Donegal and Tyrone go head to head on Wednesday night in Celtic Park with the prize for the victors a place in the Eirgrid Ulster U-21 final. (Throw- in 8 pm)
The game is a repeat of last year’s Ulster final which was also played at the Celtic Park. Tyrone won that game thanks to an injury time free from Daniel McNulty after Cathal McShane was fouled close to the Donegal goals by Ciaran Thompson.
Conor Meyler scored the Tyrone goal after eight minutes and Tyrone were the better side for up to three quarters of the game but Donegal broke out of their shell in the last ten minutes.
Eamonn McGrath, Darach Jigger O’Connor and Stephen McBrearty reeled off three points to draw Donegal level to set up a grandstand finish.
O’Connor is U-21 but is still in rehab from cruciate surgery before Christmas and is not available to manager Declan Bonner.
“Unfortunately we don’t have Darrach which is a huge loss and we are also without Lorcan Connor, both who started last years final. But we do have Stephen McBrearty and Eamonn McGrath,” said Bonner.
“They both came on as subs last year and made a difference. In all we have eight of the players that played in the final.
“Danny Rodgers, Jack O’Brien, Conor Morrison, Eoghan ‘Bán’ Gallagher and Ciaran Thompson all started last year’s final while McGrath, McBrearty and Caolan McGonagle, who were starters against Derry in the first round, saw action as replacements in last year’s final.”
Tyrone, who went on to beat Roscommon and Tipperary to win the All-Ireland, played just five of their 2015 starters against Cavan in their quarter-final.
Donegal defeated Derry in the first round 0-14 to 2-7 thanks to a late Stephen McBrearty converted free at the end of game that Donegal looked to have as good as wrapped up when they led by six at half-time, 0-9 to 0-3. And they were still six in front well into the second half before conceding two sloppy goals which saw the Oak Leafers taking the lead for the first time in the contest.
“We played well for 40 odd minutes in that game and Derry came back at us and they got a goal. From our point of view it was a bad defensive goal and the second goal was just childish defending but they meant that Derry were ahead.
“But in fairness to our lads they did not throw in the towel, something that Donegal teams might have done in the past.
“Eoghan ‘Ban’ (Gallagher) made a few good runs and Stephen McBrearty converted the couple of frees and we scraped over the line.
“We were the better side over the hour and if we had lost the game it would have been a travesty.
“But to concede two goals late in any championship match and still come out on the right side of the result is a good day’s work,” said Bonner, who added that if they conceded two goals on Wednesday night against Tyrone, they would be gone from the championship.
Ciaran Thompson, the team captain, is still struggling with the knee injury that ruled him out of a starting berth against Derry and he is still a big worry for the Donegal boss.
“We are monitoring him closely but I would rate his chances as less than 50% at this stage but we will not make a final call until Wednesday evening.”
Eoghan ‘Ban’ Gallagher, Stephen McBrearty, Michael Carroll and Caolan McGonagle were in the Donegal senior squad for Saturday night’s Allianz League clash with Dublin.