Donegal minors are through to a Croke Park semi-final but they were given a real fright against Roscommon in Sligo on Saturday.
Donegal were holding on at the end as Roscommon laid seige on the Donegal goal looking for a match-winning goal and it took a great block from corner back Danny Monagle from Evan McGrath to see Donegal over the line.
Roscommon employed extreme defensive tactics and they almost pullled off a shock victory as the conditions really suited their defensive set up.
The heavy rain left the conditions very difficult in Markievicz Park and Roscommon set up just inside their ‘45’ line which resulted in many turnovers.
It looked as if Donegal were on their way when they opened a six point gap at the end of the third quarter as they added four points to their half-time tally of six points.
But they didn’t raise another flag and Roscommon hit a goal to breathe life into the contest.
Donegal’s wides tally of 12 (eight in the first half) almost came back to haunt them and they lacked a steady hand on the tiller when the pressure came on in the final quarter.
With an ultra defensive policy, Roscommon parked two busses on their 45m line throughout the first half - even though they were playing with the benefit of a good breeze.
The Rossies took an early lead when Cathal Callinan found the range. It was evident that Donegal were going to have to be patient and that patience was rewarded when Cian Mulligan levelled on four minutes.
Roscommon went ahead again when Kevin Smyth hit two frees in the 9th and 11th minutes which meant that they became even more defensive.
Michael Carroll hit back for Donegal with a good long range effort which was created by Caolan McGonigle and John Campbell levelled on 15 minutes when Lorcan Connor was fouled.
Donegal got their noses in front for the first time on 19 minutes when Cian Mulligan finished a move involving Connor and Stephen McBrearty, but a late tackle by Andrew McClean allowed Kevin Smyth to level matters again on 22 minutes.
Eoghan Ban Gallagher had a goal effort blocked from close range on 26 minutes while just before the break John Campbell had the final point of the half to leave Donegal ahead by 0-5 to 0-4 at the break.
Within 30 seconds of the restart Cian Mulligan had stretched the Donegal lead and the points began to flow with John Campbell and Lorcan Connor pointing frees and Cian Mulligan added his fourth on 45 minutes. A minute later Jamie Brennan finished a move started after Danny Rodgers had denied Hubert Darcy a goal chance to put Donegal 0-10 to 0-4 ahead and totally in control.
Roscommon were thrown a lifeline on 48 minutes when in a move through the middle Colm Kelly went to stop a runner, but was knocked to the ground and ironically the ball ended with his man, Noel Gately, and he found the Donegal net, a deflection not helping Danny Rodgers. It was the only blip on Kelly’s performance as he kept the most dangerous Roscommon forward very quiet. Indeed there were some Donegal supporters who felt that the Roscommon forward had charged into him just before the goal.
From there to the finish Donegal were nervous as Roscommon started to find a new confidence. Hubert Darcy added a point to reduce the margin to two with three minutes left and Kevin Smyth should have had another as his 20m free came back off the upright.
Then in added time Monagle made a great block to deny Evan McGrath as Donegal were glad to hear the final whistle sounded.
Apart from the excellent Mulligan, Colm Kelly, Ciaran Gillespie and Tony McClenaghan tried hard but for many others, it was a frustrating day at the office.
Donegal: Danny Rodgers; Danny Monagle, Ciaran Gillespie, Colm Kelly; Cian Mulligan (0-4), Tony McClenaghan, Andrew McClean; Niall Harley, Caolan McGonigle; Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Lorcan Connor (0-1,f), Michael Carroll (0-1); Jamie Brennan (0-1), John Campbell (0-3,2f), Stephen McBrearty. Subs., Ethan O’Donnell for McClean ht; Christian Bonner for Harley 47; Conall O’Boyle for Carroll 50; Conor Doherty for Brennan, Stephen McMenamin for Campbell, both 53.
Roscommon: Shane Mannion; Jack Connaughton, Evan McGrath, Eoin Fallon; Keelan Beirne, Fergal Lennon, Luke Carty; Ronan Raftery, Conor Murray; Cathal Callinan (0-1), Brian Stack, Killian Bannon; Hubert Darcy (0-1), Kevin Smyth (0-3,3f), Noel Gately (1-0). Subs., Brian Kelly for Callinan 41; David Connaughton for Bannon 49; John Gannon for Carty 53.
Referee: Cathal O’Hagan (Tyrone)
Footnote: Roscommon made a raft of changes prior to the start. Four of the selected team did not start with only the full-forward line, from the programme, remaining intact. The programme (just eight pages) was poor valule for f2.