Donegal defeated Monaghan by a point in last Saturday evening’s Ulster semi-final replay in Kingspan Breffni Park to book their place in a sixth final in-a-row.
The scoreboard read Donegal 0-17, Monaghan 2-10 at the end of a game that former Fermanagh player and manager, Dom Corrigan, felt that Donegal would not be flattered if the margin had been five or six points, such was their superiority in general play.
Corrigan, who has nurtured large numbers of Fermanagh players through St Michael’s College, Enniskillen over the last decade, also believes that his fellow county man, Rory Gallagher, should take enormous credit for Saturday evening’s triumph, albeit by the skin of their teeth.
“Donegal would have been awful sore if they left Cavan last Saturday night without the win,” said the former Erne County boss, who watched the game from the Kingspan Breffni Park stand.
“Donegal played some very good football in the game and were the better team for the majority of the 70-plus minutes.
“They totally dominated the first half but gave away two bad goals and were only two points up at half-time when they should have been out of sight.”
But the mistakes apart, the Kinawley clubman felt that Rory Gallagher should get enormous credit for identifying the Monaghan strengths and then nullifying them.
“Rory correctly identified that Conor McManus and the two Hughes brothers, Darren and Kieran, were the main men in the Monaghan line-up.
“Nullify them and you go a long way to halting Monaghan. And that’s what more or less happened on Saturday night.
“Kieran Hughes was substituted and Darren should have been, and Conor McManus was held to two points from play by Paddy McGrath.
“Paddy for the second week in a row did a brilliant marking job on McManus.
“The moving of Martin O’Reilly out on Karl O’Connell was another masterstroke by Rory. O’Reilly kicked three points on O’Connell, who was the man of the match the week before and was no great threat last Saturday night.
“Donegal would not have been flattered if they won by five or six points, they were so much better than Monaghan.”
But a point was all that was in it in the end and Donegal nerves were jangling on more than one occasion in the closing minutes.
The width of the crossbar denied Conor McCarthy and Monaghan a third goal 11 minutes from the end when he chipped Mark Anthony McGinley - who was away off his line - from 20 metres.
The fact that there was only the point difference at the end may now turn out to be a positive, according to Dom Corrigan.
“It means that Donegal won’t saunter into the final on the back of a big win. They now know they are going to have to tighten up at the back and remain focussed for the full game and there can be no lapses in concentration against Tyrone.”
Donegal will face Tyrone in St Tiernach’s Park, Clones, on Sunday week, July 17th.
“I was in Clones on Sunday for the Tyrone, Cavan replay and after watching that game there can be no doubt about it, Tyrone are back and are up in the top five again, along with Dublin, Kerry, Donegal and possibly Mayo.
“Going forward, if Donegal are going to win the Ulster final and if they are to progress, they are going to have to create and score more goals.
“They didn’t create any real good goal chances last Saturday night and I believe they are going to have to score a goal or two if they are to beat Tyrone.
“The Ulster final, as I see it, is a 50/50 game but Donegal are going to have to score goals.”
However, Corrigan does feel that Donegal have made good progress this year and they have a lot of plusses going into Sunday week’s showdown with the Red Hands.
He also has some advice for Ryan McHugh.
“Ryan is going to have to accept that he is a marked man, which is a compliment to him as to the quality footballer he is.
“He was well marshalled on Saturday night by Ryan McAnespie, but he is going to have to work hard to get away around the close attention if Donegal are going to win.”
“The big plus for Donegal is the return to form of Mark McHugh. Mark put in a big performance when introduced on Saturday night. He had a very good game and back to his best, he will be very important for Donegal.
“The other big plus is the return and form of Rory Kavanagh. I know he picked up two yellow cards and was sent off but up to that point, he was having a brilliant game and showed great leadership on the field.
“Marty O’Reilly has really blossomed this year and is playing great football and with Odhrán Mac Niallais, Martin McElhinney, Patrick McBrearty, Frank McGlynn, Michael Murphy and the three McHughs Ryan, Eoin and Mark, playing well Donegal are in a good place.
“The big question Tyrone have to answer is how they will cope in a battle and a battle I expect it to be against Donegal.
“It is a 50/50 game and in a tight game I would expect Donegal to win.”