Donegal won back-to-back Ulster titles for the first time with a resounding 2-18 to 0-13 victory over Down at Clones. 

Down had no answer to the power and pace of the reigning champions, who once again set themselves up as an almost impregnable defensive force and progressed their evolving attacking strategy still further.

Goals from Leo McLoone and Frank McGlynnn broke Mourne spirits in front of a crowd of 34,696 at St Tiernach’s Park.




Just a point separated the sides at the halfway stage, but Donegal, with Mark McHugh in sparkling form, tore their opponents apart in the second period.

With Dan Gordon assigned to a man-marking brief on Michael Murphy, Donegal struggled to employ the focal point of their attack.

But they held the lead for most of a low-scoring opening quarter, with Ryan Bradley and Paddy McBrearty both hitting the target.

But Down, who opened their account with a Liam Doyle free on 12 minutes, competed ferociously, moving the ball quickly with men in support.

In their attempts to bypass the massed Donegal defence, they opted to go for scores from distance, and sent a host of efforts wide.

Nevertheless, Down did go in front for the first time through Liam Doyle in the 24th minute, but a defence that had been tight and disciplined throughout the opening quarter was opened up twice by Donegal raids.

First Anthony Thompson blazed high and wide after being released by Rory Kavanagh, but in the 32nd minute they did hit the net.

Leo McLoone dashed into acres of space to collect Ryan Bradley’s quickly taken free and beat Brendan McVeigh with a low finish.

Down responded with points from Ambrose Rogers and Doyle to go back in front, but the reigning champions took a 1-05 to 0-07 lead into the break after Declan Walsh had pushed up to claim a couple of scores.

The loss through injury of Benny Coulter, who failed to appear for the second half, was a huge blow to Down, who soon found themselves three point adrift, after Donegal hit breakaway scores through Mark McHugh and Michael Murphy

Now with the wind in their backs, and midfield supremacy through Bradley and Kavanagh, Donegal began to move with purpose, turning over ball at the back and breaking at pace, with McHugh particularly effective.

Christy Toye and Martin McElhinney came off the bench to make a big impact as the men from the north-west stamped their authority on the contest.

Colm McFadden landed two trademark points, and Murphy provided the assist for Frank McGlynn to drill home Donegal’s second goal in the 51st minute.

Even Coulter’s reappearance could not spark a Mourne revival, with Paul Durcan saving superbly from Danny Hughes.

And as McElhinney became the 12th Donegal player to score, the game ended as a contest long before the final whistle.

Donegal scorers: L McLoone, F McGlynn 1-00 each, C McFadden 0-06 (3f), Declan Walsh, R Bradley, M McHugh, M McElhinney 0-02 each, David Walsh, D McLaughlin, P McBrearty, M Murphy 0-01 each.

Down scorers: L Doyle 0-04 (2f), D O’Hare 0-02 (1f), C Laverty, A Rogers, K McKernan, A Brannigan, C Maginn, D Hughes, E McCartan 0-01 each

Donegal: P Durcan, P McGrath, N McGee, F McGlynn, Declan Walsh, K Lacey, A Thompson, R Bradley, R Kavanagh, David Walsh, L McLoone, M McHugh, P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.

Subs: M McElhinney for David Walsh, C Toye for McLoone, D McLaughlin for Bradley

Down: B McVeigh, D McCartan, D Gordon, D O’Hagan, A Brannigan, B McArdle, A Carr, A Rogers, K King, D O’Hare, K McKernan, L Doyle, M Poland, B Coulter, C Laverty.

Subs: E McCartan for Coulter, C Maginn for Carr, D Hughes for O’Hare, Coulter for McKernan

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)