Donegal were made to work for it but in the end, they overcame Fermanagh with six points to spare at Brewster Park this afternoon.
The Tir Conaill men got off to a slow start as they struggled to cope with Fermanagh’s defensive wall, however, they just had too much quality for last year’s Ulster finalists in the second half before pulling away in the final ten minutes.
Donegal now face Tyrone in a mouthwatering Ulster semi-final.
Here are our conclusions following today’s encounter at Brewster Park.
Donegal’s Slow Start
Declan Bonner’s men struggled in the opening stages getting to grips with Fermanagh’s defensive system. Try and try they might, they just couldn’t break down the green wall in front of them.
It took Donegal until the 17th minute of the game to register a score.
Fermanagh’s System Clearly Works
From minute one, Fermanagh filtered every single player back behind the 45-metre line in an attempt to curtail the Donegal attack.
The fact that it took Donegal as long as it did to score shows that Fermanagh’s system clearly works in keeping the opposition at bay.
However, the question is how long does it work for? As once Donegal edged in front they never looked like they were going to lose.
McBrearty’s Ring Rust, However, Class Always Shines Through
Paddy McBrearty was making his first championship appearance for Donegal since last year’s Ulster final against Fermanagh.
It seemed early on that the Kilcar attacker was struggling with a bit of ring rust and perhaps he was, he missed three attempts at goal in the opening twenty minutes.
However, McBrearty’s class shone through in the second half kicking a great score before pouncing on a dropping ball to punch over his second and then fisting a third to stretch Donegal’s lead to four. Donegal fans will be delighted to see him get through today’s game.
Fermanagh’s Lack Of Attack
Rory Gallagher’s side seemed devoid of options up front. They have a defensive system nailed that keeps the opposition score down, however, in order to win you have to score more than the opposition and they seem to struggle with this.
Severe Lack Of Marks
The midfield zone was a minefield all day long.
Neither side were prepared to let the other claim a clean catch in the middle of the field which led to a lot of breaking ball which in turn led to a lot of play that wasn’t exactly pretty to watch.
Great long range effort from Ciaran Thompson of Donegal pic.twitter.com/BzTpBMgyJ8
— The GAA (@officialgaa) May 26, 2019
Fermanagh The Masters At Slowing The Game Down
Donegal were increasingly frustrated throughout the first half as Fermanagh attempted to slow them down at every opportunity.
Anytime a Fermanagh player was turned over the Fermanagh player in question was ready to commit a foul in order to prevent a quick moving counter-attack.
Michael Murphy Last Man Back
On the 55th minute of the game, Fermanagh filtered everybody back despite the fact that they trailed by three points.
It ended with Donegal for a brief spell stopping their play and passing it back and forth across the middle of the field. Talisman, Michael Murphy was the furthest Donegal player back also and was even overtaken by the goalkeeper, Sean Patton at one stage.
Murphy played a withdrawn role today. We know he can play literally anywhere, hopefully against Tyrone they try playing him close to goals alongside McBrearty and today’s man of the match, Jamie Brennan.
Sean Quigley Substitution
We’ve already spoken about Fermanagh being devoid of options in attack. Therefore it was strange seeing Sean Quiqley withdrawn from the game.
Despite not having a great game, Fermanagh need some quality up front to complement their defensive nature. They also needed to be able to convert frees whenever they came their way.
With just a point between the side heading into the final ten minutes, Fermanagh missed a relatively easy free to level the game. It was a shot that Quigley certainly wouldn’t have missed and quite possibly marked the beginning of the end for them.
Proper Ulster Championship Game?
A lot was made about the Down v Armagh encounter last weekend which was obviously a cracker but was this game a true reflection on what Ulster Championship football is?
Fermanagh v Donegal Full-Time Highlights pic.twitter.com/MlQoxmyBO3
— The GAA (@officialgaa) May 26, 2019
Given this encounter coupled with Tyrone’s facile win yesterday. It’s fair enough to question whether the Ulster Championship is the dominant provincial championship it once was.
Not A Game For Purists
The Sunday Game are going to tear this one apart. Let’s hope Spillane isn’t on the couch.