Donegal through to Ulster final

Donegal through to Ulster final
Donegal, in the end, had an easy passage to the Ulster final with another early second half blitz against Antrim in Clones.

Donegal, in the end, had an easy passage to the Ulster final with another early second half blitz against Antrim in Clones.

Donegal 3-16

Antrim 0-12

Just as they did against Derry, Donegal were magnificent in the early stages of the second half when outscored Antrim by 2-4 to 0-1 in a 12 minute period with goals from Leo McLoone and Darach O’Connor.

It was enough to burst the Antrim bubble as they had been holding their own up until then.

The 11,795 in Clones were given little to shout about in the opening half as the game was played more like a challenge game than an Ulster championship semi-final.

Donegal, without late injury casualties Karl Lacey and Rory Kavanagh, found Antrim plenty to deal with. The sides were level on four occasions in the opening half.

Antrim had to line out without the presence of the Johnston brothers in their defence due to the death of their father, Richard, whose funeral is due to take place today in Belfast.

Christy Toye did get Donegal off to the perfect start with a point on 57 seconds, but Brian Neeson levelled from a free. Darach O’Connor and Mark Sweeney traded points before Odhran MacNiallais, Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy put Donegal three clear.

But Antrim refused to go away and Paul McCann and a magnificent Sweeney effort had them back within a point on 18 minutes. A great measured pass from Michael Murphy saw Darach O’Connor add his second but Kevin Niblock and another Neeson free had Antrim level at 0-6 each on 25 minutes.

Before half-time Michael Murphy (from a free) and Tomas McCann traded points to leave it 0-7 each at the break. Donegal did have calls for a penalty when Murphy was hauled back when challenging for a high ball.

Donegal had to replace Neil Gallagher midway through the half, with Martin McElhinney coming in much earlier than planned.

Then after the break, Donegal came on strong. Leo McLoone pointed on 19 seconds and even though Tomas McCann replied from a free, Odhran MacNiallais and Christy Toye pointed and then Toye set up Leo McLoone to ghost through and finish in style.

MacNiallais added a point before Darach O’Connor fired home the second goal. The Leaving Cert student played a 1-2 with Frank McGlynn and clinically found the corner.

From there to the finish it was easy and Dermot Molloy put the icing on the cake in added time crashing home goal number three.

The Antrim challenge, it has to be said, wilted in the final quarter but this was another impressive second half display from the Donegal side, who can now look forward to a fourth Ulster final in-a-row.

Donegal: Paul Durcan; Eamon McGee, Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath; Ryan McHugh, Frank McGlynn, Anthony Thompson; Neil Gallagher, Christy Toye (0-2); Odhran MacNiallais (0-4), Leo McLoone (1-2), Darach O’Connor (1-2); Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy (0-3,f,45), Colm McFadden (0-2). Subs., Martin McElhinney for N Gallagher 18; David Walsh for McBrearty 50; Dermot Molloy (1-1) for O’Connor 55; Luke Keaney for Toye 61; Declan Walsh for N McGee 66; Martin O’Reilly for McLoone 70.

Antrim: Patrick Flood; Kevin O’Boyle, Sean McVeigh, Niall Delargy; Patrick McBride, Justin Crozier, James Laverty; Michael McCann, Niall McKeever; Conor Murray (0-1), Mark Sweeney (0-2), Paul McCann (0-1); Brian Neeson (0-3,3f), Kevin Niblock (0-1), Tomas McCann (0-3,2f). Subs., Ryan Murray for P McCann 47; Tony Scullion for McBride 50; Paddy Cunningham (0-1,f) for Neeson 54.

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)