Monday 11th June 2018
Donegal made light of Neil McGee's straight red card after just 11 minutes to hammer Down in Clones and set up an Ulster football final showdown with Fermanagh on Sunday, June 24.
Leo McLoone and Jamie Brennan scored goals in either half as the 14-men cruised to a 13-point success. Niall Donnelly pulled back a late goal for a Down side who were outclassed by an impressive Donegal side who led by 1-12 to 0-7 at the interval. On this evidence, they will be warm favourites to overcome Fermanagh - now managed by former Donegal boss Rory Gallagher - in the provincial decider and progress to the Super 8s in the process.
Before a crowd of 12,051, Declan Bonner's charges signalled their intent with early points from Paul Brennan, Michael Murphy (free), Paddy McBrearty ('45) and Caolan Ward. But they were then dealt what appeared to be a huge blow when experienced full back McGree was dismissed following an altercation with Connaire Harrison.
However, Donegal's response to going a man down was emphatic. They scored a further 1-4 without reply to lead by 1-8 to 0-0 by the 22nd minute. Murphy and McBrearty had points before McLoone raised the game's first green flag after Ciaran Thompson's initial effort had come back off the post.
Attacking wing back Caolan Mooney finally opened the Mournemen's account in the 25th minute before Harrison and Donal O'Hare added their tally. Harrison's third point reduced the deficit to five, but the winners finished the half with three-in-a-row from Ryan McHugh, Jamies Brennan and Ciaran Thompson to take a commanding lead into the interval.
Donegal resumed with further scores from Murphy and McBrearty before they put the game to bed in the 45th minute when Brennan finished to an empty net after Murphy, Thompson and McHugh had been involved in the build-up.
That goal put the Tir Chonaill outfit 15 points clear and Down were lucky not to be further behind after McBrearty hit the post with another goal attempt.
Shaun Patton saved brilliantly from O'Hare at the other end before he was eventually beaten by Niall Donnelly with the last kick of a disappointingly one-sided contest.
Donegal: S Patton; P McGrath, N McGee, E Gallagher; C Ward (0-1), P Brennan (0-2), R McHugh (0-2); H McFadden, L McLoone (1-0); C Thompson (0-1), M Langan, F McGlynn; P McBrearty (0-6, 3f), M Murphy (0-5, 3f), J Brennan (1-3). Subs: D O Baoill for Langan (43), O MacNiallais for McLoone (48), C Mulligan for Thompson (48), S McMenamin (0-1) for Gallagher (53), M McHugh (0-1) for McGlynn (57), E Doherty for P Brennan (64).
Down: M Reid; C Flanagan, B McArdle, A Doherty; D O'Hagan, N McParland, C Mooney (0-1); P Turley, N Donnelly (1-1); K McKernan, C Maginn (0-2), S Millar; D O'Hare (0-4, 3f), C Harrison (0-4) R Millar. Subs: R Johnston for R Millar (BC 21), R Wells for McParland (h-t), S Dornan for S Millar (BC 36), C Poland for Doherty (48), D McKibben for Turley (54), F Flynn for McKibbin (64 BC).
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).
PHOTO: Down's Kevin McKernan gets a hand on Donegal's Eoghan Ban Gallagher ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson