Donegal booked a spot in the Buncrana Cup final after seeing off Monaghan in this afternoon’s semi-final at O’Donnell Park.
Donegal 4-10 Monaghan 0-8
Goals from Carlos O’Reilly, Johnny McGroddy, Eric Carr and Shane Monaghan drove Donegal to a 14-point win as they took over for the final quarter.
Donegal, managed by 2012 All-Ireland winner Rory Kavanagh, scored 1-2 in the space of two minutes around the midway point of the second half to turn the tide and they scored 3-7 over the final 15 minutes of what became a one-sided conclusion to a contest that hung in the balance until then.
A goal late in the first half from O’Reilly had brought Donegal back from the brink. Monaghan had enjoyed the more profitable start to the second period, but Donegal found their mojo.
Two frees from Urris’ Luke Doherty brought Donegal level and when Doherty took receipt of a misdirected kick-put from Ciaran O’Reilly the hosts took full advantage. Doherty transferred to the scampering Johnny McGroddy and the lively Downings ace cooly swept beneath O’Reilly for his side’s second goal.
Goalkeeper Daithi Roberts sailed over a free from long-range and Carr delightfully curled over a free from the ’45 as Donegal visibly grew in confidence.
Donegal added the coup de grâce in added time.
First, Senan Rooney landed the ball perfectly for Carr to tuck beyond O’Reilly and substitute Shane Monaghan – a nephew of former Donegal star Brendan Devenney – slalomed his way through to add a fourth goal to the board with almost 10 minutes over the regulation time played.
Both sides had long barren spells with Monaghan failing to register at all in the final 28 minutes while Donegal had a famine for 20 minutes in the first-half – until they found some lated salvation.
Donegal were in danger drifting out of the game when, just as the first half clock was turning red, Senan Rooney’s ball into the mixer was superbly won by O’Reilly.
The Creeslough man still had work to do, but O’Reilly superbly freed himself from the shackles and, under increasing pressure, managed to steer home from close range.
In added time, Kealan Doherty thumped over and Donegal were level at the interval.
Monaghan had the better of the opening exchanges and, after McGroddy popped Donegal into a third-minute lead, Ben Ryan and Liam McDonald swung the pendulum. Ryan tucked over a free and McDonald slotted between the sticks having been fed by Nathan McCaul, who had picked the pockets of Rooney.
Carr, from a free, briefly drew Donegal level, but Monaghan struck three times in quick succession to take hold of the contest.
Ryan nailed another free and Darragh Dempsey delightfully found the range from distance. Monaghan won possession from Roberts’ kick-out and Eoin Duffy opened up a three-point advantage.
Donegal had a gilt-edged opportunity to draw level on 18 minutes when the ball broke favourably for the unmarked Eoin De Burca, but the Gaoth Dobhair half-back’s conviction abandoned him at the vital moment. Monaghan ‘keeper Ciaran O’Reilly made the save, but De Burca will certainly have rued the spurned chance.
Roberts, the Donegal goalkeeper, saw his ’45 float to the right and wide while, from an even better position, Luke Doherty was off target with a free.
Donegal seemed to be suffering a little stage fright and Ryan’s third free of the afternoon had the Farney four in front only for O’Reilly’s goal to ignite the Tir Chonaill fires.
Donegal arrived in O’Donnell Park off the back of big wins over Down (0-22 to 2-2) and Armagh (1-10 to 0-3) and with designs on containing a run in a competition that has served this county well over the years.
This was the third semi-final meeting of Donegal and Monaghan in as many years, with a win apiece in the previous two.
Monaghan edged ahead when referee John Murphy over-ruled an umpire to give a point to Tiernan Kierans three minutes into the second half and Kierans almost caught out Roberts with a kick that the Gaoth Dobhair man had to hastily bat down.
Kierans and Luke Doherty traded frees with the game still finely poised on the edge of the knife midway through the second half.
Soon, though, Donegal seized the initiative and switched on the after-burners to claim a fine win.
Donegal will meet Tyrone in the final after the Red Hands’ 6-19 to 0-6 annihilation of Derry in the other semi-final at Omagh.
Donegal: Daithi Roberts (0-1f, Gaoth Dobhair); Richard O’Rourke (Four Masters), Shane Meehan (St Nauls), Dylan Dorrian (Milford); Eoin De Burca (Gaoth Dobhair), Jack Gallagher (Glenswilly), Domhnall McBride (Gaoth Dobhair); Eoin Dowling (St Eunan’s), Kealan Doherty (0-1, Glenswilly); Carlos O’Reilly (1-0, St Michael’s), Senan Rooney (Aodh Ruadh), Ciaran Moore (0-1, St Eunan’s); Johnny McGroddy (1-2, Downings), Luke Doherty (0-3f, Urris), Eric Carr (1-2, 2f, Naomh Columba). Subs: Jamie Grant (Termon) for O’Reilly (39), Shane Monaghan (1-0 Naomh Colmcille) for L.Doherty (62), Daire Gallagher (Dungloe) for De Burca (63).
Monaghan: Ciaran O’Reilly; Cian Maguire, David Kerley, Darren McMahon; Kyle Connolly, Eoin Duffy (0-1), Nathan McCaul; Darragh Treanor, Alastair Stewart; Ben Ryan (0-3f), Darragh Dempsey (0-1), Shane Slevin; Liam McDonald (0-1), Tiernan Kierans (0-2, 1f), Declan Courtney. Subs: Jason Duffy for Connolly (43), Conor Capaldi for Ryan (51), Michael Keenan for Kierans (53), Conor Durney for Maguire (58).
Referee: John Murphy (Fermanagh).