Donegal advance as Derry suffer back to back McKenna Cup defeats

Bank of Ireland Dr. McKenna Cup, Section A

Derry 0-08, Donegal 1-10

Derry's Conor McCluskey tries to break past Donegal's Daire  Baoill in Celtic Park on Wednesday night.

Derry's Conor McCluskey tries to break past Donegal's Daire Baoill in Celtic Park on Wednesday night.

It was back to back defeats for Derry as Donegal advanced to a McKenna Cup semi-final date with Monaghgan thanks to a comfortable five point victory in Celtic Park on Wednesday night.

Declan Bonner's team were in charge throughout, displaying all the experience of a Division One side against a Derry team strangely lethargic in comparison to their season opener against Monaghan.

Derry were in touch for large portions of the game but Caolan Ward's excellent 56th minute goal ,, taking lovely return pass from Conor O'Donnell before smashing a superb finish past the exposed Odhran Lynch, had Donegal in cruise control.

Derry of course will welcome back a number of reinforcements before meeting Leitrim in the league opener in two weeks time. The likes of the McKaigue brothers, Brendan Rogers, Niall Holly, Niall Keenan and Shane McGuigan will greatly bolster Gallagher's hand over what will be a crucial fortnight before Leitrim visit Celtic Park on January 25th.

Gallagher made six changes to the side that started in Inniskeen against Monaghan as Odhran Lynch, Conor Doherty, Carlus McWilliams, Conor McAtamney, Niall Toner and Cathal Mulholland all came in.

For his part, Declan Bonner made four changes from the team that defeated Monaghan with keeper Michael Lynch, Conor Morrison, Michael Carroll and Ethan O'Donnell starting and it still looked a strong Tir Chonail line-up despite notable absentees like Michael Murphy.

Derry's chances of progressing were slim at best before the first whistle, requiring a considerable point swing in victory but Gallagher still resisted the temptation to call on his Slaughtneil or Coleraine contingent after their weekend All Ireland club exits.

The two sides replicated each other in formation, dropping players deep when out of possession and flooding the scoring zones with defenders. It was a tactic reflected in a tight, tense opening half that saw only six scores as Donegal turned around 0-4 to 0-2 ahead but also having hit four shots short.

Derry were defending well with McWilliams in at sweeper, but they lacked the expansive counter attacking game they displayed for much of the opening tie in Monaghan. Too much lateral passing when they did turn over possession, coupled with some clever Donegal fouling, slowed the Derry counter down which too often washed up against the visitors' '45'.

Peadar Mogan was one of the half's stand-out performers and it was his superb run on two minutes which forced Odhran Lynch into conceding a '45' with a more than decent save. The '45' did provide the excellent Michael Langan to opportunity to open the scoring but it was quickly cancelled out by a Ryan Bell point at the other end.

Twelve scoreless minutes followed before Mogan then got himself on the scoreboard but like two boxers feeling each other, Derry jabbed back through a superb Emmet Bradley free from fully 50m.

The half hit its version of a scoring burst with two Donegal points in three minutes as a lovely left footed effort from Mogan edged them back in front before a marauding run from corner-back Ward put two points between them for the first time in the match.

It was an advantage they would maintain until the break with neither side able to break out of a tactical battle that had defences well on top.

Derry started the second period in impressive fashion with Ryan Bell sending over a beauty of a score off his left foot from wide out along the touchline to cut the deficit back to the minimum.

Donegal responded with Langan stepping inside Emmet Bradley to split the posts 60 seconds later but any thoughts of a second half score fest soon dissipated as the game settled down into a similar pattern to the first.

Donegal were still dominating though and as the game wore on, chasing seemed to take its toll on Derry legs as Donegal showed their experience to stretch away. Daire O Baoill and Ethan O'Donnell put three and then four between the teams for the first time in the game and Donegal managed the game from there.

Further points from substitute Andrew McClean and Langan arrived before Ward's goal which effectively ended the game as a contest.

Derry rallied with points from Conor McCluskey and a Ryan Bell brace, the second of which was an outstanding effort, but Donegal were never in danger and rarely looked in danger of conceding the goal Derry needed to offer any hope.

So Donegal advance while Rory Gallagher can expect a few decent reinforcements before their Division Three. Back to back defeats against Division One opposition has offered plenty to ponder and plenty to work on.

Derry scorers: R Bell (0-5, 2f), E Bradley (0-1,1f), B McCaron (0-1, 1m), C McCluskey (0-1),

Donegal scorers: C Ward (1-0), M Langan (0-3, 1 forty-five), P Mogan (0-2, 1f), C Ward (0-1), D O Baoill (0-1), E O'Donnell (0-1), A McClean (0-1), C Diver (0-1)

Derry: Odhrán Lynch; Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan, Cathal Mulholland, Conor Doherty, Carlus McWilliams, Ryan Dougan; Emmett Bradley, Conor McAtamney, Ciaran McFaul; Danny Tallon, Niall Toner, Eoghan Duffy, Ben McCarron, Ryan Bell.

(Subs) Christopher Bradley for N Toner, 28mins; Declan Cassidy for C McAtamney, 47mins; Oran Armstrong for B McCarron, 52mins; Liam McGoldrick for R Dougan, 52mins; Oisin McWilliams for E Duffy 57mins; Peter Hagan for O McWilliams (inj), 60mins;

Yellow Cards: C McAtamney, 12mins; C Doherty, 30mins; C McFaul, 37mins

Donegal: Michael Lynch, Caolan Ward, Brenda Cole, Paul Brennan; Jeaic McKelvey, Conor O'Donnell, Conor Morrison; Caolan McGonagle, Michael Langan; Daire O Baoill, Eoin McHugh, Ethan O'Donnell; Peadar Morgan, Michael Carroll, Eoghan McGettigan.

(Subs) Ciaran Thompson for M Carroll, 46mins; Daniel Clarke for E McGettigan, 48mins; Andrew Mcclean for E O'Donnell, 52mins; Ciaran Diver for E McHugh, 57mins; Aaron Deaney for C Ward, 60mins

Referee: Sean Laverty (Antrim)