DONEGAL MINORS SAVE THE DAY

ELECTRIC IRELAND ULSTER MINOR CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

DONEGAL MINORS SAVE THE DAY
Peter Campbell sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

It wasn't pretty at times but Donegal struggled over the line to take the Ulster Minor title in a jittery display in Clones.

Donegal 2-10

Derry 1-11

It took the leadership of Niall O'Donnell to get Donegal victory in a game that they didn't play anywhere near their best.

In the end it took two great goals - one in either half - that made the difference, while Derry kept chipping away and a late Derry goal made for a nervy finish for the Tir Chonaill lads.

POOR START

Donegal were fortunate to be ahead by two points at the break after a lacklustre first half. There was almost 17 minutes on the clock before they got on the scoreboard with a Niall O'Donnell pointed free.

At that stage Derry had hit the target four times inside the opening 12 minutes and looked by far the more composed teams. They had tactically bypassed the Donegal midfield and their inside duo of Feargal Higgins and especially Eoghan Bradley were causing problems.

Donegal were not helped by poor shooting with six wides in the opening quarter. Donegal had three wides in the opening two minutes. The Derry points came from midfielders Oisin McWilliams and Patrick Coney and two from Caolan Devlin (one free).

Donegal thundered back into the contest in the final ten minutes of the half, thanks to a magnificently finished goal from JD Boyle. They needed someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck and it was joint captain, Niall O'Donnell, who did so, involved in just about everything that was good about them in that period.

He was instrumental in the move that saw Boyle power through the middle to fire home. Against the run of play Donegal were level.

Three minutes from the break, Donegal went ahead with Peadar Mogan making an inteception yards from his own goal, and in a move that went the full length of the field, Niall O'Donnell created the opening and Mogan had made up the ground to finish a wonderful score.

Before the half-time whistle O'Donnell created another point for Eoghan McGettigan while Caolan Devlin pointed a free at the other end, and then on the stroke of the whistle, McGettigan curled over another to leave Donegal ahead by 1-4 to 0-5 at the break.

Donegal created a great goal chance inside two minutes of the restart but Enda McCormick was denied by the Derry 'keeper.

At the other end Derry also had a goal chance but Feargal Higgins elected to take his point. Niall O'Donnell hit back after a great Jason McGee block, to point and McGee hit a long range effort to open the gap to three by the 38th minute.

But Derry chipped it back with a Devlin free and Seamus Higgins before the second Donegal goal arrived on 43 minutes. A long ball into the Derry square was batted down and Nathan Boyle powered it home, off the underside of the crossbar and a Derry defender's head. It was unstoppable.

But if Donegal thought it was going to be easy, they were wrong. Devlin pointed a free while Niall O'Donnell created a point for Odhran McFadden/Ferry, but two Devliln frees had the margin back to two points by the 50th minute.

But then Niall O'Donnell again put his mark on the game with two points in as many minutes.

When Donegal broke clear with a minute of normal time left, they had the chance to put the game to bed, but Peadar Mogan didn't get the ball back; it went instead to Kieran Gallagher, who elected to fist a point and put Donegal five clear. There were three Donegal players to one Derry defender and it could have been a goal.

Within a minute Derry were back in the game as the Donegal defence was breached and the ball was flashed across the goal for Caolan Devlin to palm to the net. It made for a nervy finish with Niall O'Donnell again showing leadership, along with Peadar Mogan to finally get over the line.

Donegal will now go on to meet Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final while Derry will meet Munster champions, Kerry.

Donegal: Gavin Mulreany; Seaghan Ferry, Aaron McCrea, Mark Curran; Odhran Shiels, JD Boyle (1-0), Aidan McLaughlin; Jason McGee (0-1), Kieran Gallagher (0-1); Nathan Boyle (1-0), Niall O'Donnell (0-4,2f), Odhran McFadden/Ferry (0-1); Peadar Mogan (0-1), Eoghan McGettigan (0-2), Enda McCormick. Subs., Shane McGrath for McCormick 47; Brian O'Donnell for S Ferry 55; Stephen Carr for N Boyle 58; Aaron Deeney for JD Boyle 74.

Derry: Ben McKinless; Conor McCluskey, Gearoid McLaughlin, Aaron Bradley; Padraig McGrogan, Eoghan Concannon, Simon McErlain; Patrick Coney (0-1), Oisin McWilliams (0-1); Conor Doherty, Caolan Devlin (1-7,6f), Patrick Quinn; Shea Downey, Feargal Higgins (0-1), Eoghan Bradley. Subs., Seamus Higgins (0-1) for E Bradley 38; John Paul Devlin for McWilliams 39; Ronan Young for F Higgins 44; Larry Kielt for G McLaughlin 53; Odhran McKeever for Concannon, black card 58.

Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)