LIAM MCDONALD netted a hat-trick as Monaghan ended Donegal’s involvement in the Electric Ireland Ulster MFC.
Donegal 2-11 Monaghan 5-10
By Chris McNulty at Brewster Park
McDonald’s treble, and goals from Jason Irwin and Tiarnan Kierans gave Monaghan a nine-point win in Enniskillen on a night that will haunt Donegal for some time.
Carlos O’Reilly – who scored 2-4 in all – hit a pair of first-half goals for Donegal, who should have been in front at half-time. Donegal led by four points on two separate occasions in the opening half, but Monaghan hit back.
A goal late in the half by Liam McDonald, his second of the evening, turned the pendulum.
It was the goals either end of half time that proved the fatal shots and put Monaghan into the final.
In the opening minute of the second half, Kierans struck and, with seven minutes left, McDonald had completed his hat-trick when he finished at the near post.
Donegal had a dream start to the game. Goalkeeper Ryan Graham, an eleventh-hour inclusion on the Donegal side, saw a free broken down by Eric Carr and O’Reilly seized the dropping ball before riffling low past Joe Kirk.
It was the perfect start for Donegal, who were dealt a blow just before throw-in when regular goalkeeper Daithi Roberts picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Graham. Roberts appeared to pick up an injury while practicing kick-outs in the warm-up.
O’Reilly’s goal – and a point by the St Michael’s man – didn’t ignite the Tir Chonaill men and they were rocked back on their heels when Irwin found space down the other end to shoot to the bottom corner of Graham’s net.
Mark Hamill sped in along the end-line and, with Donegal stretched, McDonald rose to palm home the second Farney goal.
Donegal’s response was excellent with O’Reilly, Johnny McGroddy and a superb effort by Kealan Dunleavy tacked on points they were back in front.
On 19 minutes, O’Reilly slotted home again, running onto Ryan McShane’s pass and manoeuvring his way past Kirk to bag a second Donegal goal.
Since losing to Tyrone at the end of April, Donegal bounced back to overcome Armagh and Cavan in provincial qualifiers.
Shane Monaghan came of the bench to inspire a win over Armagh with his brace of goals proving key, while Monaghan also netted as Donegal toppled Cavan in an impressive win at Breffni Park.
Disaster struck for Donegal in the final minute of the first half. Graham was beaten to Darragh Dempsey’s hopeful ball by Kyle Connolly, whose smart off-load picked out McDonald to clip in his second and send the teams in all square, 2-8 to 3-5, at the break.
Kierans batted home, ayer a Shane Hanratty shot fell short, just 35 seconds into the second half, to give Monaghan the edge.
Connolly, Karl Gallagher and Dempsey (2) widened the margin to six and the game was fast falling beyond the reach of Donegal as the game entered the final ten minutes.
If there was any doubt about the outcome, McDonald put it to bed as the Donaghmoyne man completed his hat-trick to fire Monaghan into the final.
Donegal: Ryan Graham; Conor Roarty, Kieran Tobin, Dylan Dorrian; Conor Coyle, Jack Gallagher, Ryan McShane; Kealan Dunleavy (0-1), Eoin Dowling; Carlos O’Reilly (2-4, 1f), Paul O’Hare, Ciaran Moore; Johnny McGroddy (0-5, 2f), Eric Carr, Eoin De Burca (0-1). Subs: Jamie Grant for Roarty (25), Senan Rooney for O’Hare (half-time), Shane Monaghan for Carr (39), Eoin Martin for Rooney (56), Richard O’Rourke for Coyle (60).
Monaghan: Joe Kirk; Shane Slevin, Ronan Boyle (0-1), Shane Hanratty; Kyle Connolly (0-1), Eoin Duffy, Darragh Treanor; Conor McKernan (0-1), David Kerley; Diarmuid Marron, Karl Gallagher (0-1), Michael Hamill; Darragh Dempsey (0-3, 1f), Jason Irwin (1-1, 1f), Liam McDonald (3-2, 2f). Subs: Cian Maguire for Slevin (black card, 3), Tiarnan Kierans (1-0) for Kerley (22), Aodhán Brennan for Duffy (black card, 44), Conor Eccles for Marron (47), Dara McCarron for McDonald (56), Declan Courtney for Boyle (60).
Referee: James Lewis (Fermanagh).Tags: