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IT WAS BILLED as one of the most intriguing tactical battles in recent GAA history — and it didn’t disappoint.

Reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin and Ulster champions Donegal met to decide who will play Kerry in this year’s final in three weeks’ time.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the action. Email niall@thescore.ie, tweet@TheScoreGAA, post a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Good afternoon and welcome to Croke Park. In 15 minutes, one of the most hotly anticipated All-Ireland semi-finals since… emm, last night… will throw in.

It’s Dublin v Donegal and believe me, it’s going to be tactical.

The teams are out on the pitch below me warming up. We’ll have the team news shortly.

Here’s the Dublin team as named on Friday night:

DUBLIN

1. Stephen Cluxton (Parnells)

2. Michael Fitzsimons (Cuala)
3. Rory O’Carroll (Kilmacud Crokes)
4. Philly McMahon (Ballymun Kickhams)

5. James McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams)
6. Jonny Cooper (Na Fianna)
7. Nicky Devereux (Ballinteer St John’s)

8. Michael Darragh Macauley (Ballyboden St Enda’s)
9. Cian O’Sullivan (Kilmacud Crokes)

10. Paul Flynn (Fingallians)
11. Kevin McManamon (St Jude’s)
12. Diarmuid Connolly (St Vincent’s)

13. Alan Brogan (Oliver Plunkett’s / Eoghan Rua)
14. Eoghan O’Gara (Templeogue Synge Street)
15. Bernard Brogan (Oliver Plunkett’s / Eoghan Rua)

And here’s the Donegal team. Two late changes — David Walsh and Rory Kavanagh both start in place of Christy Toye and Paddy McBrearty.

DONEGAL

1. Paul Durcan (Na Ceithre Maistir)

2. Eamonn McGee (Gaoth Dobhair)
3. Neil McGee (Gaoth Dobhair)
4. Paddy McGrath (Ard an Ratha)

5. Anthony Thompson (Naomh Conaill)
6. Karl Lacey (Na Ceithre Maistir)
7. Frank McGlynn (Gleann Fhinne)

8. Neil Gallagher (Gleann Suili)
9. Odhran Mac Niallais (Gaoth Dobhair)

18. David Walsh (Naomh Brid)
11. Leo McLoone (Naomh Conaill)
12. Ryan McHugh (Cill Chartha)

26. Rory Kavanagh (Naomh Adhamhnain)
14. Michael Murphy (Gleann Suili, capt)
15. Colm McFadden (Naomh Micheal)

And so the stage is set. We’ve a sell-out crowd here in HQ and practically everyone has taken their place ahead of the pre-match parade.

Dublin have seemed virtually invincible at times this year but as we well know, Donegal provide a truly unique test.

Both Jack McCaffrey and Cormac Costello are in the Dublin parade. We’ll have confirmation of those changes ASAP.

THROW IN: We’re up and running with the Dubs attacking the Hill.

Those two changes were McCaffrey for Devereux and Costello for McManamon.

Donegal 0-1 Dublin 0-1: 2 mins – Michael Murphy points an early free to give Donegal the lead but Paul Flynn strikes back immediately for the Dubs.

Dublin 0-2 Donegal 0-1: 3 mins – Bernard Brogan snatches a dropping ball in front of Durcan’s goal and points.

Dublin 0-3 Donegal 0-1: 4 mins – Dublin aren’t wasting any time here. Connolly gets their third point inside the opening four minutes. This is certainly a lot more open than that infamous 2011 semi.

Dublin 0-4 Donegal 0-1: 5 mins – Brilliant patience from Dublin who work the ball through McCaffrey and Bernard Brogan before Flynn points.

We’ve had our first flashpoint of the afternoon as Joe McQuillan spots a scuffle between Rory O’Carroll and Neil Gallagher. Gallagher goes into the book.

9 mins – Stephen Cluxton trots up for his first 45 attempt of the day and it’s right and wide.

Cracking start to this game and it’s Dublin who will definitely be the happier. They’re easily on top.

12 mins – Superb chance for a Dublin goal. They break in numbers from the back and James McCarthy picks out Eoghan O’Gara with a superb kick pass. He squares for Bernard Brogan but Donegal scramble it clear before the Dublin man can palm it home.

Dublin 0-4 Donegal 0-2: 13 mins – Donegal come back down the other end and Lacey points to bring them back within two.

Dublin 0-5 Donegal 0-2: 16 mins – Beautifully taken score by Paul Flynn who has acres of space out by the Cusack Stand. He’s done his Footballer of the Year credentials no harm in these first 15 minutes.

Dublin 0-6 Donegal 0-2: 17 mins – Diarmuid Connolly follows Flynn with a beaut of his own. There have been some very nice points in Dublin’s collection of six so far.

Dublin 0-7 Donegal 0-2: 19 mins – Space opens up in front of Philly McMahon and he plays a one-two with Alan Brogan before slotting a point. It looks to be all too easy for the Dubs at the moment.

Dublin 0-7 Donegal 0-3: 21 mins – From a very tight angle, Michael Murphy points a free out of his hands. Donegal had been scoreless for almost eight minutes before that.

Dublin 0-8 Donegal 0-4: 23 mins – Rory Kavanagh kicks a wide and Dublin come straight down the other end where Alan Brogan kicks a fine solo score. It could have been a three-point game but instead it’s five.

Kavanagh kicks a point to make amends a moment later.

CHANCE! Fine save from Paul Durcan to keep the Dubs at bay. Diarmuid Connolly jinked inside his man but his low shot comes back off the Donegal keeper’s legs.

The Dubs are out for blood early, that’s for sure.

Dublin 0-9 Donegal 0-4: 25 mins – Majestic by Connolly who dummies again and then ghosts through two Donegal defenders before kicking his third of the afternoon.

DONEGAL SUB: Toye is on in place of David Walsh.

Dublin 0-9 Donegal 0-6: 28 mins – Here come Donegal! Toye makes an instant impact by setting up McHugh to point, and then Mac Niallais booms another over. Three in it.

Dublin 0-9 Donegal 0-7: 30 mins — Well well well. Dublin looked to be in total control but Donegal have bitten back. Michael Murphy kicks a captain’s point and the Donegal fans here in Croke Park are buzzing.

GOAL FOR DONEGAL! Donegal 1-7 Dublin 0-9 (McHugh, 33′) Croke Park erupts! Donegal have taken the lead for the first time since the second minute.

A long ball drops in on top of Michael Murphy, Stephen Cluxton and Rory O’Carroll. It breaks to McFadden and he squares to Ryan McHugh who scores.

We’ll see what the champions are made of now.

Donegal 1-8 Dublin 0-10: 35+1 mins – Colm McFadden points a free to put Donegal two up but Dublin respond immediately and it’s that man Paul Flynn again. He has been majestic in this first half.

HALF TIME: Donegal 1-8 Dublin 0-10

Deep breaths, folks. We’ve still got another 35 minutes to this to come… at least!

Back in five. I need to compose myself.

I’m not sure what’s on RTE at the moment but here in Croker, Marty Morrissey has just been drenched by the iciest buckets of ice water I’ve seen in a long time. Fair play!

SECOND HALF: Here we go again – don’t go anywhere!

DUBLIN SUB: Nicky Devereux on for Jack McCaffrey.

GOAL FOR DONEGAL! Donegal 2-8 Dublin 0-10 (McHugh, 38′)  It’s Ryan McHugh again! Superb run by Anthony Thompson who shrugs off Cian O’Sullivan and squares for McHugh to palm past Cluxton.

Donegal 2-9 Dublin 0-11: 41 mins – End-to-end stuff here. Donegal have a glimmer of a third goal but Colm McFadden points instead.

I’m not sure when the last time Dublin found themselves five points behind in a Championship match is but before I have time to work it out, Alan and Bernard Brogan cut that margin to three.

Donegal 2-10 Dublin 0-12: 44 mins — Frank McGlynn bursts forward from wing-back and points for Donegal. We’re in for a rip-roaring final 25 minutes.

SUBS: McManamon on for Costello for Dublin; McBrearty on for McLoone for Donegal.

GOAL FOR DONEGAL! Donegal 3-10 Dublin 0-12 (McFadden, 46′) Incredible scenes here in Croke Park, absolutely incredible. Donegal lead by seven – SEVEN!

This one is made by Odhran Mac Niallais who breaks forward from midfield and finished by the cool head of Colm McFadden.

Dublin have been here before but they have an absolute mountain to climb!

Donegal 3-11 Dublin 0-13: 49 mins – Connolly points for Dublin. Seven points in it, 21 minutes to play.

Dublin have plenty of possession but they’re panicking a little bit. Jonny Cooper, I think, snatches at a shot.

Donegal 3-11 Dublin 0-14: 51 mins – Brogan points a free.

Donegal are 2/9 to win this match, if you’re wondering. Dublin 9/2.

Donegal 3-12 Dublin 0-15: 55 mins – Great chance for Ryan McHugh to seal his hattrick but he blazes over Cluxton’s bar. Paddy Andrews, who is just on for Alan Brogan, points at the other end.

Donegal 3-12 Dublin 0-16: 57 mins – Free in for Dublin and Connolly points. Five in it now but Donegal are still very much the favourites here.

BLACK CARD! Neil McGee is shown black by Joe McQuillan – Declan Walsh is on to replace him.

Donegal 3-13 Dublin 0-16: 60 mins – Superb score by McBrearty. Really composed and that should help to settle any Donegal nerves.

Donegal sub: Rory Kavanagh comes off to a serious ovation and is replaced by Martin McElhinney.

Less than 10 left now.

Kevin McManamon kicks a pretty wasteful wide and barring a miracle for Dublin, it looks like the champions are down and out.

Donegal 3-14 Dublin 0-16: 64 mins – Another beauty from Paddy McBrearty and he turns to salute the Hogan Stand.

Bernard Brogan has a chance to cancel it out but it’s wide.

66 mins – From straight in front of the posts, Macauley kicks a shocking wide. That’s two in two minutes for Dublin and uncharacteristic as it is, they’re definitely panicking.

67 mins – Another Dublin wide, this time from Diarmuid Connolly. Not even a miracle will save their summer now.

Donegal 3-14 Dublin 0-17: 68 mins – Paddy Andrews points but it’s goals that Dublin need now. All the noise in Croker is coming from those in green and gold.

OOF! Donegal hearts are very briefly in mouths as Kevin McManamon — a man who loves a goal — flashes one just wide of Durcan’s post.

We’re into two minutes of additional time. This place is about to go bonkers.

FULL TIME: Donegal 3-14 Dublin 0-17

Oh my days, who could have predicted this? Donegal are deserved six-point winners; All-Ireland champions Dublin are out.

I won’t be the first and I won’t be the last to take my cap off to Jim McGuinness. He got it spot on again today.

That’s it for me from now. We’ll have all the reaction this evening – and believe me, there’ll be plenty after this!

Thanks for reading.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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