Donegal’s dreams of adding the Nicky Rackard Cup to their Lory Meagher success of last year were emphatically ended when they were hammered by Louth at O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny yesterday.
Report: Alan Foley
Photos: Conor McGonagle
Ray Durack’s team were very much in the match when Eugene Organ scored the first point of the second half, to leave his side just a point down at 0-8 to 0-7. However, that was the last time the Donegal team bothered the umpires at the river end and Louth’s finish to the match was relentless.
Shane Fennell’s goal on 50 minutes swung the advantage towards the Leinster team and David Dunne grabbed two further goals, either side of Donegal losing corner-back Benny Harrigan to a second yellow card.
Aided by a strong breeze on a sweltering hot day, Donegal’s nine first half wides meant instead of making the most of the elements, they trailed by two at the interval, 0-8 to 0-6.
Fennell scored two first half frees for the visitors, while Adrian Wallace and while Brian Corcoran scored, Diarmaid Murphy was also on the mark twice. Donegal, though, trailed by three points for a spell but got back to level. Niall Campbell’s two points, Ronan McDermott, Danny Cullen, Sean McVeigh and Enda McDermott all scored points.
However, just as the half was about to close, Louth got their noses in front with two late scores coming courtesy of wing-back Derek Horan and Fennell.
The second half took a while to find its shape and the edginess that so often smothers semi-finals was evident. Organ got his score to leave one between them but at a juncture when the home support was willing their team to push on, they fell apart at the seams.
Ronan Byrne and centre-fielder Shane Callan pushed Louth’s advantage out to three before Fennell scored the first goal of the day. The centre-forward outmuscled Padraig Doherty and when he got in on goal he stroked past Donegal goalkeeper Paul Burns.
That made the score 1-12 to 0-7 to Louth and in such a static game, the goal was a huge score. Wallace and Gerard Smyth, from a free, scored points to emphasise Louth’s superiority.
On 57 minutes, that dominance was rubber-stamped when Dunne scored an eye-catching goal when the ball bounced appealingly into his path.
Harrigan then went for the early shower when he picked up a second yellow.
All Donegal wanted at that stage was the final whistle as they struggled to mount any sort of attack. In 35 second half minutes they created just two scoring chances. At the other end, Louth were creating opportunities at will. Dunne was completely free and had time to place third goal past Burns eight minutes from time.
Wallace, Donagh O’Sullivan and a pair of Murphy points rounded off the scoring after the lopsided second half. And as Donegal pick up the pieces, Louth have a day at Croke Park to look forward to when they take on Armagh.
Donegal: Paul Burns; Benny Harrigan, Joe Boyle, Padraig Doherty; Christopher McDermott, Justin McGee, Jamsie Donnolly; Sean McVeigh (0-1), Ardal McDermott; Enda McDermott (0-1), Danny Cullen (0-1), Ronan McDermott (0-1); Lee Henderson, Eugene Organ (0-1), Niall Campbell (0-2, 1f). Subs: Kevin Campbell for R McDermott (52), Paul Sheridan for Boyle (56).
Louth: James Connolly; Domhnall Rafferty, Wesley Morissey, Mark Wallace; Donagh O’Sullivan (0-1), Ronan Byrne (0-1), Derek Horan (0-1); Shane Callan (0-1), Darren O’Hanrahan; David Dunne (2-0), Shane Fennell (1-5, 5f), Diarmuid Murphy (0-5, 1f); Kevin McNally, Brian Corcoran (0-1), Adrian Wallace (0-3). Subs: Gary Rellis for O’Hanrahan (40), Gerard Smyth (0-1, 1f) for McNally, Sean Maguire for Fennell (65), David Mahoney for Wallace (67), Daire McKiernan for Murphy (68).
Referee: Owen Elliott (Antrim)