Ulster SFC: Donegal beat Fermanagh 0-15 to 0-9 in Brewster Park quarter-final

Donegal's Jason McGee is challenged by Fermanagh's Aidan Breen at Brewster Park
Donegal's Jason McGee is challenged by Fermanagh's Aidan Breen at Brewster Park

Donegal had to work hard to see off a dogged Fermanagh side 0-15 to 0-9 at Brewster Park to set up an Ulster SFC semi-final with Tyrone on 8 June.

The Ernemen had Donegal in a defensive straitjacket for much of the first half as they led 0-2 to 0-0 on 18 minutes.

However, Declan Bonner's side finally began to find space as they edged into a 0-5 to 0-4 lead by half-time.

Fermanagh showed resolve to stay within touching distance until three closing Donegal points.

Fit-again Patrick McBrearty showed his immense worth to Donegal with five points in a low-scoring contest with Jamie Brennan also hitting 0-4 for the visitors.

Re-live all the action from the quarter-final as it unfolded at Brewster Park

Stubborn Fermanagh rearguard action

The general pre-match consensus that Fermanagh boss Rory Gallagher would set up his side to frustrate his former Donegal charges proved accurate as the defending champions struggled to find space against a massed defence.

When Donegal did have possession, Fermanagh immediately retreated to have all 15 men behind the ball and that became the pattern in the opening period.

With Ryan McHugh struggling to get on the ball in the first period, Donegal relied on the likes of Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Jamie Brennan to produce attacking thrusts into the danger zone.

Donegal used their wind advantage effectively at the start of the second half as two Brennan points were split by another long-range effort from Michael Murphy to edge them into a 0-8 to 0-5 lead infront of a crowd of 10,447.

To their credit, Fermanagh fought back to reduce Donegal's lead to 0-9 to 0-8 by the 53rd minute.

And even when three behind at the start of injury-time, the Ernemen had a goal chance but there was to be no repeat of their late smash and grab raid against Monaghan last year as Daniel Teague's effort was blocked by Michael Langan.

Donegal immediately worked the ball downfield to present McBrearty with a fisted point and further scores from Murphy and Brennan gave the final scoreline a flattering look for the visitors.

Donegal's Michael Langan fends off the attention of Conall Jones
Donegal's Michael Langan fends off the attention of Conall Jones

Donegal edge ahead at the break

Fermanagh set out their defensive stall early on as Donegal kicked a couple of rushed wides from pot shots but the Ernemen broke out of their own territory in the fifth minute as championship debutant Ultan Kelm charged upfield to fist a point when possibly he could have gone for goal.

After Sean Quigley doubled Fermanagh's lead with a 12th-minute free, another championship new boy Johnny Cassidy should have extended the home advantage on 17 minutes but dropped his chance from 20 metres into Shaun Patton.

Within a minute, Brennan opened Donegal's account in a two-point turnaround and by the 25th minute Donegal led after two McBrearty frees.

Eoghan Ban Gallagher's charge upfield then set up a point for Leo McLoone and while scores by Ryan Jones and Ciaran Corrigan got Fermanagh on terms again, a superb Jason McGee point from distance left Donegal ahead at the break even though they had played against a stiff enough breeze.

Visitors eventually pull clear

Wind-assisted efforts from Brennan and Murphy extended Donegal's lead to three by the 39th minute but the Ernemen continued to show great resolve as they fought back to trail by the minimum after 53 minutes.

By that stage, Fermanagh also felt that Donegal should have been down to 14 men after a high tackle by Paddy McGrath on Conall Jones in a incident similar to last weekend's challenge when led to Caolan Mooney's dismissal in Down's defeat by Armagh.

However, referee Joe McQuillan ruled the incident a yellow card transgression as the impressive McGrath remained on the field.

A rare moment of slackness in the Fermanagh defence allowed a mishit Murphy ball to bounce in the square and McBrearty fisted a 58th-minute score which doubled Donegal's lead again.

Then came a crucial 60 seconds in the game as Conall Jones, now the free-taker after Sean Quigley's injury-enforced departure, dropped a placed ball short with Donegal quickly working the ball downfield and Ciaran Thompson supplying the finish.

And while Langan showed quick feet to extend Donegal's lead to four on 64 minutes, Jones' 66th-minute free left a kick of the ball between the sides again to strain the nerves of the visitors.

Sure enough, more than a sniff of a goal chance did come as the match entered injury-time but Daniel Teague's angled shot was blocked by Langan.

That proved Fermanagh's final bit of resistance as McBrearty's fisted effort was followed by further Murphy and Brennan scores.

How they lined up

Fermanagh: J McGrath; J Cassidy, C Cullen, L Cullen; U Kelm (0-2), J McMahon, K Connor; E Donnelly (capt), R Jones (0-1); D Teague, A Breen, C Corrigan (0-2); D McCusker, C Jones (0-2), S Quigley (0-1).

Subs: T Treacy, B Mulrone (0-1), R Lyons, E McHugh, S McGullion, T Clarke, P McCusker, K McDonnell, C McBrien, G Jones.

Donegal: S Patton; P McGrath, N McGee, S McMenamin; R McHugh, D O Baoill, E Ban Gallagher; H McFadden, J McGee (0-1); C Thompson (0-1), L McLoone (0-1), J Brennan (0-4); P McBrearty (0-5), M Murphy (capt) (0-2), M Langan (0-1).

Subs: P Durcan, F McGlynn, L McLoone, E McHugh, E Doherty, P Brennan, O Mac Phaidin O Fearraigh, C Ward, B Cole, M Carroll, E McGettigan.