Donegal minor footballers were given a lesson by Derry in the Ulster Minor Championship in Healy Park, Omagh on Sunday evening.
The final scoreline flatters Donegal, who were beaten in all areas of the field, especially in the middle third, where the Oak Leaf men dominated from start to finish.
A penalty goal three minutes from the end of normal time only put a better look on the scoreboard from a Donegal point of view. Derry led by 2-8 to 0-4 with eight minutes of the second half played, and despite dominating the reminder of the half, only added one more point.
Like Donegal the previous week, Derry were winning their first minor championship game in four weeks and they were helped by some sloppy Donegal play, as passing was slack and gauging the hop of the ball was difficult.
The writing was on the wall from early on, despite John McGarvey hitting the opening point on 26 seconds. A minute later Donegal ‘keeper Daniel Mullarkey came off his line to win a dangerous ball but then failed to protect possession and was dispossessed and Terence O’Brien had the simple task of finding the unguarded Donegal net.
Gerard Bradley, who really impressed for the winners, added a point immediately and even though Ryan McHugh pointed a free, the same player hit an upright with a 13m free from in front of the goals on six minutes and the miss seemed to drain the confidence from the Kilcar man, who had no real influence on the contest thereafter.
With heads beginning to fall, Derry took advantage by controlling the middle third. Ryan Bell added a point and even though Conor Harkin fielded well and burst forward for one of the scores of the half, the Donegal challenge was wilting in the heat.
Peter Cassidy hit two great points either side of a Gerard Bradley free to stretch the lead to five points and it could have been more on 29 minutes when James Kearney cut through the Donegal defence like a knife through butter but pulled his effort for goal wide of the posts.
In added time Ryan McHugh had Donegal’s fourth point while Terence O’Brien added a point from a ‘45’ for the Derry men but the frustration was showing for Donegal with the McHugh cousins yellow carded within seconds of each other.
Whatever chance Donegal had of a comeback were well and truly crushed in the opening minutes of the second half. O’Brien was almost in for a goal but the ball broke to Gerard Bradley to fist a point.
Bradley added another on 36 minutes and two minutes later a mistake in the Donegal defence allowed Terence O’Brien through and he made no mistake for the second goal.
Conor Harkin (from a free) and John McGarvey had Donegal points by the 42nd minute. McGarvey had the chance of going for goal but pulled his effort over the crossbar.
There was a period of a full 15 minutes without a score before Donegal were gifted a penalty on 57 minutes. The Derry defence had won the ball, but somehow Donegal substitute John Fitzgerald turned it over and was hauled down. Ryan McHugh placed the penalty to the ‘keeper’s left, but it was only a consolation score.
In the final minutes Ryan McDonnell and Hugh McFadden traded scores but the game was over as a contest long before then.
There were no excuses as the better team were the winners and Donegal weren’t able to compete in the vital areas, especially around midfield. Derry were physically stronger in all departments.
There were few Donegal performances of note. Conor Parke kept going to the end; Stephen McBrearty was much better when switched back to half-back; Darragh Mulgrew did his best to get Donegal going in the opening half while John McGarvey also tried hard and his substitution was a surprise.
Donegal: Daniel Mullarkey; Gary Kelly, Conor Parke, John Rose; Eoin McHugh, Mark Gallagher, Ryan McHugh (1-2,1-0pen, 1f); Darragh Mulgrew, Raymond McNamee; Conor Harkin (0-2,1f), John McGarvey (0-2), Aodhan McGinley; Stephen McBrearty, Brendan McNelis, Willie Gillespie. Subs., Hugh McFadden (0-1) for A McGinley ht; John Fitzgerald for Rose 41; Callum Gallagher for Gillespie; Cathal McGettigan for McGarvey, both 52
Derry: Christopher Bradley; Declan Brown, Michael Sweeney, Gary Doyle; Gareth McKinless, Conor Carville, Ryan McDonnell (0-1); Peter Cassidy (0-2), Conor McAtamney: James Kearney, Ciaran McFaul, Terence O’Brien (2-1,0-1’45’); Gerard Bradley (0-4), Ryan Bell (0-1), Ryan Moore. Subs., Conor Gallagher for Doyle 20; Ryan Dougan for Moore 38; Neil McNicholl for Kearney 57; Danny Tallon for Carville 62
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down)
Man of the match
All the candidates were wearing red and white jerseys with Conor McAtamney, Peter Cassidy, Terence O’Brien, Gerard Bradley and Ryan Bell very impressive. The award goes to Bradley, who scored four points and was a handful throughout.
That first goal put Donegal on the back foot and when they conceded the second in the 38th minute, the game was over as a contest.
Donegal didn’t seem to get many decisions early on but overall the official didn’t have much of an influence on the game.