Rory Gallagher made a winning return to Donegal as Fermanagh booked their place in the Dr McKenna Cup semi-finals in Ballybofey tonight.
Donegal 1-10 Fermanagh 1-13
Seamus Quigley scored 1-7 as a more experienced Fermanagh sealed a semi-final spot against Tyrone following a deserved win over Donegal.
Jamie Brennan’s goal had Donegal in front at the break, but Quigley turned the game on its head in the 48th minute. A delicious ball in from Paul McCusker soared into the danger zone and Quigley rose to beat Mark Anthony McGinley – who was well out of his goal – in the aerial battle to bat home.
In spite of a three-point lead at the short whistle, Donegal had their advantage eroded by the Quigley-led Fermanagh.
A long-range Quigley free early in the second period kick-started the comeback and the Roslea man’s goal was just the tonic for Gallagher.
The Belleek native was involved with Donegal for six of the previous seven years and was back in Sean Mac Cumhaill Park for an early joust against his former colleagues
Gallagher was assistant manager to Jim McGuinness and had a three-year spell as Donegal’s manager before stepping down in the wake of an All-Ireland qualifier hammering at at the hands of Galway in July and refused to speak to the Donegal media after this win.
Fermanagh had a glorious chance to put the game beyond the reach of Donegal, but Eoin Donnelly got his co-ordinates all wrong as he lobbed wide with only McGinley to beat.
A blanket of dense fog lay across the Donegal sky all afternoon, but just when it began to lift a little, Donegal found a way.
Donegal struck gold via a brilliant move in the 20th minute. Paul Brennan and Jamie Brennan were involved in a sweeping passage before Tony McClenaghan’s lofted pass across goal was steered home by Jamie Brennan.
Fermanagh ‘keeper Patrick Cadden, for a brief second, looked set to make the save, but the ball squirmed in and Donegal took control of things for a period.
Donegal smelled blood and could have had the umpire stretching for the green flag again. However, Ciaran McGinley snapped just wide and the again-impressive Nathan Mullins was denied a second goal in as many games when Che Cullen batted off the line.
Odhrán Mac Niallais was back in the green and gold following a self-imposed exile in 2017, but his evening lasted only 12 minutes as the Gaoth Dobhair man was black carded for a trip on Eoin Donnelly.
It was a disappointing return for Mac Niallais, who had missed last Wednesday’s win over Queen’s because of a bout of flu.
But Brennan, Mac Niallais’ replacement, was out to make a point and the Bundoran forward kicked 1-2 inside a four-minute spell.
McGinley, growing into the game by now, slotted over from a Mullins pass and Niall O’Donnell hooked over to put Donegal 1-5 to 0-3 in front.
Fermanagh, already with two wins from two having beaten Monaghan and Queen’s, were in Ballybofey intent on booking a slot in the semi-finals.
The Erne men, fielding nine regulars from last year, began well and were three to the good by the 12th minute.
Declan McCusker started the ball rolling with a clever point after Aiden Breen recycled a ball that looked lost before Seamus Quigley – who hadn’t been named to start – popped over a pair of frees.
By the interval, Fermanagh were within a goal as Danny Teague and Quigley, from a ’45, converted.
Donegal lost Stephen McMenamin to a controversial black card following an incident with Teague that saw the Red Hughs man initially change a torn jersey.
Quigley’s long-range free early in the second period kick-started the Fermanagh comeback and, with Declan McCusker, Barry Mulroney and Aidan Breen also on the mark, Fermanagh sealed their passage while Donegal must win against Monaghan in Clones to get through.
Donegal: Mark Anthony McGinley; Paul Brennan, Eamonn Doherty, Stephen McMenamin; Tony McClenaghan, Caolan Ward, Martin O’Reilly; Hugh McFadden (0-1), Nathan Mullins; Ciaran McGinley (0-1), Odhrán Mac Niallais, Michael Carroll; Stephen McBrearty, Darach O’Connor, Niall O’Donnell (0-4, 2f). Subs: Jamie Brennan (1-2) for Mac Niallais (12, black card), Eoghan Ban Gallagher for McMenamin (half-time, black card), Caolan McGonagle for McGinley (half-time), Brendan McCole for P.Brennan (41), Leo McLoone for O’Connor (48), Alan Lyons for Mullins (64)
Fermanagh: Patrick Cadden; Eamon McHugh, Che Cullen, Kane Connor; Paul McCosker, Lee Cullen, Declan McCosker (0-2); Eoin Donnelly (0-1), Ryan Jones; Barry Mulrone (0-1), Danny Teague (0-1), Aiden Breen (0-1); Ryan Lyons, Conal Jones, Seamus Quigley (1-7, 5f, 1 ’45). Subs: Ruairi Corrigan for Teague (half-time), Cian McManus for McHugh (54), Conor McGee for Lyons (65), Sean Quigley for Seamus Quigley (68), Jack McCann for C.Jones (70, black card), Eddie Courtney for Breen (70).
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh).Tags: