Fermanagh 0-11 Donegal 2-12
Odhran Mac Niallais hit two goals as fourteen-man Donegal qualified for the Ulster SFC semi-finals with a 2-12 to 0-11 win over Fermanagh at Balloybofey.
Mac Niallais fired in a 13th-minute effort to help his side build up a 1-5 to 0-3 lead, but they had fullback Neil McGee sent off as he conceded a penalty which Mark Anthony McGinley saved from Sean Quigley.
Donegal led by 1-6 to 0-7 at the break, and never looked back after Mac Niallias punched home his second goal. Tomas Corrigan top-scored for Fermanagh with seven frees.
In front of a crowd of 15,918, Donegal dominated possession in the opening ten minutes, with Ryan McHugh and Frank McGlynn pressing high up the pitch.
McGlynn slotted over a point after Michael Murphy had set up the opener for Paddy McBrearty.
But the Erne men were level by the tenth minute, Barry Mulrone charging through to take Eoin Donnelly’s pass for a fine score.
McGlynn was able to find the time and the space to make repeated incursions through the heart of the Fermanagh defence, and in the 13th minute, he struck gold, freeing up Mac Niallais to smash the ball to the roof of the net.
Fermanagh, even with extra bodies flooding back, were unable to counter their opponents’ short-passing game, which helped them open up a five-point lead by the end of the opening quarter.
And they could have had a second goal when Mac Niallais threaded a pass to McBrearty, but Chris Snow responded with a fine save.
However, the game changed dramatically in the final 20 minutes of the half, with Donegal restricted to a single point by an inspired Fermanagh, with Eoin Donnelly, Aidan Breen and Ryan Jones driving them on from midfield.
Tomas Corrigan converted three frees and skipper Donnelly landed a gem, and in stoppage time, Donegal lost McGee to a straight red card.
The same incident saw referee Maurice Deegan award a penalty, but Quigley's kick was superbly saved by debutant McGinley.
Donegal led by 1-6 to 0-7 at the break, and they sliced through the Fermanagh defence for a second Mac Niallais goal ten minutes into the second hall, the Gweedore man punching home after Martin McElhinney, McGlynn and Marty O’Reilly had combined in an incisive move.
Despite the extra man, Fermanagh had lost all the momentum that had built up in the latter stages of the opening half, and point from O’Reilly and McBrearty had the home side ahead by seven at the beginning of the final quarter.
They went 20 minutes without a score, until Corrigan knocked over his sixth free. Ryan Jones was also on target, but the Erne men lacked the guile and penetration to break down an experienced Donegal rearguard.
It was now a question of containment for a composed Tir Chonaill side who themselves scored just twice in the final 20 minutes, Eoin McHugh curling over his second and Colm McFadden coming off the bench to nail a free.
Next up for Donegal it’s Monaghan in the semi-final, while Fermanagh head into the qualifiers.
Donegal: M McGinley, P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee, R McHugh, F McGlynn (0-01), A Thompson, R Kavanagh, H McFadden, E McHugh (0-02), M McElhinney (0-01), O MacNiallais (2-01), P McBrearty (0-03, 1f), M Murphy (0-01, f), M O’Reilly (0-02).
Subs: L McLoone for Kavanagh, C Toye for McLoone, Kavanagh for McGlynn, M McHugh for McElhinney, C McFadden (0-01, f)for McBrearty
Fermanagh: C Snow, M Jones, C Cullen, M O’Brien, D McCusker, J McMahon, B Mulrone (0-01), E Donnelly (0-01), A Breen, P McCusker, R Jones (0-01), R O’Callaghan, R Corrigan, S Quigley (0-01), T Corrigan (0-07, 7f).
Subs: D Kelly for Cullen (BC), N Cassidy for R Corrigan, R Lyons for Breen, C Jones for McMahon, D Teague for P McCusker, C Flaherty for O’Brien
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).