Donegal’s redemption is complete. Jim McGuinness has led his Donegal team to dreamland once more after they captured their third Ulster title in four years.
On a fantastic day for Donegal with the minors and seniors completing a first ever double, it was a great win for a side that were much more superior than the final margin of three points suggested.
A goal against the run of play kept Monaghan in a game that Donegal led by five points with just nine minutes of the second half gone. They had hit four points to one in that moving period after leading by two at the interval.
It certainly wasn’t a place for the faint-hearted but Donegal stood tall with Ryan McHugh immense.
It was a torrid first half with space at a premium. Donegal got the opening three points and almost had a goal from the first attack when a high ball from Leo McLoone broke and Karl Lacey was on to it to fire over with his left.
The McGee brothers set up the next two points, Eamon sending his clubmate Odhran MacNiallais in for the first and then Neil winning a free for Colm McFadden to point on 12 minutes.
It took a top class effort from Paul Finlay to get Monaghan off the mark and when a Neil Gallagher free went astray, Finlay punished from a free on 22 minutes.
Neil Gallagher redeemed himself from the kick out, taking a clean catch and sending Anthony Thompson in to point. Patrick McBrearty was introduced for Darach O’Connor and almost immediately Colm McFadden won and pointed a free to open a three point gap again.
The Donegal goal had a lucky escape on 32 minutes when Monaghan won a Donegal free and quickly counter attacked with Fintan Kelly denied by a combination of Karl Lacey and Paul Durcan.
However, the ‘45’ was pointed by Rory Beggan, his first score from three attempts.
Donegal got a sixth point when Leo McLoone did great work to keep a poor McBrearty effort in play and it was worked to Odhran MacNiallais to point with his right. But on the stroke of half-time Paul Finlay landed another free to leave it 0-6 to 0-4 at the break.
The moving quarter after the break saw Colm McFadden point a free won by Murphy and despite Paul Finlay pointing a free, Donegal hit three points through Odhran MacNiallais, Patrick McBrearty and McFadden again from a free after Leo McLoone was fouled.
Rory Beggan pointed a free and then Monaghan were given a glimmer when they got a goal out of the blue. Colm McFadden lost possession and then Frank McGlynn dropped a ball after cutting out a through pass and Chris McGuinness nipped in to hit a very good goal.
Donegal responded magnificently to hit the next three points from Ryan McHugh, Patrick McBrearty and a Michael Murphy free to open a four point gap once more. McHugh’s point could have been a goal as he got on the end of a burst from Neil McGee that saw the full-back cover most of the field in one of the runs of the game.
From there to the finish it was nip and tuck as Kieran Hughes, Vinny Corey and Conor McManus hit Monaghan points to two from Donegal through Patrick McBrearty and a 60m free from Michael Murphy.
The scenes at the end were magnificent with the field covered in green and gold. It was a triumph for the organisation of Jim McGuinness.
The Glenties maestro plotted and planned for this day and he produced a masterclass. From Paul Durcan to Colm McFadden and the substitutes, especially Patrick McBrearty, this was one of Donegal’s sweetest triumphs.
Michael Murphy became the first Donegal man to lift the Anglo Celt on three occasions and Donegal’s fourth Ulster title in four years surely puts them among the greatest teams around in the present era.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Eamon McGee, Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn; Anthony Thompson (0-1), Karl Lacey (0-1), Paddy McGrath; Neil Gallagher, Odhran MacNiallais (0-3); Christy Toye, Leo McLoone, Ryan McHugh (0-1); Darach O’Connor, Michael Murphy (0-2,2f), Colm McFadden (0-4,4f). Subs., Patrick McBrearty (0-3) for O’Connor 25; Rory Kavanagh for Toye 47; Martin McElhinney for MacNiallais 57; David Walsh for McLoone 59; Dermot Molloy for McFadden 65.
Monaghan: Rory Beggan (0-2,f,45); Ryan Wylie, Drew Wylie, Colin Walshe; Dessie Mone, Vinny Corey (0-1), Fintan Kelly; Dick Clerkin, Darren Hughes; Paudie McKenna, Stephen Gollogly, Paul Finlay (0-4,3f); Dermot Malone, Kieran Hughes (0-1), Conor McManus (0-1). Subs., Chris McGuinness (1-0) for McKenna 44; Owen Duffy for Gollogly 52; Karl O’Connell for Kelly; Padraig Donaghy for Malone, both 59; Gavin Doogan for Clerkin 67.
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).