Donegal Youth League team. Photo Stephen Doherty
An absorbing FAI Youth Interleague quarter final encounter saw hosts Galway make it through to the semi finals but only after a titanic battle against the Donegal Youth League at Mervue Astro on Saturday afternoon.
Galway District League 1
Donegal Youth League 0(AET)
Galway eventually won 1-0 with the winning goal coming four minutes from the end of extra time through a Niall Rooney header.
There was an air of inevitability that this game would be going to the lottery of a penalty shootout until Rooneys late intervention which came from a superb cross from right sided player Jason Gorham who was highly impressive during the 110 minutes of a pulsating clash.
Donegal had come into this on the back of a group defeat against Mayo but rediscovered their commitment and desire and took the game to the hosts from the off and with Bonagees Aaron Wasson unmanageable in the opening stages were unlucky not to take the lead with efforts from Wasson and Fanad Utds Ryan Toye calling home netminder Kallum Fahy into action.
Galway though gradually got a foothold and Rooney sent a shot just over after eleven minutes before Donegal ought to have taken the lead on 16 minutes only for Justin McGee to somehow misfire from 8 yards out after another teasing run and cross from Wasson.
Galway through upped the ante after that scare and Morgan Leggett came close with a header before Donegal keeper Eoghan Jordan prevented the Tribesmen from opening their account on 42 minutes when turning an exquisite free from Elliott Langan around the post with a top drawer stop.
Jordan was then called into action with a brilliant reaction save from Adam Kelleher to ensure the sides remained deadlocked at the break.
Galway began the second half brightly and Byron Lydon should have scored on 49 minutes before the big chance Donegal craved came and went on 53 minutes when some super work by Toye saw his cross go across the face of goal and a chance fell to McGee but he somehow blazed over with the goal at his mercy.
That gave the visitors added belief and with Fanad Utds Darren McElwaine and Letterkenny Rovers Ryan Higgins having super games in unfamiliar roles of centre half and right back respectively were in no mood to offer up any easy chances to the Galwaymen although they did strike the upright through Gorham on the hour mark.
The game quickly turned into a war of attrition in increasingly gloomy conditions which necessiated the floodlight s being turned on and a stalemate developed with play fractious due to a number of injury stoppages before Galway almost won it with the last action of the 90 minutes when somehow Donegal survived as the ball came off the upright before the ensuing scramble saw McElwaine and Paul Bradley both make goalline clearances to ensure extra time.
Extratime was a rather uneventful affair and it looked destined to be penalties until Gorhams cracking delivered cross found Rooneys head and he directed it to the bottom corner given Jordan no chance.
A battling display from Donegal and one to be proud of and a case of what might have been but Galway also created plenty and advance to an away clash with Cork or Wicklow in the semi finals in a couple of weeks time.
GALWAY: Kallum Fahy, Daniel Brennan, Mark Melody,Dean Ward, Morgan Leggett, Conor Finnerty, Jason Gorham, Elliott Lanagn, Niall Rooney, Byron Lydon, Adam Kelleher.Subs; Sean Quinn for Kelleher 63 mins, Ruairi McSweeney for Finnerty 90.
DONEGAL: Eoghan Jordan, Ryan Higgins, Paul Bradley, Ruairi Dennehy, Darren McElwaine, Dylan Brolly, Aaron Wasson, Conor Mchugh, justin McGee, Ryan Toye, Edward O'Reilly. Subs; Darragh Greene for O'Reilly 67 mins, Ryan O'Donnell for Wasson 95 mins.
REFEREE: Gearoid Kelly (Roscommon)
Saturday 10 March
Dick Duffy Memorial Youth League
Kilmacrennan Celtic 2-6 Dunfanaghy Youths
FAI Youth Inter League quarter-final
Galway District League 1-0 Donegal Youth League
Tuesday 13 March
Dick Duffy Memorial Youth League
Bonagee United v Letterkenny Rovers 7.30pm
Saturday 17 March
Kilmacrennan Celtic v Keadue Rovers 2pm