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Fermanagh are marching on despite defeat in Donegal

Donegal 0-12 Fermanagh 2-05

By Chris McNulty

A dominant first-half performance saw Donegal inflict a first defeat of the year on Fermanagh - but the Erne men still advance to the semi-finals of the McKenna Cup.

Second-half goals from Marty O'Brien and Sean Quigley almost wiped out Donegal's lead, which stood at seven points at the interval when the Tir Chonaill men were 0-10 to 0-3 in front.

Donegal gave first starts of the year to Paul Durcan, Eamon McGee and Neil Gallagher, while Michael Murphy appeared off the bench in the second half.

The inclusion of the heavy artillery proved the difference as Gallagher and Christy Toye lorded the midfield battle.

After a tit-for-tat opening, Donegal powered seven clear with Martin O'Reilly's three frees supplemented by a brace each by Eoin McHugh and Daniel McLaughlin as well as a huge effort by the influential Gallagher.

The All-Star midfielder put Eoin McHugh in for a goal chance after just 90 seconds, but he was denied by Thomas Treacy.

The Fermanagh goalkeeper made subsequent stops to keep out efforts from McLaughlin, Eoin McHugh and Paddy McGrath to keep Fermanagh alive.

Seven minutes into the second half, O'Brien finished off a superb Fermanagh move when he drilled home after being teed up by James McMahon.

When Quigley slammed to the net 14 minutes from the end, the comeback looked on, but Donegal could even afford to go the final 20 minutes without a score to eke out the win.

Donegal boss Rory Gallagher said: "We're delighted to win, but we're very disappointed with the second-half display.

"We put ourselves into a very strong position by half time. We should have been further ahead. Fermanagh were always going to come back at us and we visibly tired."

Although beaten, Fermanagh are into the knock-out stages, to the delight of manager Pete McGrath.

"We have used 29-30 players over the three matches," he said.

"We have had an enormous benefit from the McKenna Cup. We now have a semi-final. That'll bring the team on further and everything is geared to our first game against Louth in the National League."

DONEGAL: M Boyle; P McGrath, E McGee, Declan Walsh; E McHugh (0-2), F McGlynn (0-1), C McGinley (0-1); M McElhinney, N Gallagher (0-1); M McHugh, C Toye, M O'Reilly (0-3f); D McLaughlin (0-2), H McFadden, R Malley (0-1).

Subs: D Molloy (0-1) for N.Gallagher (42), M Murphy for H.McFadden (47), G McFadden for McLaughlin (59), E Doherty for Toye (62), C Gallagher for McGlynn (65), C McCaughey for McElhinney (67)

FERMANAGH: T Treacy; C Quigley, J Allen, T Daly; D McCusker, J McMahon, M O'Brien; R O'Callaghan, C Jones; B Mulrone, D McQuade, S McManus; R Jones (0-1), S Quigley (1-2, 1f), D Kille (0-1f).

Subs: R Corrigan for Kille, E Donnelly for O'Callaghan, P McCusker for McManus (all h-t), M Jones for Daly (47), D Kelly (0-1) for C.Jones (50), E McManus for McQuade (52).

Referee: N McKenna (Monaghan).

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