Donegal booked their place in the Nicky Rackard Cup semi-final with a hard fought victory over Monaghan after a cracking contest in St Tiernach’s Park in Clones yesterday afternoon.
Lee Henderson struck three of Donegal’s four injury times points as Ray Durack’s men showed Monaghan a clean pair of heels in the closing five minutes to make it through to the last four. Danny Cullen scored the other.
Up to that it was anyone’s game after Donegal had come from two points down in the middle of the second period to draw level and having also trailed by four points at one stage in the first half.
Henderson with eight points, all but two from frees, and Niall Campbell’s 1-4 once again carried the main scoring threat. But this was far from a two-man show from Henderson and Campbell in what was a truly fantastic all round team performance with Eugene Organ, Padraig Doherty and Danny Cullen also got their names on the scoresheet.
Donegal goalkeeper Paul Burns pulled off a game saving full stretch save from point blank range to keep his side in the contests and just after Donegal had drawn level. The opening quarter hour was pretty even with the sides all square 0-5 each after 17 minutes.
Eugene Organ, Neill Campbell, Danny Cullen and Lee Henderson did the scoring for Donegal with Eanna Sweeney, Mark Trainor and Stephen Lambe raising the Monaghan white flags.
But with Donegal shading the possession stakes but squandering a number of good scoring opportunities, Monaghan enjoyed a purple 10 minutes as they posted four points without reply to lead 0-9 to 0-5.
And while Lee Henderson, with a fine point, reduced the margin to three, Stephen Lambe made it a four-point game once again as they clock ticked into injury time. Padraig Doherty, raiding on the left wing and all the way up from corner back got on the end of sweeping move, to split the Monaghan posts and a three-point game once more.
And it got even better for Ray Durack and his men deep in injury when Ronan McDermott was pulled back in the Monaghan penalty area and Niall Campbell made no mistake from the spot to send in the sides all square - Donegal 1-7 Monaghan 0-10 - at half-time.
It was close and tight again for much of the second period with the play flowing from end to end. Niall Campbell pointed to edge Donegal in front, but two Stephen Lambe frees and a delightful strike from Trevor Hillard saw the locals open up a two-point, 0-13 to 1-8, advantage by the three-quarter mark.
With Donegal striving to get back on level terms Monaghan goalkeeper Gerry Ruddy pulled off two wonder saves one from Ronan McDermott and the other from a scramble in the goal mouth.
But despite Duddy’s heroics Donegal grew in confidence and stronger in the closing minutes and with Henerderson cutting lose and Cullen landing a super point it was all the men from the North West in the closing minutes.
Monaghan’s cause not helped when the were reduced to 14 men in injury time after midfielder Trevor Hillard received his marching for a second yellow card.
Donegal scorers; Lee Henderson 0-8,6f; Niall Campbell 1-4, 1-0 penalty,0- 4f; Danny Cullen 0-2, Eugene Organ, Padraig Doherty, 0-1 each.
Monaghan: Stephen Lambe 0-9, 7f, Trevor Hillard and Eanna Sweeney 0-2, Mark Trainor, Conor McKenna 0-1 each.
Donegal: Paul Burns; Benny Harrigan, Joe Boyle, Padraig Doherty; Christy McDermott, Justin McGee, Jamsie Donnelly; Sean McVeigh, Ardal McDermot; Enda McDermott, Danny Cullen, Ronan McDermott; Lee Henderson, Eugene Organ, Niall Campbell.
Referee: Declan Magee (Down)
Monaghan: G Ruddy; P Murphy, J McHugh, M Treanor; P Meegan, P Treanor, S Loftus; G Boyd, T Hilliard; C McKenna, S Lambe, É Sweeney; M Lennon, P Boyle, B McGuigan.
Subs: J Lacey for Murphy (12), G Baxter for Boyle (53).
Referee: D Magee (Down).