A magnificent individual performance from Amber Barrett powered Donegal to a first ever All-Ireland U-21 title in Markievicz Park.
There were a few scary moments for Donegal but in the end they were very worthy winners, but they can thank the Milford bombshell as she hit 2-9 of the final tally.
She was ably helped by her full-forward Aislinn Cunningham, who got the other two goals, the first a cracker while the last goal eased any worries as she got the faintest touch to a Barrett fisted effort in the final minutes.
Overall, Donegal dominated for large periods but they took the foot off the pedal in the second quarter and again at the start of the second half, but then finished really strongly.
Donegal started against the slight breeze and were quick into action with Amber Barrett pointing after two minutes.
A heavy shower just before throw-in left the surface greasy but Roisin Curran got forward to add a second before Aisling Reynolds pointed a free for Longford on five minutes.
Donegal then hit four in-a-row with Amber Barrett getting three (one free) and Rosin Curran the other.
But then Donegal seemed to go stale and they couldn’t hit the target. They were punished when Longford put their best move together with Aisling Reynolds involved before Laura Burke fired to the Donegal net.
To be fair the Donegal response was immediate as Aislinn Cunningham tore through the Longford defence to hit an unstoppable shot to the net. The ‘keeper got a touch but was unable to stop it.
Donegal then lost Gemma Glackin to a yellow card eight minutes from half-time for a rather harsh call as she challenged for a high ball. Longford profited from the sin bin with two Aoife Darcy points (one free) to leave it 1-6 to 1-3 at half-time.
Just before the break one Longford player was lucky not to be sin binned after she seemed to draw back on Rosin Curran which left the Cloughaneely girl on the ground needing treatment but referee John Niland, after consulting his umpires, did not issue any card.
Longford were very dominant at the start of the second half with two Aisling Reynolds frees and a big turning point came when Reynolds missed an easy free on 38 minutes.
Donegal went down field for Roisin Curran to win a free and Amber Barrett converted. Then Barrett was on the end of a good move started by one of Donegal’s brightest stars, Rose Boyle, to fire goalward. The ball was deflected by Ellie Columb with the power on the shot seeing it go all the way to the net.
When Barrett added two more points it seemed Donegal were having an easy passage, ahead by 2-9 to 1-6 with six minutes of normal time left.
But Longford got in for a second goal from Emer Heaney.
Donegal and Barrett closed out the game though, getting two points and then firing a clinical goal after a great turnover by substitute Sadhbha Medlar.
Longford could only get one point in reply while Aisling Cunningham claimed the fourth goal and Shannon McGroddy won and pointed a free which proved to be the final kick of the game.
Apart from the excellent Barrett and Rose Boyle, Niamh Carr, Emer Gallagher, Kaneshia McKinney, Gemma Glackin, Aislinn Cunningham and Emma McCrory all played their part.
Donegal: Ciara Gallagher; Niamh Carr, Emer Gallagher, Rose Boyle; Roisin Curran (0-2), Kaneshia McKinney, Blathnaid McLaughlin; Shannon McGroddy (0-1,f), Evelyn McGinley; Nicole McLaughlin, Emer Lafferty, Gemma Glackin; Amber Barrett (2-9,3f), Aisleen Cunningham (2-0), Emma McCrory.
Longford: Dervila Murphy; Aisling Cosgrove, Leanne Keegan, Rachel O’Farrell; Aidin Mimnagh, Michelle Noonan, Amy Creegan; Claire Farrell, Aisling Reynolds (0-3,3f); Sarah Shannon, Aoife Darcy (0-4,1f), Laura Burke (1-0); Ellie Columb, Emer Heaney (1-0), Shauna McCormack. Sub., Sinead Noonan for Burke ht.
Referee: John Niland (Sligo)