a tame effort landed in the chest of Shaun Patton, the grateful Donegal ‘keeper.
Patton was on red alert to sweep possession when a Barry Mulrone effort careered down from an upright with Corrigan ready to pounce 14 minutes into the second half.
McBrearty slammed over at the other end to put Donegal three in front, but they had to roll the sleeves up for the remainder.
Fermanagh put sub Tom Clarke inside for the closing chapter and the Erne had a goal chance when Teague, fed by James McMahon, beat Patton only for the ball to be blocked on the line.
Fermanagh: James McGrath; Kane Connor, Aidan Breen, Lee Cullen; James McMahon, Che Cullen, Jonny Cassidy; Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Jones (0-1); Declan McCusker, Conall Jones (0-2f), Ciaran Corrigan (0-2); Daniel Teague, Sean Quigley (0-1f), Ultan Kelm (0-2). Subs: Barry Mulrone (0-1) for Teague (half-time), Paul McCusker for Quigley (44), Tom Clarke for Connor (61), Ryan Lyons for Breen (65), Daniel Teague for McCusker (68).
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Stephen McMenamin, Neil McGee, Eoghan Bán Gallagher; Daire Ó Baoill, Leo McLoone (0-1), Paddy McGrath; Hugh McFadden, Jason McGee (0-1); Ryan McHugh, Michael Murphy (0-2), Ciaran Thompson (0-1); Jamie Brennan (0-4), Patrick McBrearty (0-5, 2f), Michael Langan (0-1). Subs: Frank McGlynn for Ó Baoill (49), Niall O’Donnell for McLoone (55), Eoin McHugh for McGrath (61), Eamonn Doherty for R.McHugh (70), Paul Brennan for Thompson (73).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).Tags: