Donegal are looking forward to a first Ulster Minor Football league final in six years following Saturday’s two point victory over Down, in Downpatrick.
In what was a closely contested encounter for most of the 60 minutes, Donegal led by six points 1-7 to 0-4 at half-time having played with the advantage of a strong wind.
Team captain and man of the match Darrach O’Connor scoring the all important goal as the boys from the North West laid the foundation for their victory in the first period.
The Buncrana man also scored three points in the first half with John Campbell (2), and Peter McLaughlin (2) the other Donegal marksmen in the opening 35 minutes.
“It was a great performance, our best of the season so far and we really laid the foundation in the first half,” said Donegal manager Stephen Friel.
“The Gigger (Darrach O’Connor) scored a great goal in the middle of the half and he also kicked a few great points and John Campbell converted two frees and Peter McLaughlin got a couple as well.”
James Brennan a half-time replacement for John Campbell and Conor O’Donnell kicked three second half points as Donegal stretched their half-time advantage out to eight points.
But a Down goal, in the middle of the third quarter, revived the Mourne challenge, and it was a bare knuckle finish as the locals found their shooting boots to cut the Donegal lead to two.
However, in the end, Donegal who lost their opening two games to Fermanagh and Tyrone before bouncing back with victories over Derry and Antrim, held on for a desrved victory and a place in the final against Monaghan.
The Farney boys had pulled off something of a surprise victory over Tyrone, earlier in the day, in Healy Park.
“It was close at the finish as they came at us but we held firm and were deserving winners. The lads showed great character and spirit and worked well as a unit and I’m very proud of them and they way the played today and it is very encouraging as we prepare for the final and the championship.”
As well as the afore mentioned Darrach O’Connor, Donegal had top class performances from Conor O’Donnell, Conor McCormick, Cian Mulligan and Lorcan O’Connor in game that Donegal as unit really clicked.
Donegal: Paddy Byrne; Owen Scally, Jack O’Brien, Jack Scally; Cian Mulligan, Eamon McGrath, Lee O’Brien; Peter McLaughlin (0-2), Conor O’Donnell (0-1); Lorcan O’Connor, Conor McCormack, Callum Gallagher; Darrach O’Connor (1-3), John Campbell (0-2, 2f), Aidan Sweeney. Subs: Jamie Brennan (0-2) for J.Campbell; Colm Kelly for L. O’Brien; Conor Harkin for C. Gallagher;....... L O’Connor.