Fermanagh 0-12 Donegal 2-18

Fermanagh’s dream of a first ever Ulster title ended in disappointment at a sun drenched St Tiernach’s Park, Clones today as Donegal ran out comprehensive winners in the provincial decider.

Two first half goals for Donegal from Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Ryan McHugh left Fermanagh with a mountain to climb and they were never able to eat into the deficit in the second half as Donegal finished up deserving 12 point victors.

And Fermanagh manager Rory Gallagher acknowledged that the goals were hammer blows to his side’s hopes.

““It was a very tough day at the office,” admitted Gallagher. “We started the game reasonably well and we turned them over a few times and it was nip and tuck. But the two big moments in the half, Ryan McHugh was involved in them, he got in behind and set up the goal and then he rattled in the second goal and after that it was always going to be very, very difficult.”

The Fermanagh fans had flocked to Clones in their thousands hoping to see the county make history by landing the Anglo Celt Cup for the first time and the team was met by a sea of green and white when they raced out on to the St Tiernach’s Park pitch.

Manager Rory Gallagher made one change from the side that was named for the final with Ciaran Corrigan coming in for Seamie Quigley.

The opening period of the game was a cagey affair as both sides felt each other out.

Fermanagh did have chances during this spell but didn’t take them although they did go on to open the scoring when Sean Quigley clipped over a free after a foul on Ryan Jones.

Donegal though hit straight back through a fine point from Odhran MacNiallais before Declan Bonner’s side took a lead they would never relinquish as Michael Langan strode forward from midfield to fire over.

As the contest began to settle down Donegal took a grip on matters with Fermanagh struggling to get enough ball in the middle third.

And with 16 minutes on the clock Donegal swooped for the opening goal of the game as Patrick McBrearty slipped in Ryan McHugh and he fed the ball across the goal for Eoghan Ban Gallagher to fist to the net.

Gallagher was at it again soon after as he popped over a free to push Donegal five ahead by the 21st minute and a monster free from Michael Murphy saw Donegal further increase their advantage as they made it 1-04 to 0-01.

Fermanagh badly needed a score and Sean Quigley knocked over a free, their first score in 18 minutes, although Paul Brennan answered for Donegal.

Captain Eoin Donnelly powered through to slot over Fermanagh’s first point form play but they were then hit with a killer second goal as Ryan McHugh got in on the right and blasted to the roof of the net to make it 2-05 to 0-03.

It was always going to be an uphill battle after this but Fermanagh continued to battle and Quigley landed his third free while Ciaran Corrigan knocked over from play.

But Donegal finished the half strongly as Paddy McBrearty rattled over a point before Michael Murphy converted a free after Michael Jones was black carded to leave it 2-07 to 0-05 at the interval.

Gallagher introduced Seamie Quigley  for the second half but Paul Brennan hit the first point of the half as he kept the Donegal score ticking over.

Quigley quickly made his presence felt as he clipped over a delightful point from the left while he was then in causing panic in the Donegal goal as he challenged for a high ball although a free was awarded out.

At the other end, Paddy McGrath had the ball in the net for Donegal but this was ruled out and Sean Quigley then converted a free to leave seven in it, 2-08 to 0-07.

It was tit for tat over the next period as Ciaran Thompson and Barry Mulrone traded points before Michael Murphy and Conall Jones registered points for their respective sides.

Any hopes though that Fermanagh had of making a dramatic comeback were extinguished when Ryan Jones was sent off, the midfielder picking up a black card having already been booked.

And it was all Donegal after this as they knocked over the next four points to put the tie firmly to bed.

The Tir Connail men continued to dominate the Fermanagh kickout and with Thompson (2), Jamie Brennan and McGrath rattling over points they moved into a 2-14 to 0-09 lead.

Ruairi Corrigan and Seamie Quigley (2) did hit back with scores for Fermanagh but they were merely consolations at this stage and Mark McHugh, Michael Murphy and Darrach O’Connor tagged on points for Donegal as they ran out 2-18 to 0-12 winners.