Donegal and Mayo are going to have to meet again to determine the first winners of the North West U-21 Cup after Saturday’s decider ended in a draw.
Donegal. . . . . . . . . . . . 1-9
Mayo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-9
While it was not quite a 'back from the dead' recovery, Donegal’s comeback in the Sligo Centre of Excellence at the Scarab Mór was the next nearest thing as Declan Bonner’s understrength charges came back from 1-7 to 0-6 down in the closing minutes.
Mayo looked to have finally shaken off gritty Donegal when sharpshooter Liam Irwin stretched the Westerners' lead out to four points for the first time, eight minutes from the end of normal time.
And with Donegal down to 14 after Eamon McGrath picked up two yellow cards in quick succession three minutes earlier, the game looked up for Declan Bonner’s brave team.
But a turnover won in front of his own posts by Naomh Padraig’s Jack Quinn, and a long hopeful delivery from Jack O’Brien, found Hugh ‘the Yank’ Boyle at the other end of the field.
Boyle spotted Flanagan off his line and from 20 metres he cheekily chipped the Mayo keeper to make it a one point game, 1-7 to 1-6. All of a sudden it was game-on again.
And with Donegal throwing caution to the wind, John Campbell stepped up on a heavy sod and in driving rain in the first minute of injury time to level from a 35 metre free from close to the sideline.
Mayo also finished normal time down to 14 after James Kelly was shown a second yellow late in the game.
Donegal, with the wind in their backs, took the fight to Mayo in the first period of extra time and deservedly led by two, 1-9 to 1-7, at half-time.
Mayo, who were clearly rattled, dug deep in the second period and thanks to Brian Reape's pointed free and a super Mikey Murray strike, tied up the game for the last time.
Mayo pressed in the closing five minutes but with Jack O’Brien on the bridge, Donegal held on and with darkness falling, an extra five minutes each way was ruled out by Donegal.
With Danny Rodgers, Ciaran Gillespie, Ciaran Thompson, Michael Carroll and Stephen McBrearty on duty with Donegal seniors against Westmeath, and Aodhan McGinley and Andrew Mc Clean on Ulster U-21 duty with Kilcar, not to mention a host of injuries, Donegal showed 12 changes from the team that started against Mayo seven days earlier.
Only Eamon McGrath, Caolan McGonagle and Conor O’Donnell started for the second week-in-a-row.
Mayo manager Michael Solan made five changes from the team that lost 1-9 to 1-8 the previous week, and they were regarded as a stronger starting 15.
They looked it early on as they hit 1-1 without reply and had Donegal pinned back in their own half for much of the opening quarter. Liam Irwin kicked their first point on eight minutes and set Barry Duffy up for the goal with pinpoint accuracy off the foot four minutes later.
Caolan McGonagle, who was a powerhouse in midfield, got Donegal off the mark from a 35 metre free which was followed by a good score from Conor O’Donnell, a late replacement for Cian Mulligan who tweaked a hamstring in the warm-up.
Two Calum Gallagher pointed close in frees in response to strikes from Brian Reape and the raiding Duffy saw Mayo lead 1-3 to 0-4 at half-time.
Campbell, with his first point from a 40 metre free, made it a one point game within two minutes of the restart.
But Mayo upped their workrate and Irwin converted from close range to restore their three point advantage.
And while Yank Boyle sent over one of the points of the game, Mayo seemed to have kicked for home. They looked all set to be crowned first winners of the Mary McPartland Perpetual Cup thanks to two more Irwin white flags.
But it's never over until the fat lady sings and a touch of Boyle magic and a pressure Campbell point sent the tie into the extra-time and ultimately another day to decide it.
Donegal: Paddy Byrne; Jack Quinn, Jack O’Brien, Danny Monagle; Eamonn McGrath, Conor Morrison, Niall Friel; Leo McHugh, Caolan McGonagle (0-1); Christian Bonner, Mark Coyle, Conor O’Donnell (0-1); Calum Gallagher (0-2, 2f), Adam Neely, John Campbell (0-3, 3f). Subs: Daniel Gallagher (0-1) for C Gallagher, Michael Langan for C Bonner, Hugh ‘Yank’ Boyle (1-1) for L Neely (all 38), Niall Harley for L McHugh (42), Darren Curran for N Friel (47), Colm Kelly for C Morrison (48); Nathan Gavigan for M Coyle (56), Jack Scally replaced E McGrath for extra-time, C Morrison for D Monagle, Mark Coyle for J Campbell, Niall Friel for D Curran( all 75)
Mayo: Mattie Flanagan; David Kenny, Seamus Cunniffe, Ciaran Harrison; Barry Duffy (1-1), James Kelly, Cheroize Akram; Val Roughneen, Padraig Prendergast; Fergal Boland, Michael Plunkett, Matthew Ruane; James Lyons, Brian Reape (0-2, 1f), Liam Irwin (0-5, 3f). Subs: Mikey Murray (0-1) for P Prendergast (43), Eoghan O’Donoghue for D Kenny (53), Cathal Barrett for Roughneen (56). TJ Byrne replaced J Kelly for extra-time).
Referee: B Judge (Sligo).