Donegal are looking forward to a Nicky Rackard Cup quarter-final with Monaghan following Saturday’s second round win over Fermanagh at O’Donnell Park
Donegal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-15
Fermanagh . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-11
For Donegal, who played with 14 men for the entire second half following the dismissal of full-back Justin McGee in the closing minutes of the opening half, it was their first win of the season after losing seven games in the league and the first round in the Nicky Rackard away to Armagh last week.
McGee was shown two yellow cards in the space of two minutes in the dying seconds of the opening half.
Fermanagh led 2-5 to 1-6 at half-time having looked the hungrier side in the opening 38 minutes
Their burly full-forward Rory Porteous scrambled home their first goal on 17 minutes after good work from Sean Corrigan to propel his side into a 1-4 to 0-4 lead.
Corrigan (3) and John Paul McGarry posted their early points while Sean McVeigh, Bernard Lafferty, Niall Cleary and Lee Henderson responded for Donegal.
Donegal, the hot favourites looked lethargic and off the pace in the first half.
“We knew for the first time this year we were carrying the favourites’ tag and maybe we didn’t carry the favourites’ tag too well,” said Donegal manager, Ardal McDermott.
“We were probably in our minds looking ahead. We knew that Fermanagh were a good strong side and they had a good camaraderie in their team but I suppose it was always in the back of the minds that we would eventually get over them.
“It took us a long time to get that out of system and get out of the blocks and more focussed on the game and the job in hand.
“We went in two points down at half-time and we were lucky to be only two down because Fermanagh had a couple of other good goal chances.
“We took a look at ourselves at half-time and we gave it a shake up. We knew as a team we were not making it happen and down to 14 men we knew we had to go out and make it happen ourselves.
“Justin’s sending off I thought was harsh. When you are down on your luck things like that happen. As I saw it Justin was fouled out on the far side and should have been awarded a free out; instead the referee let it go and a bit of pushing developed and Justin picked up a second yellow and was sent off.
“It was harsh and probably a case of the first booking being a soft booking and I’m sure Justin will feel very hard done by with the second yellow and I would agree with him.”
Donegal began the second half with a little more aggression in their play and with captain Danny Cullen leading the charge, Lee Henderson and Ronan McDermott picked off points to tie up the game at 1-8 to 2-5.
Fermanagh’s star man, Sean Corrigan, restored the visitors’ lead but Donegal were on the pace and they reeled off three quick points before Kevin Campbell struck for the second goal with his first touch having replaced Paddy Hannigan seconds earlier.
That was on 48 minutes and when Sean McVeigh, who along with Jamesie Donnelly and Danny Cullen were the standout men for Donegal, clipped over his second point Donegal were six up, 2-12 to 2-6.
Shortly after Henderson made it a seven point game and the game looked done and dusted.
But it was game on again after Fermanagh stormed back into the game with two quick points followed by a third goal from Corrigan, to leave just two in it again with a quarter hour remaining, 2-13 to 3-9.
Donegal reasserted themselves again in the closing minutes. McVeigh pointed and Ronan McDermott squared for Ciaran Mathewson to rattle the Fermanagh net for Donegal's third goal, and a 3-14 to 3-8 lead, with five minutes of normal time remaining.
“We took control of the game at the start of the second half and tagged on a few scores and being honest we should have closed out the game. But down to 14 men it was hard going and we did tire a little towards the end.
“The important thing is the result. We played better against Armagh last week and we played better in other games in the league and lost. After all we have been through this season so far that win will do a lot for confidence in the squad and we know we can play a lot better than we played today.”
Monaghan lost to Fingal and Donegal will now meet the Farney men in the quarter-final next weekend.
Donegal: Paul Burns; Padraig Doherty, Justin McGee, Shane Gallen; Jack O’Loughlin, Jamesie Donnelly, Niall Cleary; Paul Sheridan, Ciaran Mathewson; Lee Henderson (0-6,6f), Danny Cullen (0-1), Bernard Lafferty (0-2); Ronan McDermott (0-1), Paddy Hannigan, Sean McVeigh (1-3). Subs: Kevin Campbell (1-0) for Hannigan 46, Mark Callaghan for S Gallen 48, Sam Doherty for N Cleary 64, Colm Flood for P Sheridan 67, Paul Nelson for B Lafferty 69.
Fermanagh: Cathal McGarry; Andrew Breslin, Matthew Teague, Odhran Russell; Barrie Duffy, Mark Slevin, Thomas Cleary; John Duffy (0-1, 1f), Ryan Bogue (0-2,1f, 1’65’); John Paul McGarry (1-1), Declan McGarry (0-2,1f), Conor McShea; Sean Corrigan (1-5, 2fs), Rory Porteous (1-0), Ciaran Corrigan. Subs: Brian McLaughlin for C McShea h/t, Conor McShea for R Porteous 60, Rory Porteous for M Slevin 69.
Referee: Kevin McGeeney (Roscommon).