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Donegal 3-16 Antrim 0-12

Updated: Sunday, 22 Jun 2014 21:29 | Comments

Donegal's Darrach O'Connor scores his side's second goal
Donegal's Darrach O'Connor scores his side's second goal

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Donegal turned on the power in the second half to overwhelm Antrim by 3-16 to 0-12 in the Ulster Senior Football Championship semi-final in Clones.

Two points each from Brian Neeson, Kevin Niblock and Mark Sweeney helped Antrim go in level at the break with a Donegal side that had two each from Darach O’Connor and Michael Murphy.

Leo McLoone and O’Connor hit the net in the third quarter, and there was no way back for the Saffrons, who conceded a third goal in stoppage time to Dermot Molloy.

In front of a crowd of 11,795, Donegal struggled to break down an Antrim side that played them at their own game, flooding bodies back into defence.

Jim McGuinness’ side did slip into a 0-05 to 0-02 lead after eight minutes, but were restricted to a paltry two points for the remainder of the half.

With Mark Sweeney drifting back to perform the role of sweeper, and Sean McVeigh having a terrific, sometimes fractious battle with Michael Murphy, the Saffrons frustrated a Donegal outfit that appeared willing but unable to bring a more attacking dimension to their famed cautious style of play.

Christy Toye, Darach O’Connor, Odhran MacNiallais, Colm McFadden and Murphy were all on target during that early period, but Antrim were winning plenty of ball around midfield through their high-fielding captain Niall McKeever, particularly after Neil Gallagher was forced to retire injured after just 15 minutes.

Paul McCann and Brian Neeson raised white flags, while Sweeney arrowed over his second long range effort.

Neeson, kicking left-footed frees off the grass with effortless ease, brought the sides level in the 26th minute, and the sides went in level at the break after Thomas McCann had profited from Paul Durcan’s decision to abandon his effective short-kick-out strategy and go long.

They were deadlocked for the fourth time at 0-07 each at the turnaround, but Donegal exploded into action right from the beginning of the second half.

Christy Toye, one of Donegal’s most effective performers, made the run along the right flank before slipping the ball inside to Leo McLoone, who chipped delicately past Patrick Flood in the Antrim goal in the 52nd minute

Six minutes later the 2012 All-Ireland champions had a second goal, created and executed with eloquent brilliance by Darach ‘Jigger’ O’Connor.

He started the move from deep, collected Frank McGlynn’s return pass and steered a firmly struck shot just inside the butt of a post.

Now Donegal led by nine points, and Antrim’s dreams had been punctured.

Toye, MacNiallais who finished with four, and Colm McFadden piled on the agony with points as the lead grew to an extent beyond rescue.

The Saffrons did pull back points through Conor Murray, Tomas McCann and Paddy Cunningham, but more often than not, they were stopped in their tracks by Donegal’s famous swarm defensive formation.

And Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy came off the bench to lay down a marker with 1-1, firing a bullet to the net in stoppage time to complete the rout.

Donegal: P Durcan, E McGee, N McGee, P McGrath, F McGlynn, R McHugh, A Thompson, N Gallagher, O MacNialais (0-04), D O’Connor (1-02), L McLoone (1-02), C Toye (0-02), P McBrearty, M Murphy (0-03, 1f, 1 ’45), C McFadden (0-02, 1f).

Subs: M McElhinney for Gallagher, David Walsh for McBrearty, D Molloy (1-01)for O’Connor, L Keaney for Toye, Declan Walsh for N McGee, M O’Reilly for McLoone.

Antrim: P Flood, K O’Boyle, S McVeigh, N Delargey, P McBride, M Johnston, J Crozier, J Laverty, M McCann, N McKeever, C Murray (0-01), M Sweeney (0-02), P McCann (0-01), B Neeson (0-03, 3f), K Niblock (0-01), T McCann (0-03, 2f).

Subs: R Murray for P McCann, T Scullion for McBride, P Cunningham (0-01, f) for Neeson

Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).

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