The T.V. cameras are scanning the MacCumhaill Park attendance just before the throw-in. Some familiar faces gearing up for the game ahead. None more so than long-time supporter and Glenswilly man, Joe Kelly. Can Donegal take Derry to the cleaners?
It’s a dirty day in any case. “Ferocious rain since we arrived in Donegal,” Marty Morrissey offers a weather update.
The B.B.C. shows the teams arriving at MacCumhaill Park. “Let’s hope they brought the gloves,” Austin O’Callaghan declares.
All stations note that Michael Murphy is confirmed to start. But then a warning on Highland Radio: “We have to remind people that Derry have a pretty good record at MacCumhaill Park,” Charlie Collins reminds people.
“Regretfully the rain begins to get heavy again,” he reflects as the game gets underway.
“Soft free on a soft day,” the R.T.E.’s Marty observes as Colm McFadden steps up to convert the dead ball for the opening score. But Derry are back on level terms with a well taken Mark Lynch point.
“Crowd very, very tame . . . dampened by a constant downpour,” Mark Sidebottom tells B.B.C. viewers.
“Entertaining enough...very open,” Declan Bonner sums up the opening stages.
“Ponderous enough, I have to say,” Mark Sidebottom doesn’t agree. And somehow in the shadow of the old Butt Hall he compares it to a dancehall, with the players wondering who to ask out on the floor.
By the 18th minute, Donegal are four points to one ahead. “Both teams are putting up defensive blankets,” Martin Carney points out. But it’s still umbrellas they have up off the field.
“The Donegal plan is working,” Jarlath Burns is interviewed pitchside for the B.B.C. Flood the ground and the defence. Only the home side aren’t sitting back. Donegal leading 5-3 but their opponents are having to work hard for their scores, Mark Sidebottom maintains.
Goal for Donegal! But was it a square ball, the B.B.C. team want to know and are unable to provide an answer even on the back of several slow-motion replays.
Paddy Bradley is keeping Derry in sight but only just. Highland confirm the attendance as 11,207.
“Derry a year behind Donegal from where they want to be,” Declan compares the teams. And five points behind at half-time.
A tweeter to the B.B.C. studio isn’t happy though. “Don’t blame the conditions, blame Donegal’s style,” the pointed message relates.
Brendan from Belfast is even more forthright on the social networking site: “This is dire...unwatchable. Bring back Gaelic football,” he bemoans, presumably having watched the unwatchable.
“Definitely not a good spectacle to watch,” Martin McHugh agrees on the B.B.C. panel. “Poor spectacle”, Tyrone ace, Sean Cavanagh echoes the view.
Among the attendance, Killybegs referee, Jimmy White, is nabbed for a quick few words. Quite confident going into the second half, he says.
As the teams line up for the second thirty-five, Derry manager, John Brennan, is checking his phone. Or, perhaps, it’s the calculator.
Point from Frankie McGlynn. “I was told by someone in Letterkenny that you could have got odds of 10/1 on Frank McGlynn to score a point. I wish I had put ten euro on him,” Charlie regrets his failure to make his way to the bookies.
Another Donegal goal. “GAME OVER, SURELY,” Mark goes close to advising B.B.C. viewers, or at least those watching from Derry, to turn over to something else.
“May be over as a contest as we speak,” Charlie tells Highland listeners. At 2-8 to 0-5, Declan ventures: “Donegal are in a good position right now.” “Certainly are,” Charlie agrees. “Let’s go quickly to Oisin Kelly and Seamus McGettigan,” he adds. The latter pair are nowhere near the confines of MacCumhaill Park but are keeping listeners updated on the Donegal Rally from their perch at Fanad Head.
Eoin Bradley comes on for Derry but Donegal are still motoring ahead. “It’s not everyday they’re up against a system like this,” Oisin McConville, sharing the commentary studio with Mark Sidebottom, offers a note of sympathy to the Derrymen.
“You dig your way out of the cell, out the tunnel and you come up against another wall,” Mark describes the feeling. “And there’s barbed wire on top of the wall,” Oisin keeps the Colditz theme going.
At 2-11 to 0-7, the cameras trail a selection of Derry fans reducing the attendance of 11,207 to something under 11,000.
Donegal hit the post at one end and then Paul Durcan dives full length to stop Mark Lynch from netting at the other end. “Best save I’ve seen this season...wonderful reflex save,” Martin Carney on R.T.E. gushes,
At this stage, the national broadcaster gives the scoreline as 2-12 to 0-8. On the B.B.C., however, Derry’s tally has been reduced by one.
Divided opinion on Donegal, says Oisin McConville. “It’s effective and it’s getting results,” he argues.
Divided opinion on the scoreline continues right to the finish with R.T.E. coming out on top by a solitary point.
“Karl Lacey looks like he’s auditioning for Dancing on Ice,” Mark Sidebottom sums up a pirouette from the full-back. But it’s Derry who are slipping out of the Ulster Championship.
Full-time and R.T.E., presenter Michael Lyster is adamant: “You have to be impressed by the way Donegal went about their business.” And both Kevin McStay and Tony Davis duly nod heads. “Very impressive,” Kevin agrees.
“Derry absolutely shocking in the second half,” Tony explains partly how Donegal were so dominant.
In the B.B.C. studio, there is agreement all round. “This Derry team went down without a fight,” Martin McHugh remembers Derry teams of recent vintage that would have battled to the finish.
Honours for Donegal and hopefully too for young Paddy McBrearty who, listeners and viewers were informed, had completed his Leaving on Friday.
Derry, meanwhile, also completed the leaving from this year’s Ulster Championship. Taken to the cleaners by a Donegal side that’s looking good and scrubbing up well for the tests that lie ahead.