Jason Granaghan Aodh Ruadh and Gweedore's Gavin McBride tussle for a loose ball during the U21 A final in MacCumhaill Park
Magnificent Gaoth Dobhair has simply far too much power and panache for a gritty and gallant Aodh Ruadh side in a truly superb Under 21 county final in MacCumhaill Park.
Gaoth Dobhair 2-19
Aodh Ruadh 3-10
This was a memorable match where both sides concluded that attack was in indeed the best form of defence.
And we were treated to five fantastic goals, some superb long range points and played at a frenetic pace that will be long remembered when these admirable young men are old and grey and full of sleep.
Truly it was a pity that there had to be a loser, but, on balance, Gaoth Dobhair had a slight edge in power and physique.
More significantly, all of the Gaoth Dobhair team that scored 2-19 from play, are all underage again next year.
But they also had mighty midfielder Michael Carroll who was outstanding throughout and showed why he will be a key figure for Donegal seniors for many years.
Carroll was a powerhouse and also kicked some great along range points when his team really needed it.
And, the outstanding Cian Mulligan, who hit four great points before leaving the field through a second yellow card nine minutes from time, was also a key factor in this victory.
The tiny but super talented Naoise O Baoill also put in a great shift and Gavin McBride weighed in with some fine points when his team really needed.
But an almost equally talented Aodh Ruadh side contributed to this classic with three superb goals from Colm Kelly, the very accurate David McGurrin and the goal of the match from Eamon McGrath.
McGrath’s goal put Aodh Ruadh ahead by four points on a score of 3-9 to 1-11.
But Aodh Ruadh could only score one more point in the remaining 23 minutes.
And that is the most telling statistic as Carroll and Gaoth Dobhair came at them in waves as the rampant Gaeltacht men hit 0-6 in-a-row.
Carroll, Mulligan, James Boyle, Gavin McBride and Odhran Ferry hit back to level matters by the 47th minute.
McBride and substitute Aidan Ferry stretched that lead with well struck clinching points.
But they would be kicking themselves really hard had they lost as Gaoth Dobhair also hit eight second half wides.
And a previously quiet Gavin McBride hit some fine scores as the game edged to a close.
Aodh Ruadh continued to press and probe for that elusive winning goal as time ticked away, but the Gaoth Dobhair men held firm.
But they were caught on the counter when Gaoth Dobhair cut loose and wing-back Odhran Ferry blasted the ball to the net in the 62nd minute.
Cian Mulligan and Nathan Boyle were both lined for second yellow cards as this game edged to a close but this was quite an aberration in a very clean and sporting encounter.
In one of the greatest ever first halves ever seen in Sean MacCumhaill Park, Aodh Ruadh were leading by 2-8 to 1-9 at the interval.
In an era of boring blanket defences this was a half to cherish with both sides going for the jugular from the off and hit some superb scores.
Of course, matters were helped enormously by the fact that both teams were immensely comfortable on the ball and were very well coached.
Eamon Collum, who was part of an explosive Gaoth Dobhair full-forward line, opened the scoring after just 15 seconds when he should have goaled, and repeated the dose a minute later in an explosive opening.
But Aodh Ruadh hit back through the deadly accurate David McGurrin to level matters.
And that swift start set the pattern for an opening half studded with some superb scores from both sides.
The towering senior stars Michael Carroll and Ciaran Gillespie were taking a grip at midfield and Carroll tore through the centre of the Aodh Ruadh defence to put Gaoth Dobhair in front.
Aodh Ruadh then had a great goaling chance but Philip Patton blazed over the bar with a goal at his mercy.
Carroll and Mulligan put the winners two points clear with two fine long range efforts.
But Aodh Ruadh struck for the first of their three goals on a crisp counter attack when attacking full-back Colm Kelly came from deep and buried to the net after taking a pass from David McGurrin.
Aodh Ruadh were in front by 1-4 to 0-5 but Gaoth Dobhair replied like a rattlesnake when Mulligan’s goal bound shot rocketed off the crossbar, unluckily struck Aodh Ruadh keeper Sean Taylor on the back of the head and who else but Carroll was on hand to finish to the net.
However the Ballyshannon boys superbly replied in kind when Niall Harley found McGurrin in space and he calmly allowed the ball to bounce before punching to the Gaoth Dobhair net over the advancing 'keeper.
That put the Ballyshannon boys ahead by 2-8 to 1-9 at the interval.
But they were just not able to match Gaoth Dobhair in a frenetic second half, where the high standard seldom flagged, and for this, both teams deserve enormous credit.
GAOTH DOBHAIR: Charles John Doherty, Ryan Kelly, Gary McFadden, James Boyle (0-1); Neasan McBride, Niall Friel (0-1) Odhran Ferry (1-1); Ciaran Gillespie, Michael Carroll (1-4); Daire O Baoill, Cian Mulligan (0-4), Naoise O Baoill (0-1); Gavin McBride (0-3), Eamon Collum (0-2), Conor Boyle (0-1) Subs., C McCaffrey for R Kelly 17; Aidan Ferry (0-1) for E Collum,
AODH RUADH: Sean Taylor, Callum O’Halloran, Colm Kelly (1-1), Cian McGloin; Jason Granaghan, Eamonn McGrath (1-0), Paddy Gillespie; Niall Harley, Darren Gethins; Philip Patton (0-2), David McGurrin (1-7,3f), Nathan Boyle; Shane McGrath, Oisin Rooney, Donal Warnock. Sub., Eddie Lynch for Paddy Gillespie 18.
REFEREE: Jimmy White (Killybegs)