Donegal set up Tyrone semi-final date after 'big hurt' of last summer
Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Fermanagh 0-9 Donegal 0-15
THERE was “big hurt” in Donegal after last year’s devastating Championship exit to Tyrone – and they will have the chance to put that right on June 8 when this Ulster rivalry is renewed at Kingspan Breffni Park.
The Tir Chonaill men went into that final Super 8 clash - a de facto All-Ireland quarter-final - as slight favourites, and the Red Hands looked out of ideas when they trailed by four early in the second half.
However, Mickey Harte made the changes that mattered and goals from subs Harry Loughran and Declan McClure, as well as a superb cameo off the bench from Lee Brennan, helped them come from behind to snatch victory.
Tir Chonaill boss Declan Bonner was in Armagh on Saturday night to watch Tyrone’s one-sided quarter-final win over Antrim, before his Donegal side set up a mouth-watering semi-final showdown by edging out Fermanagh yesterday.
And he admitted the wounds inflicted in Ballybofey last August had taken time to heal.
“There is no doubt that was a big hurt,” said Bonner.
“We felt we played very well for 50/55 minutes and we were four points up but we did not finish the game out and Tyrone deservingly kicked 2-2 in the last 10 minutes and that was disappointing to lose.
“But will that have a bearing on Saturday week? I’m not too sure. We’re going to go to Breffni and try and improve on the performance and hopefully get a result.
“It will be an interesting game in terms of styles and it will be a real tactical affair but I think it will be an attacking match, there is no doubt about that.”
First though they had to navigate a potential banana skin at Brewster Park in a re-run of last year’s Ulster final.
Donegal were convincing winners on that occasion but it was a much tighter affair yesterday as the Ernemen frustrated his side early on and nipped at their heals right until the very end.
“We always knew it was going to be difficult coming into Brewster,” he added.
“It is never easy but you know the way that they are going to set up. We had to be patient to break that blanket and I think we were.
“We had a really controlled performance in the second half and some of the point taking in the last quarter was top class.”
Given the mass of green bodies before them, Donegal had to find their range from distance, and they really kicked into the gear with the wind at their backs after the break.
Back leading the line was Patrick McBrearty, who landed two sensational scores from play in the second half.
It was the Kilcar sharp-shooter’s first appearance for Donegal since suffering cruciate ligament damage against Fermanagh in the 2018 provincial showpiece, and Bonner was impressed by what he saw from McBrearty upon his return.
“He has been out of football a long, long time.
“It is one thing training and playing club matches but this was the white heat of Ulster Championship and that game will bring Paddy on a lot. I thought in that second half he was outstanding and kicked a couple of great scores and it was great to have him back on the field.
“Forwards win games, that's the bottom line.”