Despite losing Neil McGee to a straight red card on the stroke of half-time, Donegal still had too much for a disappointing Fermanagh in the UIster championship quarter-final in MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey.
Donegal . . . . . . . . . . . . 2-12
Fermanagh . . . . . . . . . 0-11
It took two high quality goals, both finished by Odhran Mac Niallais (with Frank McGlynn and Martin McElhinney involved in both) to seal the victory.
But the big talking point came in first half added time. With two points between the sides, a high ball into the Donegal area was fielded by Sean Quigley. The full-forward was dispossessed by Neil McGee, who seemed to strike out as he tried to burst clear.
McGee was shown a straight red card and Fermanagh awarded a penalty, but Quigley was unable to convert as Donegal 'keeper Mark Anthony McGinley made a good save.
It was a big talking point at half-time as Fermanagh had finished the first half really well. But they were never really to make anything of the numerical advantage in the second period as Donegal upped the tempo.
Any chance of an upset was put to bed as early as the 44th minute when Donegal got their second goal, a score of real quality with Odhran Mac Niallais on the end of a sweeping move to palm home.
The goal put Donegal 2-7 to 0-8 in front and they went on to add the next three points to lead by eight in the 52nd minute. In the middle of this period of dominance Fermanagh lost one of their better performers, full-back Che Cullen.
From there to the end, it was academic as Fermanagh were toothless in attack and Donegal did not miss their talismanic defender McGee. Indeed, one of the statistics of the game was that Fermanagh failed to hit a wide in the second half and had just one point from play in that period.
Donegal looked in control until just before half-time when it all kicked off. Points from Patrick McBrearty and Frank McGlynn had Donegal on the board inside five minutes.
Fermanagh hit back with Tomás Corrigan converting a free after a high tackle from Rory Kavanagh who picked up a yellow card (which saw the St. Eunan’s man withdrawn five minutes later). Barry Mulrone levelled on 10 minutes, but then Donegal took a grip, thanks to a wonderful period from Odhran Mac Niallais.
Firstly Martin O’Reilly outstripped the Fermanagh defence and fisted a point when in on goal, but then on 14 minutes, Martin McElhinney and McGlynn were involved before the latter’s pass to Mac Niallais, who rifled past Christopher Snow.
Sean Quigley responded with a mighty effort from fully 55m but quick points from Eoin McHugh and a Patrick McBrearty free after Mac Niallais was fouled and Donegal were five clear.
They almost got a second goal when Mac Niallais found McBrearty with a long, diagonal ball. The Kilcar man broke through two tackles but his goalbound effort was very well saved by an advancing Snow.
But Fermanagh kept plugging away with Eoin Donnelly beginning to get a grip at midfield. Corrigan, from a free, and Donnelly, from play, reduced the margin to three and while Mac Niallais hit a wonder point to edge Donegal four clear, two Corrigan frees had the margin down to two as the game entered added time.
Then came the red card for Neil McGee and the penalty save by McGinley from Quigley, which left the half-time score, Donegal 1-6, Fermanagh 0-7.
Donegal will now meet Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final, which has been set for Saturday week next, June 25th, but they will do so without Neil McGee, who would have been wanted to mark Conor McManus!
Donegal: Mark Anthony McGinley; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee; Ryan McHugh, Frank McGlynn (0-1), Anthony Thompson; Rory Kavanagh, Hugh McFadden; Eoin McHugh (0-2), Martin McElhinney (0-1), Odhrán Mac Niallais (2-1); Patrick McBrearty (0-3,1f), Michael Murphy (0-1,f) Martin O’Reilly (0-2). Subs., Leo McLoone for Kavanagh 13; Christy Toye for McLoone ht; Rory Kavanagh for McGlynn 53; Mark McHugh for McElhinney 58; Colm McFadden (0-1,f) for McBrearty 70.
Fermanagh: Christopher Snow; Mickey Jones, Che Cullen, Marty O’Brien; Declan McCusker, James McMahon, Barry Mulrone (0-1); Eoin Donnelly (0-1), Aidan Breen; Paul McCusker, Ryan Jones (0-1), Richard O’Callaghan; Ruairi Corrigan, Sean Quigley (0-1), Tomás Corrigan (0-7,7f). Subs., Damien Kelly for Cullen bcard; Niall Cassidy for R Corrigan, both 47; Ryan Lyons for Breen; Conall Jones for McMahon, both 58; Daniel Teague for P McCusker 65; Ciaran Flaherty for O'Brien 72
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)