DONEGAL’S MINORS last night overcame Antrim 2-11 to 2-7 at Corrigan Park in the Ulster MFC quarter-final.
Eamon Fyffe scored 2-3 for Antrim, but Donegal saw Niall O’Donnell hit 2-5 as they progress to the semi-final where they’ll meet Monaghan on June 25.
See here for Chris McNulty’s match report
And listen to the thoughts of Shaun Paul Barrett, the Donegal manager, here
- Cometh the hour…
THE Donegal supporters on the grassy banks of Corrigan Park were stunned when Eamon Fyffe hit two goals and three points for Antrim, who led by five points with little more than 10 minutes to go.
When Fyffe punished a misdirected kick-out by Gavin Mulreaney by slamming the ball to the Donegal net, the goose looked cooked.
It was Niall O’Donnell’s cue, though.
O’Donnell cracked home two goals in less than a minute to completely turn the tide.
The St Eunan’s man ended with 2-5, including two points that would’ve been at home on any stage.
“When we needed a captain’s performance, Niall stepped up,” his manager, Shaun Paul Barrett, said.
It was hard to sum up the sheer quality of that second-half display by O’Donnell, who keeps clocking up the numbers to near-extreme levels and it was he who, practically single-handedly, hauled Donegal out of the quicksand as he sprinkled some star dust.
- Donegal overcome their nervous periods
SHAUN Paul Barrett noted afterwards that his side was ‘nervous’ for long spells in Belfast and it was certainly a below-par display from his side.
They were fortunate perhaps to be level, at 0-4 apiece, at half-time. As Barrett pointed out, Antrim had missed a couple of frees from promising positions and Donegal were cut open more easily than they’d have liked.
When Eamon Fyffe slalomed his way into the zone to score the first Antrim goal, Donegal’s marking could have been tighter.
Fyffe’s second was a freak, picking up a loose kick-out from Gavin Mulreaney before firing home.
There were attacking passages from Donegal, who set up pretty defensively, that broke down when ordinarily they’d have been slicker.
The nerves played a part, but Donegal managed to shake them away sufficiently to get by.
“We were lucky today,” Barrett observed. “Young lads playing in front of big crowds are going to be nervous. It wasn’t until we were four or five down that we started to play.”[adrotate group=”53″]
- McGettigan dismissal a blow for Donegal
TWO MINUTES into the second half, referee Maggie Farrelly – who plays club football with Glenfin – reached for her hip pocket and pulled out the red card.
The player on the receiving end was Eoghan McGettigan, the Donegal full-forward who passed a fitness test following a toe injury sustained in training two weeks ago.
McGettigan was involved in an off-the-ball incident with an Antrim defender and there weren’t too many protests when Farrelly produced the red.
In last year’s Donegal SFC final, McGettigan was sent off less than a minute after his introduction.
McGettigan will miss next month’s Ulster MFC semi-final against Monaghan after his sending off and his talents will be a huge miss for the Tir Chonaill men.[adrotate group=”37″]
- Donegal can make use of imposing midfield
IN JASON McGee and Kieran Gallagher, Donegal have two midfielders of an imposing stature.
There were times in the first half when McGee was the target at all times for Gavin Mulreaney, before Donegal decided to go short with their kick-outs in a bid to avoid the midfield log jam.
McGee was black carded early in the second half, but along with O’Donnell, Gallagher was one of the Donegal men to carry the can in the final ten minutes when the going got tough.
The Naomh Conaill man kicked a point and was heavily involved as Donegal pressed on for the win.
Making these two dominant figures in games should be a priority for Donegal as they look to make the Ulster final again for the second time in three years.
- Exams make for a testing period
IN THE month now before Donegal take on Monaghan on June 25, a large chunk of this Donegal squad will sit down to their Leaving Certificate examinations.
It makes for a tricky time for the players, who are facing into life-changing exams that will shape, at least, the next couple of years of their lives.
For the management, it makes for a tricky time, too.
Barrett acknowledged that he has a balancing act to weigh up over the next four weeks.
“The Leaving Cert is in the middle of the preparations now and it’s difficult for the players,” he said.
“We’ll try and organise training as often as we can. The exams take priority, but we still have to train and prepare for Monaghan.”
They have a lot to do – in more ways than on.[adrotate group=”46″] Tags: