DONEGAL MINORS PLAYED A get-out-of-jail card and Niall O’Donnell was the man who threw the dice as Shaun Paul Barrett’s men overcame Antrim in Belfast.
Antrim 2-7 Donegal 2-11
This Ulster MFC quarter-final took some time to come to life but when it did, it exploded.
O’Donnell gave something of a masterclass in the second half, the St Eunan’s man scoring a stunning 2-5, his two goals scored inside a minute with ten minutes remaining in a game that looked beyond Donegal.[adrotate group=”43″]
Eamon Fyffe came off the bench for Antrim and scored 2-3 as the home side led by five, 2-7 to 0-8, with Donegal stunned.
Both teams were down to 14 men at that stage. Donegal’s Eoghan McGettigan was shown a straight red card two minutes into the second half for his part in an off-the-ball incident.
Donegal had been boosted with the availability of McGettigan, who had supposedly sustained a broken toe in training two weeks ago, but the Glenties man was able to lead the line here.[adrotate group=”38″]
Donegal also lost Jason McGee, to a black card, in the 36th minute while Antrim saw corner-back Paul Mulholland sent off after being black carded, to add to an earlier booking.
Fyffe netted his first when he wormed his way past Mark Curran before thumping home off the crossbar.
Three points from Fyffe were edging Antrim to the win and that seemed inevitable when he profited for a second goal in the 49th minute.
After Fyffe scored a point, Donegal goalkeeper Gavin Mulreaney went short with his kick-out, but popped it straight to Fyffe, who struck the ultimate punishment.
In between times, O’Donnell had flexed his muscle with one sumptuous point, off the outside of his right boot from the left flank.
Right after Fyffe’s second goal, O’Donnell took the baton and led the charge for the Tir Chonaill men.
After taking a pass from Odhrán Shiels, O’Donnell slotted past Gerard Smith.
Within 60 seconds, O’Donnell repeated the dose. Shane McGrath provided the assist and O’Donnell tucked home for the lead score.
Midfielder Kieran Gallagher intercepted a loose pass by Darren McCormick to score and two late points by the on-song O’Donnell brought Donegal into semi-final territory.[adrotate group=”70″]
Donegal came into this after winning their third Ulster Minor Football League title in a row, as Aidan McLaughlin’s late goal and 2-3 by O’Donnell gave them a 3-9 to 1-13 final win over Tyrone in Maghera.
In their final group game in the minor league, Donegal had beaten Antrim 2-12 to 0-6 with the goals by Stephen Carr and O’Donnell.
Donegal began looking edgy and anxious and the teams were level at 0-4 apiece at the break.[adrotate group=”63″]
McGee and McGettigan combined for a goal chance just 17 seconds into the game, but O’Donnell drilled over the bar when he might have been expected to hit the back of Smith’s net as he eyeballed the Antrim goalkeeper.
Dermot McErlain levelled it after he was fouled by Peadar Mogan, but Donegal, with McLaughlin and McGee – from a 40-metre free – moved 0-3 to 0-1 in front.
Kevin Small reduced the arrears for the home side and, after Mogan tapped over a free won by O’Donnell, Hugh McGettigan’s hosts made it a tied game at the interval with Eoin Nagle raising the loudest cheer.
From a position way out on the right-hand side, Nagle nailed a sweet point before Michael Hagan equalised, also from a free.
The tension whistled off the Donegal boots. Gallagher’s effort late in the half, curling wide after he took receipt of McGee’s free, from a position that the Naomh Conaill man would usually be flawless.
Goals from Hagan, Nagle, McErlain and Small had fired the Saffrons to a 4-10 to 2-9 win over Fermanagh in the preliminary round and they looked to have had a new hero in Fyffe, whose 2-3 appeared to be the winning of it.[adrotate group=”46″]
Corrigan Park was once Antrim’s county ground, tucked neatly, almost hidden away past the red-bricked terraces of the Falls Road.
The natives on the grass banks were in raptures, but had their bubble burst as O’Donnell rose the mercury to book Donegal’s place in an Ulster semi-final, where they’ll meet Monaghan, most likely without the dismissed McGettigan, on June 25.
Antrim: Gerard Smith; Marcus Donnelly, Sean Kelly, Paul Mulholland; Patrick Finnegan, Patrick McCormick, Darren McCormick; Niall McKeown, Joe Maybin; Eoghan McCabe, Dermot McErlain (0-1, 1f), Eoin Nagle (0-1); Malachi Doherty, Kevin Small (0-1, 1f), Michael Hagan (0-1, 1f). Subs: Eamon Fyffe (2-3) for Hagan (25), Joseph Finnegan for Doherty (47), Michael McNamee for Maybin (50), Matthew Hamill for Kelly (55), Seanchan Duffin for McErlain (60).
Donegal: Gavin Mulreaney; Seaghan Ferry (0-1), Aaron McCrea, Mark Curran; Odhrán Shiels, JD Boyle, Aidan McLaughlin (0-1); Jason McGee (0-1, 1f), Kieran Gallagher (0-1); Nathan Boyle, Niall O’Donnell (2-5), Enda McCormick; Odhrán Ferry, Eoghan McGettigan, Peadar Mogan (0-2, 1f). Subs: Shane McGrath for McGee (black card, 36), Brian O’Donnell for McCormick (48), Ryan Connors for Ferry (black card, 52), Stephen Carr for McLaughlin (60).
Referee: Maggie Farrelly (Cavan).Tags: