Donegal advanced to the last four in the Nicky Rackard Senior Hurling Championship with a three point victory over Roscommon in Athleague on Saturday afternoon.
St. Eunan’s Sean McVeigh scored the goal that sparked the Donegal revival as the men from the North West came from behind to clinch their place in the semi-final, and 70 minutes from a big final day out in Croke Park.
Roscommon, playing with the advantage of a stiff breeze, led by three points at half-time 0-10 to 0-7, with centre forward Gerry Fallon posting six frees while Michael Kelly scored two long range points for the locals.
“We got off to a very slow start and we didn’t score for the first 15 minutes and by that stage Roscommon had four points on the board and Gerry Fallon really punished us from placed balls,” said Donegal manager, Ray Durack.
“But Sean McVeigh pointed a long range free and that score really settled us and we were just three points down at half-time and back in the game.
It was a different story altogether in the second half and with the help of McVeigh’s goal, Donegal had drawn level by the three quarter mark, 1-9 to 0-12.
“Sean’s goal gave us a great lift and we really played well after that and in fact we led at one stage in the second half by six points before they finished with a few late pointed frees.
“But we held on and deserved to win. We were much the better team once we settled and overall it was a very good team performance right throughout the field.”
Danny Cullen had a huge game in midfield and young Justin Browne came in for Paul Sheridan and had a fine game. Ciaran Mathewson deputised for the injured Lee Henderson and did very well and hit a number of very good scores and Sean McVeigh also played well, scoring the goal and a couple of points.
At the back Justin McGee, Jamesie Donnelly and Joe Boyle were solid as a rock at the back, with Donnelly really standing tall in the closing minutes when Roscommon began their fight back.
Despite the Roscommon revival, Donegal still outscored the Westerners by seven points to four in the closing 15 minutes.
This was an impressive performance and a great result away from home against a team that has been playing at a higher level in recent years, albeit Roscommon were relegated from Division Two in the league campaign just gone.
Paul Sheridan and Lee Henderson did not start the game due to injury; in the case of Sheridan a hip injury while Henderson is out with a medial ligament injury.
Man of the match Danny Cullen was replaced late on with a slight hamstring twinge, but it is not thought to be too serious.
Donegal will play Louth, Monaghan or Sligo in the semi-final. Louth play Roscommon next Saturday in one of the quarter-finals with Sligo facing Monaghan in the other.
If Roscommon beat Louth, Donegal cannot play Roscommon because they have met already and therefore Donegal will face the winners of the Monaghan, Sligo game. But should Louth overcome the Connacht men, the semi-final pairings will go as per draw. Tyrone are the other team through to the last four.
Donegal: Paul Burns; Marty McGrath, Justin McGee, Benny Hannigan; Christopher McDermott, Jamesie Donnelly (0-2), Joe Boyle; Danny Cullen (0-2), Justin Browne; Ronan McDermott, Enda McDermott (0-2), Sean McVeigh (1-2); Stephen Boyle (0-1), Paddy Hannigan, Ciaran Mathewson (0-6). Subs: Kevin Campbell (0-1) for P. Hannigan; Michael McGee for D. Cullen.
Referee: D. O’Driscoll (Limerick).