Donegal chances of making the last four of the Ulster Minor Football League are clinging by a thread after suffering their second defeat of the campaign to Derry, in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny, yesterday afternoon.
The Tir Chonaill boys, who play Antrim next Saturday (away), have to beat the Saffons and hope Fermanagh overcome Derry in Brewster Park.
If Fermanagh defeat Derry and Donegal overcome the Saffrons, Donegal will go through on score difference.
In yesterday’s game Donegal led by 0-4 to 0-2 at the end of a low-key first half. They had gone two points down early on before getting back in the contest.
Two points in the closing three minutes of the half from Aodhan McGinley and Ryan McHugh, gave Donegal the edge at the end of a poor first half.
McGinley’s point on 27 minutes edged Donegal ahead for the first time. They did not open their account until the 21st minute. McHugh rounded the half on a high two minutes later when he polished off a four man move with the score of the half.
Donegal looked sluggish and disjointed in the opening 20 minutes with Derry only marginally better as both sides struggled with the greasy conditions and the thick mist that engulfed O’Donnell Park.
Derry hit the first two scores from James Kearney, both from frees, the first on seven minutes with the second four minutes later.
Donegal went three up within a minute of the restart when Eoin McHugh screwed over under pressure.
But Derry responded with four points without reply in three minutes to regain the lead by the 37 minute mark. Ryan Bell (2), Niall McNicholl, and Stephen O’Hara all hit the target before Calum Gallagher pointed to tie up the game for the third time with 39 minutes on the clock.
With the contest livening up Derrry went two up again courtesy of Ciaran McFall and Niall McNicholl to lead 0-8 to 0-6 by the end of the third quarter.
And with Willie Gillespie and Stephen O’Hara trading points the Oak Leafers were still two up with less than ten minutes remaining before Donegal put on a final spurt and it was all square shortly afterwards.
Ryan McHugh from a 40 metres free and Callum Glalagher tied it up. But with Donegal pressing the ball was turned over and Derry through Terence O’Brien worked a score to go back in front before Conor McAtameny sealed it with a late strike.
Donegal scorers: Aodhan McGinley (0-2, 1f); Eoin McHugh (0-2); Ryan McHugh (0-2,1f); Calum Gallagher (0-2); Willie Gillespie (0-1).
Derry scorers: James Kearney (0-2,2f); Ryan Bell (0-2); Niall McNicholl (0-2); Stephen O’Hara (0-2); Ciaran McFall (0-1); Terence O’Brien (0-1); Conor McAtamney (0-1).
Donegal: Daniel Mullarkey; John Rose, Nicholas Breslin, Gary Kelly; Conor Parke, Darragh Mulgrew, Ryan McHugh; Brendan McNelis, Conor Harkin; Kevin McNern, Aodhan McGinley, John McGarvey; Willie Gillespie, Eoin McHugh, Oisin Carr. Subs: Stephen McBrearty for J. McGarvey (12); Callum Gallagher for K. McNern (26 inj); Conor McBrearty for J.Rose (40);
Derry: Christopher Bradley; Paul Devlin, Michael Sweeney, Ryan McDonnell; Gareth McKinley, Conor McAtamney, Conor Gallagher; Jack Barton, Gerard Bradley; Liam McGoldrick, Niall McNicholl, James Kernan; Dermot Breen, Ryan Bell, Ciaran McFall. Subs: Terence O’Brien fo G.Bradley; Stephen O’Hara for D. Breen (both half-time); Danny Tallon for P. Devlin (40); Peter Hogan for L. McGoldrick (55).
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)
Man of Match
Ryan McHugh started at wing back moved to centre half-back in the second half. He covered well across the back and was the launching pad for numerous Donegal attacks. He also got forward and on the end of a sweeping move to score a first half point and took on the responsibility to convert a 40 metre free in the closing minutes to bring Donegal back to one point down.
Darragh Mulgrew, Calum Gallagher and Willie Gillespie were the other Donegal men to impress while Conor McAtameny, Jack Barton, Niall McNicholl and Ryan Bell were the Derry men to shine brightest.
On 56 minutes and with the teams locked on 0-9 each Conor McAtamney turned over a Donegal attack and Derry worked the ball up the field and Terence O’ Brien drove over from 40 metres for the lead score.
Fermanagh official Niall Cullen was a little fussy at times and flashed a few harsh yellows in slippy conditions. But he got the majority of his calls spot on.