Shannon Blues 0-8 Donegal 0-9
It was a stop start affair between Donegal and Shannon Blues, a game that Donegal shaded by the slenderest of margins. There has been plenty of needle between these clubs in recent years, not least earlier in the year when there were three sendings off, followed by some off field controversy; this was a game both sides wanted badly. In the end the football was not great, however it was as exciting as they come with never more than a goal between the teams. Shannon Blues made life difficult for themselves having to play most of the game down a man, but had the scores level at the end of normal time. As each side looked for the winning score it was an Emlyn Mulligan free with the last kick of the game proved to be the game winner.
|David Clifford tries to block this Jason Whelan attempt.|
In spite of the sending off of David Clifford for a second yellow card the Blues held a two point advantage at the break. After Donegal pointed twice through Mulligan frees the Blues edged ahead. Meath native Eamonn Wallace drew the Blues level with two points, before Sean O’Connor pointed a free and Wallace again scored. It was scrappy enough period, with frequent stoppages and Pat Casey had to intervene on several occasions to issue warnings, and cards as the situation warranted. Donegal will rue a couple of missed opportunities to eat into the Blues lead before the break, much to the Blues supporters delight the efforts went adrift of the posts.
There was a plethora of changes in the second half. Donegal introduced Mal McDermott to the fray and shortly after pointing, he had to leave the field after being issued a black card. Donegal had turned the deficit to a two point lead. Four points on the trot from Mulligan, Jason Noctor, and McDermott edged the northerners ahead. Mickey Boyle deserved credit for Donegal edging ahead as he had made a great save from Dara Roche to deny the Blues a goal.
|Sean O'Connor on the move for the Blues.|
Soon afterwards Dara O’Brian for the Blues did likewise, saving a goal bound Jason Whelan shot to keep the Blues in touch. Donegal opened the lead to four points, Nicky Kelly and Whelan with the points, to one O’Connor free for the Blues. It looked like Donegal had established a firm grip as the Blues had little going for them up front, but a lifeline was thrown as Tony McCleneghan was sent off for a second yellow offence. The Blues capitalized. O’Connor pointed twice and Roche leveled the scores as full time struck. Would there be a winner or extra time?
With the game on the line and in injury time each ball would be critical and the teams scrapped for each and every possession. Donegal mounted a final attack and having beaten back the initial wave, the Blues conceded a free on their 21 after Shane Kelly was adjudged to have caught Nicky Kelly while challenging for the ball; both players had come on in the second half. Free taker Mulligan kept his cool to put the kick over the bar and send Donegal into the final much to the evident satisfaction of Donegal players and supporters alike.
Blues: D. O’Brien, T. Wallace, C. Jordan, T. Grey, D. McElligott, P. O’Shea, G. Horan, D. Treacy, D. Clifford, S. O’Connor, E. Wallace, D. Roche, K. Hurley. Donegal: M. Boyle, J. Noctor, C. Burke, R. McCleneghan, M. Smyth, D. Green, R. Kavanagh, B. Donnelly, P. McAleer, E. Mulligan, G. Gallagher, J. Whelan, L. Connor.
By Rory O'Donnell