Donegal hold off Monaghan to reach Nicky Rackard semi-finals
Nicky Rackard Cup quarter-final: Monaghan 3-14 Donegal 4-14
DONEGAL produced a strong third quarter to book their place in the last four in difficult conditions on Saturday at Inniskeen.
The victory was the visitors' fifth successive win over their hosts in as many years in this competition but they were made to sweat in the final minutes of this one before crossing the winning line against a spirited Monaghan fight back.
Having watched an 11 point lead cut back to just two, Donegal manager Ardal McDermott was happy to get over the line at the finish.
"Really we should have pushed on but credit to Monaghan they went for it to be fair to them, and we got the man sent off which give them belief," said McDermott.
"We came out and were full throttle in the third quarter, just like last week but we have to be more consistent and put teams away. It been a tough season, lot of boys missing but we are starting to understand now we are a good side, our ability and believing in ourselves."
The victory sets up a trip to Mayo in two weeks.
"It is a massive task against Mayo next, they will be strong favourites. We went down there at the start of the league and got beat by four points but this time we are going on the back of two victories and hopefully play to what we can play and see where it takes us," added McDermott.
For Monaghan manager Trevor Hilliard it was another disappointment having saw his side fight back for a second successive week only to fall short again.
"We give it everything, great character in this side to fight back. Missed chances in the first half, then took us a while to get going in the second and when we did we were left trying to fight back into the game. Disappointing just two minutes added time at the end, I felt it should have been more," he said.
A Ciaran Mathewson goal three minutes before the interval cancelled out Monaghan forward Mark Treanor's 16th minute marker, leaving Donegal on the right side of a 1-7 to 1-6 score line at the break.
On the resumption Donegal took control with a Ronan McDermott goal and points from Kevin Campbell, Sean McVeigh and Lee Henderson putting them eight clear. Campbell also found the net 11 minutes into the half and it looked like Donegal were coasting.
A second yellow card for Mark Callaghan saw the visitors reduced to 14 for the second successive week but despite Fergal Rafter edging Monaghan back into the contest with frees, a Henderson goal from a long range free had Donegal 11 points clear.
Rafter continued to punish Donegal's indiscipline to keep Monaghan within reach before goals from Tadhg Campbell and Stephen Lambe suddenly had Monaghan just two behind with five minutes to play. Mathewson and the impressive Niall Cleary both raised flags to make sure Donegal held out at the finish and set up a clash with Mayo.
Donegal: P Burns; P Doherty, J McGhee, M Callaghan; J O'Loughlin, J Donnelly, C McDermott; P Sheridan, D Cullen; L Henderson (1-6, 1-4f), N Cleary (0-3), C Mathewson (1-1); R McDermott (1-0), K Campbell (1-3), S McVeigh (0-1) Subs: S Doherty for Sheridan (47) Blood Sub: R Curran for Cullen (70). Yellow card: M Callaghan (44)(55); J Donnelly (54), C Mathewson (59) Red card: M Callaghan (55)
Monaghan: D McGahon; S McNally, P Finnegan, J Guinan; M Murphy, P Treanor (0-1), C McKenna; S Forde, A Kenny; C Boyle, F Rafter (0-11, 10f), N Garland (0-2, 1f); B McGuigan, M Treanor (1-0), S Lambe (1-0) Subs: T Campbell (1-0) for Guinan (44); B Connor for McNally (47) Yellow card: P Treanor (26)
Referee: Mick Murtagh (Westmeath).