Donegal hurlers get reward after great comeback

Tom Comack


Tom Comack

Donegal hurling is celebrating once again this week following Sunday’s Ulster U-21 Hurling Shield final victory over Tyrone in St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones.

Donegal hurling is celebrating once again this week following Sunday’s Ulster U-21 Hurling Shield final victory over Tyrone in St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones.

Ulster U-21 Shield final - Donegal 4-16 Tyrone 3-18 (after extra time)

The Tir Chonaill men, who won the Lory Meagher Senior Hurling Championship last month – also with victory over Tyrone - came from nine points down to clinch the title in extra-time in Sunday’s curtain-raiser.

Just like the Lory Meagher final they did it in dramatic fashion as the came from looking down and out when trailing 2-11 to 1-5, having been 1-11 to 1-3 behind at half-time.

But the game turned dramatically in the closing quarter as Donegal stormed back into the game with three goals from man of the match Ciaran Mathewson and points from Michael McGhee, Gavin Browne and Mathewson.

It was Tyrone who were gasping for air in the closing minutes as Browne and Mathewson hit late points to tie up the game for only the second time and set up extra-time.

While again, Tyrone did all the early running in additional time and were three points up going into the closing stages only to be once more pulled back and eventually pipped by Donegal.

With captain Mathewson leading from the front and Sean McVeigh, Marty O’Reilly and Michael McGhee playing as if their lives depended on it, Donegal finished out the game in style to snatch it in injury time.

Mathewson, with his third goal and his team’s fourth, levelled the tie before he sealed it one minute later when he split the posts from 40 metres.

Donegal got off to a flying start with a Sean McVeigh goal inside 15 seconds. McVeigh first timed a Ciaran Mathewson cross to the net from a very tight angle after a great run through the middle from Mathewson.

And while Marty O’Reilly had a strike for a point off the post shortly afterwards, Donegal were on the back foot for the remainder of the half as Tyrone took a firm grip.

Damien Casey knocked over three points inside six minutes – two from frees – before Aidan Kelly edged Tyrone ahead from long range on nine minutes.

With Casey and Kelly making their mark the points flowed for the Red Hands who were 0-5 to 1-0 in front by the 11th minute.

Mathewson with two points, one them flicked over by Tyrone keeper Ciaran McCrudden, made it a one point game 0-6 to 1-2 by the end of the first quarter.

But with Kelly controlling midfield and Casey raiding on the right flank Tyrone took over. Gerard Gilmore, Casey, Christopher McGeown all added points and Kelly found the Donegal net from long range when his strike for a point dropped short and over the shoulder of Paul Burns.

While Mathewson and Sean McVeigh landed two early second half points Tyrone were nine up within seven minutes of the restart when Conor Grogan from way out the field posted the Red Hands’ second three pointer.

Lee Henderson drilled a 65 between the Tyrone posts before Mathewson got the revival underway when he blasted from 20 metres to the Tyrone net.

With Donegal playing with renewed vigour and Marty O’Reilly and Sean McVeigh foraging well around midfield and Michael McGhee raising his game, McVeigh and McGhee pointed to reduce the margin to four points.

It was game on when Reilly disposed McCrudden and Mathewson took full advantage when he drove to an empty net to leave just one between the sides 3-8 to 2-12.

Gavin Browne, Grogan, Mathewson and Tommy Lowe traded pointa with the clock ticking before Mathewson sent the game into extra-time.

The sides were level on 3-14 to 2-17 at the end of the first period of extra-time with Ronan McDermott, Browne and O’Reilly scoring for Donegal with Casey, Lowe and Grogan raising the Tyrone white flags.

Tyrone pulled three clear in the second period before Mathewson stepped up to the mark with his late goal and point and celebration time once again for Tir Chonaill.

Donegal now advance to the All-Ireland B semi-final and have also qualified for the Ulster U-21A championship.

Donegal: Paul Burns; Dean McDevitt, Fintane Culhane, Christopher McDermott; Colm Flood, Lee Henderson (0-1,65), Christopher Gallagher; Ronan McDermott (0-1), Darren McLaughlin; Barney McMenamin, Ciaran Mathewson (3-8, 3-6f), Michael McGhee (0-1); Dara Grant, Marty O’Reilly (0-1), Sean McVeigh (1-2). Subs: Gavin Browne (0-2) for D.McLaughlin (39); Stephen Gillespie for B. McMenamin (41); Kevin Meehan for D. Grant (48); Dara Grant for D. McDevitt (63).

Tyrone: Ciaran McCrudden; Mark Devine (1-0), Jason Patton, Caolan McCallan; Gareth Fox, Tiarnan Morgan, Christopher McGeown (0-1); Aidan Kelly (1-1), Tony O’Hagan; Damian Casey (0-9,6f), Conor Grogan (1-2), Tommy Love (0-2); Sean McVeigh, Donal McMullan, Gerard Gilmore (0-1). Subs: Tommy Fox for T.O’Hagan (h/t); Chris Meehan for G. Gilmore (40); Paddy McKillion for S. McVeigh (47); Conor McNally for C. McCallan (54); Ryan Joyce for D. McMullan (61); Conor McKillion for P. McKillion (75); Conor McElhatton for R. Joyce (78).

Referee: Liam McAuley (Antrim).