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As it happened: Donegal v Down, Ulster SFC Final

Jimmy McGuinness’s side put in a huge second half to retain their Ulster title and leave the Mourne men out on their feet. We had all the action and analysis right here.

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Result: Donegal 2-18 Down 0-13

We are in Clones for the Ulster final as Donegal look to add to their All Ireland credentials and make it two from two in the north under Jimmy McGuinness.

Their gameplan today will hardly be any different from what we’ve gotten so far this year, a more attacking version of their 2011 game. There’s far less lateral movement than a year ago, Frank McGlynn  in particular will carry a huge amount of ball, Colm McFadden will have more support and more room than a year ago while Mark McHugh and Patrick McBrearty will look to continue their development in the half-forward line.

As for Down, they’ve struggled to play against massed defence for a couple of seasons now. Cork have choked them again and again, Monaghan did it for 35 minutes but couldn’t maintain the intensity, so it’s hard to see a way around it. Certainly their half-forward line needs to get more involved when not in possession and Conor Laverty needs a whole lot of help and support runners. Ambrose Rogers is arguably the best midfielder in Ulster but those around him have struggled with mobilily. And while Kevin McKernan is having a great year, he needs a whole lot of help her too.

To the teams and there are  two changes on the Down side with Kalum King and Liam Doyle in for Danny Hughes and Eoin McCartan.

Donegal: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, F McGlynn; E McGee, K Lacey, A Thompson; R Bradley, R Kavanagh; D Walsh, L McLoone, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden

Down: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, D O’Hagan; K King, D Gordon, A Brannagan; A Rogers (captain), K McKernan; D O’Hare, M Poland, A Carr; B Coulter, C Laverty, L Doyle.

We are just about to get underway as the national anthem ends.

3 minutes, Donegal 0-0 Down 0-0: Down have the breeze in the first half but Donegal have scooped up and dealt with the first couple of long balls gone in towards Conor Laverty. He’s in a two-man forward line with Benny Coulter while the half-forward line have dropped way out leaving space in front. The balls in have been diagonal but good defending for their first couple of attacks.

5 minutes, Donegal 0-1 Down 0-0: Great score from Ryan Bradley, man of the match against Tyrone in the semi-final and he’s started really well here. Good run from deep, a dummy and a score.

8 minutes, Donegal 0-1 Down 0-0: Donegal are dominating possession but their shooting has been poor. An ominous look to this already, especially if they click up front, although Neil McGee has gone into the book for an off-the-ball incident.

11 minutes, Donegal 0-1 Down 0-0: At the other end, four wides for Down now. Their shot selection hasn’t been great, and with the breeze and with some semblance of room for their forwards for the minute, they need to make the most of it as it’s unlikely to stay that way.

14 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Down 0-1: Finally Down are on the board as Donal O’Hare is fouled and it’s an easy free for Liam Doyle. Surprising lack of pressure being put on Laverty and Coulter in the Down inside-forward line. There’s still that room in front of them and there are no Donegal men dropping back to pressurise them when they do get possession. Meanwhile Paddy McBrearty kicks a lovely score at the other end.

16 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Down 0-2: First real goal chance for Down and it’s surprisingly easy and unsurprisngly it is Mark Poland creating it. He’s gotten on a lot of ball and this time sets up O’Hara who sends it over rather than under the bar. In fairness, a difficult chance. But back come Donegal, Brendan McArdle is booked but Colm McFadden mishits a free from 45. Aidan Carr is sweeping up in front of Murphy and McFadden.

19 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Down 0-2: It finally heats up but not in a way you’d want. Mark McHugh is on the ground in front of the linesman, Mark Poland is furious he went down and Benny Coulter ends up with a yellow card. There was a closed fist to the chest there after plenty of jostling off the ball. Lucky man.

13 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Down 0-2: This is poor stuff. We’ve credited games for their intensity even when there weren’t many scores in the past, but there’s no escaping the standard of the first quarter and a bit here. That sums it up, Ryan Bradley plays in Anthony Thompson and with a goal on he goes for a point from 21 yards and blazes wide.

24 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Down 0-3: Neil McGee gives away a free for a push in the back on Benny Coulter. Soft, soft free. Liam Doyle kicks that close-in effort and Down are in front.

28 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Down 0-3: Kalum King the latest man to go into the book for a high and heavy hit although he comes out the worst of it. Little by the way of chances or scoring though.

32 minutes, Donegal 1-2 Down 0-5: Another free, Donal O’Hare this time. They are doing well running from deep and Donegal’s tackling has been less than disciplined. But big moment, Leo McLoone gets space, 30 out, he’s a clean run on goal and slots calmly to the net. Very direct. Kickout won by Ryan Bradley  and his pass is the assist for the goal. Back come Down and Ambrose Rogers comes straight down the middle and shoots just over. Best couple of minutes of the game there. More of that please.

35 minutes, Donegal 1-3 Down 0-6: Fine response to the goal by Down and Liam Doyle with his third and first from play has them back in front. Surprisingly still open in that Donegal defence. A high ball in wasn’t cleared that time and found its way to Doyle who was open. It’s an area Jimmy McGuinness will need to address at half-time. At least his side are getting space at the other end and David Walsh levels it up once more.

Half-time, Donegal 1-5 Down 0-7: It’s really opened up this last five minutes. David Walsh profits from seriously hard work by Colm McFadden for a Donegal score. Kevin McKernan with the breeze at this back with a huge point at the other end. Back came Donegal and Declan Walsh takes a pass from Michael Murphy who won a great high ball – he’s been anonymous other than that – and he shoots over when perhaps the goal was on as Anthony Thompson was wide open.

It’s got a whole lot better as we approached the break. Donegal surprisingly wide open at the back and Down, and in particular Mark Poland, are getting on a lot of ball and coming from deep. They are holding their own although the Donegal half-forward line are on top and there have been goal chances and points taken instead by the defending champions. Still all to play for. We’ll be back after the break.

We’re about to get underway for the second half.

36 minutes, Donegal 1-5 Down 0-8: Eoin McCartan is on for Benny Coulter and Conor Laverty opens the second-half scoring.

40 minutes, Donegal 1-7 Down 0-8: Colm McFadden with a free has Donegal back in front but their long-range shooting hasn’t been great, Mark McHugh with their fourth wide. They do have the breeze and need to use it and tack on some scores from distance in order to aid Colm McFadden who is trying so hard and doing so well closer to goal. That’s better, their best score to date as Michael Murphy scores on the run from out on the right.

41 minutes, Donegal 1-8 Down 0-8: Much better, Mark McHugh from the same spot Murphy kicked the last one. Long way to go but a long way back for Down.

44 minutes, Donegal 1-8 Down 0-9: Good response by Down, nice build up and there is room down the left-flank for them time and again. The ball goes in deep, is played back out to Liam Doyle and he kicks his fourth.  Christy Toye is on for Leo McLoone .

47 minutes, Donegal 1-9 Down 0-9: Donegal are doing damage when they break from midfield. Frank McGlynn – an All Star at present  - comes from the middle, has Martin McElhinney flanking him and the latter kicks the score.

51 minutes, Donegal 2-10 Down 0-10: Eoin McCartan scores as Danny Hughes comes on for Donal O’Hare and his pep talk involves James McCartan shaking him and getting right in his face. Tough love. But with every Down score comes a response. Mark McHugh is having a great game and breaks there and finishes calmly. Down are turning over too much ball by running at the Donegal defence and when they lose it, they cannot get the cover back. And there’s the clincher surely. Frank McGlynn, bordering on player of the year if he keeps this up and his side win an All Ireland, comes onto the ball 21 out and what a finish.

55 minutes, Donegal 2-11 Down 0-10: Could be a massacre if Donegal keep this up, Colm McFadden with his second free of the day. Benny Coulter is coming back on, for Kevin McKernan, but it’s a different game to the one he left at half-time.

57 minutes, Donegal 2-12 Down 0-11: Danny Hughes gets one back, consolation though as Ryan Bradley comes straight back up the other end and that’s a fine score. He’s having a serious season. Big back-to-back games from the Buncrana man.

59 minutes, Donegal 2-13 Down 0-11: Daniel McLaughlin on for Ryan Bradley as Colm McFadden kicks one of the points of the game. Mark McHugh played it to him at full flow, his cut back fooled two defenders and the finish was just as good. Down heads have dropped. Donegal rampant.

63 minutes, Donegal 2-14 Down 0-11: Another great score from McFadden. He’s finding space and there’s nothing to lose as he puts boot to ball now. That sails over. Brilliant, just like this Donegal second-half display.

65 minutes, Donegal 2-16 Down 0-12: Even the substitute Danny McLaughlin gets in on it, swings an awkward boot from 35 out and it splits the posts. Just a matter of time now until Donegal are given the Angle-Celt Cup back. Now Martin McElhinney gets in on the act.

67 minutes, Donegal 2-16 Down 0-13: Aidan Brannigan gets a point back and there’s no reaction. They’ve been taken apart.

70 minutes, Donegal 2-18 Down 0-13: Donegal have hit 1-11 since the break. A brilliant second half and they have to be one of the favourites, if not the favourites for this year’s All Ireland. Granted it’ll get a lot harder from here on in but ominous signs here. That’s 1-12 now, Colm McFadden with his fifth, three from frees. And there’s McFadden again from the kickout.

Full-time, Donegal 2-18 Down 0-13: Brilliant second half from Donegal. Superb stuff all round from them.

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VIDEO: McCartan bids to end ‘long famine for Down’ in Ulster final

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