Fermanagh 0-09 Donegal 0-15
Patrick McBrearty hit five points on his return to inter-county football as Donegal were forced to be patient in their Ulster SFC quarter-final win over Fermanagh at Brewster Park.
Rory Gallagher’s side were happy to flood men back behind the ball to stifle the visitors and trailed by just a point at the break.
Declan Bonner’s side however were much improved after the resumption. McBrearty, appearing for the first time for his county since last year’s Ulster final against the same opposition, overcame a couple of early wides to find his mark, while the highly effective Jamie Brennan racked up four points as Donegal stamped their authority as the game entered the closing stages.
Plucky Fermanagh were always within a sniff on the scoreboard and Ciarán Corrigan’s 52nd minute score put the bare minimum between the sides six of the remaining seven scores to advance to a semi-final date with Tyrone.
In the end, Donegal won fairly comfortably, but a dogged Fermanagh gave them some anxious moments in this well contested affair.
Key figures like Brennan, who was man of the match, Michael Murphy and McBrearty walked tall when it really mattered.
Brennan hit two fine points just after half-time when his side went in leading by 0-05 to 0-04 to give Donegal a valuable cushion against a Fermanagh side who never gave up the fight,but showed some naivete at crucial stages which cost them dearly.
And they simply did not have the finishing power of Brennan, Murphy, McBrearty, Ciaran Thompson and Michael Langan.
To compound their woes, they lost marksman Sean Quigley who had come into the match nursing a hamstring injury-Quigley went off in the 45th minute.
He was badly missed as stand in free-taker Conall Jones missed a close in free which could have brought the Ernesiders to within a point of Donegal at 0-10 to 0-8 in the 54th minute
A more crucial turning point from Fermnagh’s viewpoint came a few minutes earlier, after Ultan Kelm kicked a fine long- range point that was added to by Ciaran Corrigan to leave the winners leading by 0-9 to 0-8.
But a high lob from Murphy was not dealt with, and Paddy McBrearty pounced on the bounce to fist over a crucial point.
And Jonny Cassidy, whose mother is from Kilcar, was through on the Donegal goal but went down too easily and referee Joe McQuillan eventually awarded a free out.
The Donegal defence held firm and resolutely kept their composure- as Declan Bonner threw on veteran Frank McGlynn in the final quarter as space opened up and Tir Conaill could breathe more freely.
Further points from Murphy, Thompson and Langan edged Donegal home in a match where they looked jittery in the opening 20 minutes, but their all-round scoring power proved crucial.
Fermanagh battled bravely to the end but just did not have the necessary quality finishers even though they held this multi- talented Donegal side for long periods.
But there is much more in this Donegal side and they will certainly need it against Tyrone on Saturday week
They hit 12 wides which leaves much to work on over the next two weeks.
Scorers - Donegal: P McBrearty 0-05 (2fs), J Brennan 0-04, M Murphy 0-02, M Langan, J McGee, L McLoone, C Thompson all 0-1 each.
Fermanagh: U Kelm, C Jones (2fs), C Corrigan all 0-2 each, R Jones, S Quigley, B Mulrone all 0-01 each.
Donegal: S Patton; P McGrath, N McGee, S McMenamin, EB Gallagher, D O'Baoill, R McHugh; H McFadden, J McGee; C Thompson, M Langan, L McLoone; P McBrearty, M Murphy, J Brennan. Subs: F McGlynn for O Baoill (49), N O'Donnell for McLoone (55), E McHugh for McGrath (61), E Doherty for R McHugh inj (71), P Brennan for Thompson (73).
Fermanagh: J McGrath; J Cassidy, C Cullen, L Cullen; U Kelm, J McMahon, K Connor; E Donnelly, R Jones; D McCusker, A Breen, C Corrigan; D Teague, C Jones, S Quigley. Subs: B Mulrone for Teague (h-t), P McCusker for Quigley (44), T Clarke for Connor (61), R Lyons for Breen (64), D Teague for D McCusker (68).
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)