A SUPERB second half saw the Donegal hurlers survive a scare to beat Leitrim and book a Nickey Rackard Cup semi-final spot.
Leitrim 4-10 Donegal 1-27
Leitrim led by 0-3 to 0-2 after ten minutes, Declan Coulter got both Donegal scores from frees.
Then came the game’s first goal, Leitrim’s Diarmuid Kellegher finishing a good move with a low shot to the net.
Coulter replied with two more points and Bernard Lafferty added another to leave a point between them 1-3 to 0-5.
A minute later Leitrim goaled again, James McNabola finished to the net after some poor defending by Donegal and the home side led by four. Just before the water break Richie Ryan pointed for Donegal to leave it 2-3 to 0-6.
Just after the break disaster for Donegal when Ronan McDermott received a second yellow and then a red card to leave his team down to 14 men.
Gavin O’Hagan and Karl McDermott added Leitrim points while two from Declan Coulter and one from Bernard Lafferty kept Donegal in touch at 2-5 to 0-9. But almost immediately Leitrim hit the 14 men with a third goal, Diarmuid Kellegher blasted home his second goal and Leitrim third.
Bernard Lafferty pointed in the final minute of the half to leave the half-half score 3-5 to 0-10 and Donegal in trouble.
Whatever team manager Mickey McCann said to his team at the break certainly had the desired effect as Donegal completely turned the game around with a super second-half performance which saw them score 1-17 to Leitrim’s 1-5.
Gerry Gilmore, who had an excellent second-half, fired over two quick points and Ben Murray replied.
Leitrim were then reduced to 14 men when Mark Feeney received his second yellow followed by a red card and from the resulting penalty for his foul Declan Coulter hammered the ball to the net, 3-06 to 1-12 and Donegal right back in it.
From there they dominated. Gilmore, Lafferty, Ciaran Mathewson and Coulter all added top class scores and although Gavin O’Hagan and Liam Morton replied to those, Gilmore – with his fourth of the half – plus sub Niall Cleary, Coulter, Ryan and Mathewson kept the scoreboard ticking to leave it 3-8 to 1-21 at the water break and Donegal in control, seven points ahead.
O’Hagan pointed a free but four more points from Ryan and one each from Jack O’Loughlin and Christopher McDermott left Donegal in cruise control and even a late Ben Murray goal could not spoil a super second-half display and a winning margin of eight points.
It’s a semi-final meeting with Tyrone in Healy Park next for Donegal.
Scorers – Leitrim: Diarmuid Kelleher 2-0; Gavin O’Hagan 0-5, 3f; Ben Murray 1-1; James McNabola 1-0; Karl McDermott 0-2; Cathal O’Donovan and Liam Moreton 0-1 each. Donegal: Declan Coulter 1-10, 1 pen, 7f, 1 65; Ritchie Ryan 0-7, 3f; Gerry Gilmore 0-5; Bernard Lafferty 0-3; Christopher McDermott and Jack O’Loughlin 0-1 each
Leitrim: Lorcan Donnellan; Paul Earley, Stephen Goldrick, Martin Feeney; Ben Murray, Cian Mallon, Paul Lenehan; Cathal O’Donovan, Aaron McDermott; Karl McDermott, Gavin O’Hagan, David McGovern; James McNabola, Liam Moreton, Diarmuid Kelleher. Subs: Hugh Glancy and James Rooney for Earley and Mallon (42), Conor Hackett and Clerkin for A McDermott and Kelleher (63), Moreton for Lenehan (69).
Donegal: Luke White; Mark Callaghan, Stephen Gillespie, Christopher McDermott; Gavin Browne, Jack O’Loughlin, Michael Donaghue; Sean McVeigh, Conor O’Grady; Bernard Lafferty, Declan Coulter, Ronan McDermott; Gerard Gilmore, Ritchie Ryan, Ciaran Matthewson. Subs: Niall Cleary for Browne (22), Oisin Grant for Coulter (53), Stephen McBride and Dylan Duffy for Gilmore and O’Grady (69), Lee Henderson for Matthewson (70+1).
Referee: Michael Kennedy (Tipperary)Tags: