Donegal just came up short in their bid for a fourth Ulster title in five years and ninth in all, when going down to Monaghan in yesterday’s Ulster Final in Clones.
In the end there was just a point in it at the final blow of David Coldrick’s whistle as Monaghan held on after a spirited Donegal fight-back in the closing 20 minutes.
The reigning champions came from five points down in the closing 20 minutes to set up a frenetic finish. Conor McManus’s sixth point and Monaghan’s eleventh point had extended the Farney men’s lead out to five points for the second time in the half with just 15 minutes gone on the second half clock.
Trailing 0-6 to 0-11, and looking down the barrel of defeat, Donegal, who squandered a host of chances at the start of the second half, slowly clawed their way back into the tie that seemed all but gone with a little over a quarter hour remaining.
But Neil Gallagher, Frank McGlynn and Ryan McHugh have big hearts and Patrick McBrearty did the business in front of the posts. McBrearty kicked three brilliant points -two of them frees and one a super effort from play from all of 50 metres- and Michael Murphy converted from 40 metres.
McBrearty also had a long range effort to salvage a draw but his shot just tailed wide with what was the second last kick of the game.
It wasn’t McBrearty’s late wide that Donegal fans were ruing at the final whistle, but those missed chances from Odhran MacNiallais, Martin McElhinney and Colm McFadden in the opening two minutes of the second period, as Donegal blizted Monaghan, just as they had done in the opening exchanges.
Ultimately, these missed opportunities were to prove costly as Owen Lennon opened Monaghan’s account shortly after to stretch his team’s lead out to five points, 0-9 to 0-4.
It all began brightly for Donegal who blitzed the Monaghan posts in the early minutes as they reeled off three points in six minutes.
Patrick McBrearty skinned Ryan Wylie for the first point on the minute mark and Colm McFadden and McBrearty combined to set up Karl Lacey for the second a minute later. And when Frank McGlynn knocked over off his left after a Ryan McHugh break and a high ball into the Monaghan goalmouth, Donegal were 0-3 to 0-1 up by the sixth minute mark
Conor McManus stroked over a 35 metre free for Monaghan’s point.
But amazingly Donegal did not score again for 27 minutes until Michael Murphy converted from 40 metres after Frank McGlynn was swung around.
In between Monaghan bossed the game as time after time they turned over Donegal up front far too easily and then countered with a slow and patient build up and scores from McManus (3) and Karl O’Connell, Owen and Kevin Duffy, Dessie Mone to go in with a double score, 0-8 to 0-4, half-time lead. It was a giant step on the road to a sixth Ulster title.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamonn McGee; Ryan McHugh, Karl Lacey (0-1), Frank McGlynn (0-1); Neil Gallagher, Martin McElhinney; Christy Toye, Odhran MacNiallais, Mark McHugh; Patrick McBrearty (0-6,4f), Michael Muprhy (0-2, 2f), Colm McFadden. Subs: Martin O’Reilly for C Toye (33); A Thompson for K Lacey (40); Darach O’Connor for C McFadden (52); Leo McLoone for O MacNiallais (69).
Monaghan: Rory Beggan; Dessie Mone (0-1), Vinny Corey, Ryan Wylie; Colin Walshe, Fintan Kelly, Karl O’Connell (0-1); Neil McAdam, Darren Hughes; Owen Duffy(0-1), Owen Lennon (0-1), Kieran Duffy (0-1); Dermot Malone, Kieran Hughes, Conor McManus (0-6,3f). Subs: Ryan McAnespie for O Duffy (46); Stephen Gallogly for D Malone (53); Dick Clerkin for O Lennon (70).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)