While the result may have been predictable the manner of Donegal’s defeat of Derry in this Ulster championship quarter –final was not one that most pundits expected.
The Ulster champions, Donegal, bossed this game from start to finish and were full value for their ten point win 2-13 to 0-9. It really was a demolition job, Donegal clinically executed their game plan, tearing the Derry defence to shreds almost at will. They had their defensive screens set up to precision, their midfield ruled the middle third and when they attacked it was with purpose and speed. Meanwhile Derry lacked pace and cohesion, there was no discernible pattern to their play and most worryingly of all it was the lack of passion across too many sectors of the field.
Few of the Derry players came away from this debacle with their reputations intact let alone enhanced. Barry and Sean Leo McGoldrick did make solid contributions to a beaten cause while Paddy Bradley hit six points although only one was from play. A shell shocked Derry manager, John Brennan struggled to find the words to explain what had just happened to his team in the immediate aftermath of the game.
“Look we trained as hard as they did, we believed we were as fit as they were and I simply cannot understand why we did not perform” said Brennan. “I’m just terribly disappointed at the manner in which we lost this game. We had stayed in contention for the most part in the first half but we fell away after the break and it was depressing to note the way they bossed the game. We had been hoping to make a big bid to land the Ulster title this year so when something like this happens it comes as a terrible shock to the system.”
When it was put to the Derry manager there was the qualifiers to look forward to his response indicated little enthusiasm for that route. “I am so gutted that I can’t even think ahead to the qualifiers,” said a clearly dejected Derry manager. That sentiment will resonate with the few Derry supporters that made the trip to Ballybofey for one of the worst championship defeats suffered by the Oak Leaf county.
The signs were ominous for Derry as early as the end of the first quarter when they fell 0-4 to 0-1 adrift, Donegal showing enterprise as they broke from the back with pace and precision. Derry had levelled through Mark Lynch in the seventh minute following Colm McFadden’s opening point from a free. It would take Derry 47 minutes before they would score again from open play by which time Donegal had opened up a 2-9 to 0-6 winning lead.
Despite playing second fiddle around midfield for most of the first half Derry were still just two points adrift 0-5 to 0-3 three minutes from the end of the first half. It was at that stage that Donegal got their first goal, Colm McFadden bursting through, his shot was half blocked but Leo McLoone was on hand to volley the ball to the net. Derry did respond with a point from a Paddy Bradley free but it was Donegal finishing strongly as Michael Murphy pointed a free following a foul on Mark McHugh, 1-6 to 0-4 the half time score. Within nine minutes of the restart this game was all but over as a contest when Donegal struck for a second goal.
They had already tacked on a point from rampaging corner back Frank McGlynn, who had tore forward at every opportunity and with great impact, when their pressing game bore fruit. Joe Diver was harassed by three players in midfield and turned the ball over, a lightning attack ended with Colm McFadden calmly slotted to the Derry net. Paddy Bradley again got one back for Derry from a free but David Walsh fired over after Frank McGlynn again burst forward to great effect. Sean Leo McGoldrick’s point from play was only Derry’s second point from play nineteen minutes into the second half but that only reduced the gap to nine points.
Even at this stage there was no way back for Derry and the final quarter was played out in a fairly insipid manner, defeat almost an accepted given by a side resigned to their fate. Big Neil Gallagher put another nail in the Derry coffin with a fine fetch in midfield a virtually unmolested dash forward and a neatly taken point. The sides went on to trade three points each over the closing stages as Donegal held their nine point lead to the finish.
For all of Donegal’s notorious defensive strategy they showed plenty of attacking enterprise with eight different players scoring from open play, three defenders and two midfielders. Meanwhile Derry could only muster four points from play in the entire game and never threatened to get a goal. It was the lack of intensity that was the most worrying part of Derry’s disappointing and in the end most dispiriting display. The qualifier route does not look at all like one that will inspire a renaissance in the Oak Leaf county.
Derry team; Barry Gillis; John McCamley, Chrissy McKaigue, Sean Leo McGoldrick; Barry McGoldrick, Mark Craig, Eugene Scullion; Joe Diver, Michael Friel; Gerard O’Kane, Mark Lynch, Enda Lynn; Conleith Gilligan, Paddy Bradley, Emmett McGuckian.
Derry scorers: Paddy Bradley (0-6, 0-5 frees), Mark Lynch (0-1), Sean Leo McGoldrick (0-1), Eoin Bradley (0-1)