Friday 22 February 2019

donegal ready for croker run

Ulster champions send out All-Ireland warning

Donegal sent out a message that they are firmly back in the All-Ireland mix after a powerful display saw them wrest their Ulster SFC title back from Monaghan's grasp with a 0-15 to 1-9 win in Clones.

The 2012 All-Ireland winners were in control for much of this highly anticipated clash, and even when Chris McGuinness rattled in a 48th minute goal, Monaghan never looked likely to keep the Anglo-Celt Cup.

Donegal had that meanness in defence that set them apart two years ago, and made them virtually impossible to beat once they went ahead. A potential showdown with the free-flowing brilliance of Dublin would represent a truly fascinating showdown.

For now though, they will relish this victory, with the impact from the bench particularly pleasing as Paddy McBrearty kicked 0-3 after his introduction while Ryan McHugh also had a role to play. Rory Kavanagh was another who made a big impression after he replaced Christy Toye in the middle of the park. He expressed his delight in the immediate aftermath relishing the county's third Ulster Championship in four years.

"It was a phenomenal team effort," he said. "We knew that Monaghan wouldn't give up their crown easily and they pushed us all the way and we're just delighted to get over the line and we'll move forward now."

Much of the build-up focused on the work of the two managers, with Donegal's Jim McGuinness and Monaghan's Malachy O'Rourke viewed as two of the most tactically shrewd operators around. The battle of wits was fascinating, with little doubt though, McGuinness was the victor on this occasion. Kavanagh heaped praise on his boss for masterminding Donegal's first Championship win over the Farney men since 1983.

"Jim does his homework brilliantly and we know that from where he has taken us over the last few years," he explained. "It gives us confidence. We know going up there (to Croke Park for the All-Ireland quarter final) it's going to take another massive effort but it's one we're really looking forward to."

For their part, Monaghan will be most disappointed. They couldn't cope with the defensive system put in place by their opponents, with star attackers Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus superbly marshalled.

At the other end, their own defence was not tight enough to contain the pace of Odhrán Mac Niallais and McBrearty when he entered the fray.

It all means a return to the All-Ireland quarter-final stage for Donegal, and nobody will want to play them.

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