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Donegal blow Antrim away as six young guns impress on debuts

Donegal 3-19 Antrim 1-9

By Declan Bogue

The second of the two opening games of the Ulster Championship ended with 16 points separating these two, but the truth is that Donegal were in no way flattered by the huge margin.

As pointed out on these pages on Saturday, the days of the 'big shock' in Ulster are rapidly disappearing.

A team like Donegal just has too much quality and know too much about their opposition to be stung, especially by a team coming off the back of relegation back down to Division Four.

Donegal manager Rory Gallagher handed debuts to six players, affording himself the luxury of keeping Patrick McBrearty in reserve and when he came on, the Kilcar man was in the mood to do serious damage.

Antrim's build-up was further hampered by the fiasco surrounding the three Matthew Fitzpatrick suspensions and appeals.

The St John's man had to be stretchered off the pitch just prior to half-time with an ankle injury, and manager Frankie Fitzsimons was making no excuses on their behalf, but still.

Similar to fellow underdogs Fermanagh the night before, Antrim did have opportunities in the first half.

After a bright opening quarter with Tomás McCann prevalent, they had a huge chance on 20 minutes when Paddy McBride's high ball in found CJ McGourty lurking on the edge of the square but his drilled effort flashed across the face of the goal with Antrim just a point down.

Ten minutes later, and an almost carbon copy of a chance, this time Conor Hamill with the delivery and Fitzpatrick on the end of it. Once again, Mark Anthony McGinley's goal led a charmed existence as it went wide at the River Finn end.

In the very next play, Donegal showed what it is to be a ruthless outfit. Michael Murphy, who got through a typically incredible amount of work, combined with Michael Carroll to put debutant Jamie Brennan through. He made the angle kinder for himself before drilling past Chris Kerr in the Antrim goal.

Brennan later followed up with a point from play to leave Donegal in the driving seat at half-time, 1-8 to 0-6 in front.

That was as good as it got for Antrim. From the 16th minute to the fifth minute of injury time at the end, they did not score from play.

Donegal added 1-6 without any sort of a reply to kill the game as the pace slowed to a crawl. With the game up, Antrim effectively downed tools. The gentle nature of the weekend's game was illustrated by the fact that 133 minutes of Ulster Championship football was played between Saturday night and Sunday before the first yellow card of the season was produced.

Donegal's second goal came from unsung hero Paddy McGrath who got involved early in a flowing movement through Jason McGee and substitute Martin McElhinney before finishing from close range.

McBrearty was hungry to get something out of the evening and after Antrim had notched a point from a free, from the next kickout he finished a move that ran the full length of the pitch by thumping to the net.

There will be harder days ahead for Donegal, who are likely to face Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final, while Antrim head for the qualifiers.

Another mis-match for the Ulster Championship as the game petered out in the second half. For the sake of the competition, we have to hope that Derry launch a credible defence of their pride against Tyrone next Sunday.

DONEGAL: McGinley; McGrath 1-0, McGee, EB Gallagher; Reilly, McGlynn 0-1, Ward; J McGee, Thompson 0-4, 3f; Carroll, McFadden 0-1, McHugh; Mulligan, Murphy 0-6 5f, Brennan 1-1

Subs: McHugh for Mulligan (45), Lacey 0-1, for Carroll (50), McBrearty 1-2, 2f, for Brennan (52), McElhinney for Thompson (57), McHugh 0-1, for Ward (60), Langan 0-2, for McGlynn (64)

Yellow cards: Murphy (66), McGee (67), E McHugh (74)

Black cards: 0

Red cards: 0

ANTRIM: Kerr; Hamill, Gallagher, Healy; McBride, D Lynch, McAleer; McVeigh, S Beatty 0-1; McCann, Fitzpatrick, Sweeney; McGourty 0-6f, Bradley, McCann 0-2

Subs: O'Boyle for Fitzpatrick (35), Dowling for McCann (41), Small 1-0, for Bradley (52), Nugent for McVeigh (57), Delargy for O'Boyle (67)

Yellow cards: McAleer (58)

Black cards: 0

Red cards: 0

Referee: Patrick Neilan (Roscommon)

Attendance: 10,083

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