HomeFootballRuthless Donegal have too much quality for Louth in free-scoring All-Ireland quarter-final

Ruthless Donegal have too much quality for Louth in free-scoring All-Ireland quarter-final


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Whereas Jim McGuinness’ men are incredibly efficient, the Reds were careless at times. Manager Ger Brennan had spoken about increasing the number of shots his side had been taking during the course of recent championship matches, mainly due to the need to lodge a figure conducive to taking down a free-scoring Donegal.

In four consecutive outings, Louth had landed 10 points or less and despite registering 30 goals across the campaign, the likelihood of striking a volume of majors to account for a shortfall in minors was implausible in opposition to a team as defensively disciplined as Donegal.

Furthermore, the reliance on Sam Mulroy’s free-taking excellence had to be alleviated and the scoring burden rested on a widespread of shoulders.

On a week night prior to the game, the Louth players and management were in Darver for over four hours, plotting a way to stun the north-west natives. But it all hinged on increasing their output and they did – fairly considerably. Their 18-point return was the joint-second highest of the weekend’s four quarter-finals but the problem was, Donegal’s 1-23 was out on its own.

In solving certain issues, two or three more reared their head on the county’s biggest day since September 1957. By extending their defensive line when out of possession, meeting Donegal aggressively as they sought to make headway into Wee territory, the Tír Chonaill used width and inward runners to perforate gaps and generate overlaps into the sweeperless space left in behind. While Louth scored more freely than supporters have become accustomed to, so did Donegal.

Even after recovering from a ropey start, where Niall McDonnell had to intervene to deny Peadar Mogan’s shot for goal and a number of last ditch tackles ended dangerous plays, when Louth found stability and Tommy Durnin began ruling the roost at midfield, Donegal were able to preserve a gap – of varying margins – before widening it on the eve of the interval.

This illustrated their superiority to a point where they every time the Reds made meaningful progress, McGuinness’ charges simply upped the intensity for a few moments and took the momentum out of Louth’s surge.

No period summed this up more than the one immediately before half-time, where Donegal led by 0-11 to eight. Mulroy and Ryan Burns both lost possession one pass away from a certain score, while Conor Grimes noted a costly wide. On each occasion, the winners broke away to deadly effect. Outstanding Mogan, Ryan McHugh, Ciarán Moore and Oisín Gallen were ruthless on the counter-attack.

“We just told the lads to be brave and have a go,” said Brennan after the game.

“I’d rather go out fighting and swinging than sitting back too much and allowing the opposition to come on to us.”


To their credit, his players adhered to the supremo’s instructions but the contrast in economy couldn’t have been more stark. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to suggest that had Louth taken their opportunities in a fashion similar to how they did during the Leinster final defeat by Dublin, they would have been within touching distance of Donegal at the final whistle.

“The scoreboard doesn’t lie, so it was fair based on the game. We weren’t able to get up that level of accuracy.”

Louth’s goal well dried up when they needed to dip into it most and even when they did threaten a three-pointer, Caolan McGonagle heroically dived at full stretch to deny Ciarán Keenan’s powerful attempt.

The underdogs never relented in their efforts and three points in a row reduced the deficit to 0-18 to 0-14 with 12 minutes left. Alas, Donegal broke away and found the major which Louth simply had to get, thus draining the competitive fluid from the contest. Paddy McBrearty cannoned the post from an acute angle but the ball trickled across the face of the Davin Stand uprights where Eoghan Bán Gallagher was ideally placed to turn it in.

A gallant effort but this was a game the Reds were never likely to win, unfortunately.

LOUTH: Niall McDonnell; Dan Corcoran, Dermot Campbell, Donal McKenny; Bevan Duffy, Anthony Williams, Craig Lennon 0-1; Tommy Durnin 0-4, Conor Grimes; Leonard Grey, Ciarán Murphy, Conall McKeever; Ciarán Keenan, Sam Mulroy 0-6 (4f), Ryan Burns 0-2. Subs: Conor Early 0-1 for McKeever (17, blood), Paul Mathews for Grey (43), Tom Jackson 0-1 for Murphy (43), Liam Jackson 0-1 for Burns (43), Ciarán Byrne 0-2 for Williams (68), Tadhg McDonnell for Corcoran (70).

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, Dáire Ó Baoil; Paddy McBrearty 0-1 (1m), Oisín Gallen 0-4 (1f), Niall O’Donnell. Subs: Aaron Doherty 0-1 for N O’Donnell (HT), Caolan McColgan for Ó Baoil (46), Jeaic Mac Ceallbhuí for C O’Donnell (49), Jamie Brennan 0-1 for McBrearty (59), Hugh McFadden for S O’Donnell (66).

REFEREE: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).

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