GAA: Donegal record three-point win over Monaghan in Ulster SFC final in Clones
Last Updated: 20/07/14 7:53pm
Donegal claimed their third Ulster title in four years with a 0-15 to 1-9 win over Monaghan at Clones.
It was no rose garden, with Monaghan setting up another blue and white brick wall and asking the Donegal men to break away through it.
Last summer, they seemed to hit a mental wall in addition to a ferocious and brave Monaghan task, but they displayed their old virtue of patience and played and thought their way to the county's eighth provincial crown.
This title marks 13 Ulster wins in 14 games for manager Jim McGuinness, who said the victory exceeds any since he took over as manager.
Not even the rare occurrence of a Monaghan goal from Chris McGuinness could break the concentration.
Superior shooting led the way. Patrick McBrearty, named in the starting team but held in reserve, came in after 20 minutes and hit three huge points in a performance of real leadership.
Neil Gallagher had an immense influence at the heart of the park and Paul Durcan’s kickouts were sublime in their variety and accuracy.
Donegal led from the start to finish and although really heroic efforts from Vinny Corey, Dessie Mone and Colin Walshe kept the champions in contention until the final whistle, it was a low-key show of domination by Jim McGuinness’s team.
The first half was a grind. As expected, Donegal announced three significant changes before the parade, with Karl Lacey and Gallagher coming into the starting line.
Both made big contributions, with Gallagher keeping possession moving through midfield and taking a majestic kickout from Durcan as both sides pressed hard on restarts.
Lacey has rediscovered the energy and timing which set him apart two years ago and needed it in the 32nd minute when he made up lost ground to partially block a terrific goal chance for Monaghan’s Fintan Kelly.
The half chance illuminated the nature of the game perfectly. Both teams were too wary of one another to go and express themselves. In any event, there was no space to do so.
Donegal’s half-backs and half-forwards tried a variety of combinations to unlock the organised Monaghan defence and were rewarded with two fine points from play from Odhran MacNiallais.
Monaghan stayed in touch with a sensational point from the 50-yard line by Paul Finlay, who also added two frees.
The half was interrupted with a few dust-ups and several long breaks in play, including one in which Michael Murphy lay on the field following an off-the ball incident.
Donegal were organised and showed none of the lethargy of 12 months ago but it was easy to see that this Monaghan side has a talent for getting under their skin.
Their nerve might have broken when McGuinness goaled but the calm and skilled response saw them work three points without reply.
It was a bright example of the composure and grace under pressure which Donegal have come to exhibit under Jim McGuinness. Ulster champions again, and nobody will really fancy playing them.
Donegal: C McFadden 0-4 (4f), O MacNiallais, P McBrearty 0-3 each, M Murphy 0-2 (2f), K Lacey, R McHugh, N Gallagher 0-1 each.
Monaghan: P Finlay 0-4 (3f), C McGuinness 1-0, R Beggan 0-2 (1f, 1 ’45), V Corey, K Hughes, C McManus 0-1 each.