Derry are through to the semi-final of the Dr. McKenna Cup after a third win in-a-row against Donegal in Ballybofey. The Oak Leaf side will now play Down in the semi-final.
Donegal had little to play for but provided good opposition for the Oak Leaf men for much of the contest, although the game fizzled out in the second period.
Both sides had changes with Derry making eight changes from the side that defeated UUJ at the weekend. The Derry men, after winning their opening two games, were made fight all the way in the opening half.
Donegal again had an experimental side out with a number of players unavailable due to niggling injuries such as Christy Toye, Eamonn McGee and Stephen Griffin.
It was a very entertaining opening half despite referee Padraig Hughes blowing 32 frees and flashing five yellow cards.
There was a whirlwind opening with Dermot Molloy pointing a free for Donegal while Cailean O’Boyle won a penalty at the other end on two minutes for Conleth Gilligan to find the corner of the net. The penalty award seemed soft, but the Derry corner forward was clinical with the finish.
Dermot Molloy was on fire for Donegal, converting five first half points and also on the end of two goal chances, the second of which he flashed first time just past the post in the final minute of the half after being put through by Patrick McBrearty. Kilcar’s Conor McManus started at corner-forward and had his best outing so far in the Donegal jersey, although he tired and was withdrawn very early in the second half.
Derry had their goal chances too in the opening half with Gilligan putting John McCamley clear on 16 minutes but he was way off target with just the ‘keeper to beat. Gilligan was very impressive throughout while Gerard O’Kane also got on the scoresheet.
Derry were sharper in the second half, hitting four points in 13 minutes to go two ahead and they always kept their noses in front after that. Gilligan and O’Kane were again on the scoreboard while Eoghan Brown also chipped in with a good score.
Apart from Gilligan and O’Kane, Dermot McBride, Chrissy McKaigue and Cailean O’Boyle showed up well for the winners.
Patrick McBrearty had Donegal’s first point of the half on 53 minutes but substitute Emmet McGuckin and Gilligan had late points for the winners.
Donegal must lick their wounds after three defeats in the competition. Without Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden for the opening rounds of the National League, there could be tougher times ahead for Donegal in 2012.
Donegal: M Mullin; T McKinley, J Bonner, F McGlynn; A Thompson (0-1), C Classon, D Walsh; R Kavanagh, R Bradley; D Walsh, D McLaughlin, M O’Reilly; P McBrearty (0-2), D Molloy, (0-6,4f) C McManus. Subs., N McGee for Bonner ht; G McMcFadden for McManus 41; P McGrath for McLaughlin 47
Derry: D Devlin; B McCallion, P McGlade, C Murray; C McKaigue, D McBride, SL McGoldrick; J McCamley, M Bateson; B McGoldrick, M Lynch, G O’Kane (0-3); E Brown (0-1), C O’Boyle, C Gilligan (1-3, pen,2f). Subs., J Conway for Bateson 38; E McGuckin (0-1) for Lynch 47; R Dillon for C Murray 56; E Lynn for McGoldrick 69; N Forrester for Gilligan 70
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)