Donegal continued their 100% record with a convincing win over second placed Monaghan in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny.
In the first meeting since their Ulster final of last July, Donegal looked like they wanted to put down a marker, albeit they had more of their Ulster final team in action than visitors Monaghan.
Two first half goal, both well worked, was the difference between the sides and Monaghan, although they fight back before the break, never really looked like bridging the gap that those goals opened.
Donegal, with an unchanged team from that which defeated Galway, looked up for the game from the throw-in with Rory Kavanagh leading the charge.
Colm McFadden won and pointed a free to have Donegal off the mark on five minutes. Conor McManus replied from a free, but the Donegal support got into full voice on 12 minutes when Michael Murphy found Odhran MacNiallais some 40m from goal. The Gaoth Dobhair man cut through the Monaghan defence and from 20m found the corner with a spectacular goal.
Conor McManus replied with a point but in the 18th minute Donegal crafted a magnificent second goal with Ryan McHugh at the fulcrum. His measured pass found Dermot Molloy and he dummied his marker to make the space and then found Colm McFadden with a pass across goal and the St. Michael’s man palmed to the net.
MacNiallais started and finished a great point on 21 minutes and Martin McElhinney added another to leave Donegal ahead by 2-4 to 0-2 with 30 minutes gone.
Monaghan did rally in the final five minutes and Conor McManus added two more points, the final one for a very harsh over carrying decision on Karl Lacey. Half-time: Donegal 2-4, Monaghan 0-4.
Monaghan brought in the reinforcements at half-time and Dick Clerkin did make a difference at midfield but they were unable to get closer than five points. Fintan Kelly and Jack McCarron had points but Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy with his only score of the game, a 40m free, countered.
Patrick McBrearty came in for Donegal and hit two points as the game became heated and Dessie Mone was lucky to escape after pushing Donegal mentor John Duffy. Martin O’Reilly denied Dermot Malone with a goalline challenge while at the other end Rory Beggan denied McBrearty as the game trundled to its conclusion. Conor McManus was limited to just one second half point from a free and it was fitting that young Odhran MacNiallais had the final point.
Donegal: P Durcan; K Lacey, N McGee, R McHugh; F McGlynn, L McLoone, A Thompson; R Kavanagh (0-1), M McElhinney (0-1); M McHugh, C Toye, O McNiallais (1-3); C McFadden (1-2,1f), M Murphy (0-1), D Molloy. Subs. N Gallagher for Kavanagh; P McBrearty (0-2) for Toye; D O’Connor for Molloy, all 40; M O’Reilly for McElhinney 62; D Walsh (0-1) for McGlynn 67.
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-1,45); R Wylie, D Wylie, F Kelly (0-1); C Walshe, K Hughes, C Boyle; G Doogan, P Finlay; T Kerr, C McGuinness, P Keenan; D Malone, J McCarron (0-1,1f), C McManus (0-5,3f). Subs.,Subs., Padraig Donaghy for Kerr 25; D Clerkin for Finlay; K O’Connell (0-1) for Keenan, both half time; D Mone for Boyle 40; V Corey for R Wylie 51
Referee: Ba Cassidy (Derry)