Ulster SFC: Donegal pip Derry in thriller

Ulster SFC Quarter-Final


By Chris McNulty in Ballybofey

Patrick McBrearty rescued Donegal’s Ulster Championship hopes with a dramatic winner against Derry in Ballybofey.

Derry led for most of the way of this cagey clash and Rory Gallagher seemed set for a big victory.

That was until McBrearty struck right at the end. With only 20 seconds of added time remaining, McBrearty swung over the point that decided the day.

Just moments earlier, McBrearty put Donegal in front for the first time only for Shane McGuigan to rise the possibility of extra time with a superb free.

Donegal were without Michael Murphy, their captain not deemed fit to start having been withdrawn with a hamstring injury during the win over Down a fortnight ago, but the Glenswilly man was sent on with Donegal wobbling and trailing by three points 11 minutes into the second half.

It was Donegal’s first Championship outing without their captain since a preliminary round win over Cavan in 2012, but they needed his presence in the second half.

Derry, energised by a fine League campaign that saw the Oak Leaf win Division 3, were four up by the 22nd minute when Shane McGuigan tucked over a free form the edge of the ‘D’.

Donegal manager Declan Bonner celebrates following the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between Derry and Donegal at Páirc MacCumhaill in Ballybofey, Donegal. 
Donegal manager Declan Bonner celebrates following the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between Derry and Donegal at Páirc MacCumhaill in Ballybofey, Donegal. 

Their margin, indeed, might have been greater with Donegal grateful for a brave block by Hugh McFadden to take the sting out of a Benny Heron shot that would otherwise have tested the hooks on the Town End netting.

Heron and McGuigan got Derry off and running and Donegal, without Murphy orchestrating were a little out of sorts in the early passages.

It was the 12th minute before Jamie Brennan got them on the board and a collective worry that gasped when McGuigan put Derry 0-6 to 0-2 in front lifted with Niall O’Donnell drilling over at the other end.

A brace of Michael Langan points brought Donegal within a point by half-time, when they trailed 0-7 to 0-6.

McGuigan almost began with a bang, fisting an early warning against the outside of a Donegal upright and they did a good job of unsettling their hosts, who took some time to warm to the task.

Derry had a big goal chance in the fifth minute of the second half, Heron seeing his close-range effort come off the crossbar. Somehow, Donegal got the ball to safety just as Derry were about to celebrate.

Murphy was called for, but four-in-a-row by Derry had moved them 0-12 to 0-8 ahead.

Murphy and Odhrán Mac Niallais, who has also been hamstrung in recent weeks, entered the action and a converted Murphy free lifted home voices among the 500 patrons permitted into the venue.

Donegal rallied, but a Gareth McKinless point stemmed the flow as Derry remained in front, but a double off the boot of Niall O’Donnell brought Donegal level with ten minutes to play.

Even with their talisman, Donegal looked in trouble until McBrearty arched over his precious point.

Scorers for Donegal: Michael Langan, Patrick McBrearty (2f), Niall O’Donnell 0-3 each, Jamie Brennan, Caolan McGonigle, Michael Murphy (2f) 0-2 each, Paul Brennan 0-1

Scorers for Derry: Shane McGuigan (2f) 0-4, Ciaran McFaul 0-3, Benny Heron 0-2, Padraig Cassidy, Gareth McKinless, Conor Doherty, Conor Glass, Emmet Bradley, Niall Loughlin 0-1 each

DONEGAL: Shaun Patton; Eoin McHugh, Neil McGee, Stephen McMenamin; Odhrán McFadden-Ferry, Ryan McHugh, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Hugh McFadden, Caolan McGonigle; Ciaran Thompson, Niall O’Donnell, Michael Langan; Patrick McBrearty, Jamie Brennan, Ethan O’Donnell. Subs: Brendan McCole for McMenamin (40), Paul Brennan for McFadden-Ferry (44), Michael Murphy for J.Brennan (46), Odhrán Mac Niallais for E.O’Donnell (49), Oisin Gallen for Thompson (70).

DERRY: Oran Lynch; Chrissy McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Padraig McGrogan; Padraig Cassidy, Gareth McKinless, Conor Doherty; Conor Glass, Emmett Bradley; Ethan Doherty, Niall Loughlin, Ciaran McFaul; Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan, Paul Cassidy. Subs: Oisin McWilliams for Heron (56), Niall Toner for P.Cassidy (59), Conor McCluskey for E.Doherty (62), Paul McNeill for Loughlin (70).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)