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Donegal hit their scoring straps to end Louth’s run and set up Galway semi-final


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All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Donegal 1-23 Louth 0-18

At the final whistle, those lyrics about building a wall around old Donegal bounced across Croke Park – but the soundtrack to this championship summer is edging ever closer towards Jimmy’s Winning Matches again.

The second coming of Jim McGuinness marches onwards – next stop is an All-Ireland semi-final against Galway. It will be Donegal’s first appearance in the last four since 2014, which was the final year of his maiden spell in the wheelhouse.

“Obviously we’re extremely happy to be in the semi-final. At the beginning of the year, if we were told that, we would have taken your arm off so we have to be very thankful for that,” said McGuinness after his side’s comfortable quarter-final win over Louth.

Donegal led from the opening minute. The Ulster champions had 11 different scorers, posted 1-21 from open play and registered only three wides. It was as convincing a victory as the scoreline indicates.

Peadar Mogan delivered a man-of-the-match display with 0-5, and Donegal’s efficiency in front of the posts aligned with their hard-running game had Louth on the back foot for the majority of the encounter.

The trio of Mogan, Ryan McHugh and Eoghan Bán Gallagher were particularly dangerous when carrying the ball from deep, with pace and purpose. Combined, they posted 1-7 of Donegal’s total.

Midfielder Michael Langan popped over three points and Louth simply couldn’t keep tabs on all of Donegal’s scoring options.

“Peadar is a phenomenal player, what he does every single night at training is what he is doing out on the pitch,” said McHugh about his dynamic wingman.

“Different men are going to get marked on different days, we have to have threats all over the pitch and to be fair in Donegal at the minute we have a lot of threats coming from all over the pitch. It’s massive.”

Donegal led 0-11 to 0-8 at the interval and Bán Gallagher’s 59th minute goal finished off the match as a contest, leaving the score 1-18 to 0-14.

“The scoreboard doesn’t lie,” stated Louth manager Ger Brennan afterwards. “Just credit Donegal and congratulate them, their accuracy in front of the goals is something we weren’t able to get up to today.

“We obviously had three games on the bounce and it’s a credit to the Louth players, they just put in a tremendous effort to try to get themselves right and get themselves up for today’s game. Unfortunately we weren’t as fluid as we have been in some of our other games.”

Louth got some joy in the first half when forcing Shaun Patton to go long with his kickouts, and Craig Lennon’s score came after Tommy Durnin’s superb fetch in the middle of the field from a Donegal restart.

But Donegal threatened on each occasion they moved the ball quickly through the hands and got their runners driving at the Louth defence.

McHugh opened the scoring inside the first minute, his neatly taken point an early indicator of the influence he would have on the encounter.

The Kilcar flyer set Conor O’Donnell up for Donegal’s third point of the afternoon as well and after 11 minutes Louth were taking on water as they trailed 0-5 to 0-1.

Sam Mulroy reduced the gap with a left-footed point. The Louth captain was involved in an accidental collision with his team-mate Conall McKeever, both players requiring treatment on the pitch. Mulroy sported a black head bandage for the remainder of the game while McKeever was forced off and did not return.

Louth’s best offensive period of the game came in the moments before the half-hour mark, but Donegal essentially built a match-winning buffer in the two five-minute periods either side of half-time, when they outscored Louth 0-5 to 0-1.

Mogan and Oisín Gallen scored the last two points of the first half while Langan, Conor O’Donnell and Aaron Doherty all pointed shortly after the resumption.

The inevitable goal arrived just before the hour, with Bán Gallagher reading the situation brilliantly to steal in and poke the ball home from close range after McBrearty’s palmed effort had hit the post and skidded across the face of the goal.

“You need that spread of scores coming from all over the place,” added McGuinness. “And thankfully we got that today, people were popping up all over the place, which is very important.

“I think defensively we conceded 0-18 and Louth looked very threatening and very dangerous at times. So there are certainly areas there that we’ll be able to go back and look at.

“But I suppose the most important thing in championship football is to get to progress – and once you progress you’ve got a chance to sort things out and make them better for the next day.

“So, we’re delighted to get over the line, delighted for the supporters, the people of Donegal, here and abroad, that tune in to watch the team all the time and give us massive support.”

The second coming of Jim McGuinness continues. It might yet go the distance to All-Ireland final day.

If it does, it’s statues they will be building around old Donegal, not walls.

DONEGAL: Shaun Patton; Eoghan Bán Gallagher (1-0), Brendan McCole, Peadar Mogan (0-5); Ryan McHugh (0-2), Caolan McGonagle, Ciarán Moore (0-2); Ciarán Thompson (0-2), Michael Langan (0-3); Shane O’Donnell, Conor O’Donnell (0-2), Daire Ó Baoill; Patrick McBrearty (0-1, m), Oisín Gallen (0-4, 1f), Niall O’Donnell.

Subs: Aaron Doherty (0-1) for N O’Donnell (h-t); Caolan McColgan for Ó Baoill (45 mins); Jeaic McKelvey for C O’Donnell (50); Jamie Brennan (0-1) for McBrearty (60); Hugh McFadden for S O’Donnell (66).

LOUTH: Niall McDonnell; Dan Corcoran, Dermot Campbell, Donal McKenny; Bevan Duffy, Anthony Williams, Craig Lennon (0-1); Conor Grimes, Tommy Durnin (0-4); Leonard Grey, Ciarán Murphy, Conall McKeever; Ciarán Keenan, Sam Mulroy (0-6, 4f), Ryan Burns (0-2).

Subs: Conor Early (0-1) for McKeever (18 mins); Paul Mathews for Grey, Liam Jackson (0-1) for Burns, Tom Jackson (0-1) for Murphy (all 43); Ciarán Byrne (0-2) for Williams (68); Tadhg McDonnell for Corcoran (71).

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).

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