DONEGAL ARE Ulster Minor Champions for the seventh time after a two-point win over Derry in today’s curtain raiser in Clones.
Donegal 2-10 Derry 1-11
Goals in either half by JD Boyle and Nathan Boyle fired Donegal to glory after Shaun Paul Barrett’s team overcame a slow start to take the Fr Murray Cup back to Donegal for the second time in three years.
It was far from comfortable, but Donegal managed to get over the line in spit of a glut of missed chances.
Picture caption: Donegal joint captains Jason McGee and Niall O’Donnell hoist the Fr Murray Cup in Clones. Picture by Geraldine Diver.
Caolan Devlin, the top scorer with 1-7, brought Derry within two points when he fisted to the net from a centre by Seamus Higgins as the game entered added time.
An eerie air of quiet swept across St Tiernach’s Park and Donegal were clinging onto the cliff edge – after hitting 14 wides and dropping another two attempts short – by the time Niall McKenna called for the ball.
After taking some time to find their feet, Donegal needed a shot in the arm and JD Boyle provided it in the 21st minute.
The move was free-flowing Donegal at their finest, going all the way from their own 20-metre line via several players before Niall O’Donnell fed JD Boyle.
The Glenties man had work to do but, with a crisp shot off the floor, the centre-back brilliantly fired past Ben McKinless, the Derry goalkeeper.
Donegal couldn’t pull sufficiently clear and they got a precious second goal 13 minutes into the second half.
Odhrán Shiels’ ball in was fetched by Jason McGee ahead of McKinless. McGee was on the floor, but managed to get the pass out to Nathan Boyle.
The Aodh Ruadh man calmly side-stepped and shot in off the underside of the crossbar.
Donegal came in as favourites, but their attack lacked a killer punch early on and it was the Oak Leaf who began the brighter with Patrick Coney, Oisin McWilliams and Devlin (2) posting points that put Derry four ahead by the 12th minute.
Donegal were wasteful in the early moments, kicking four wides and another attempt by Peadar Mogan was blocked down.
However, when Mogan – who was excellent from his deep-lying role throughout the hour – struck a 27th minute, Donegal led for the first time.
There were two points between them at the break, with Donegal ahead, 1-4 to 0-5, thanks to that golden strike by JD Boyle.
Twice late in the half, Eoghan McGettigan curled over to put Donegal into a two-point lead they scarcely deserved.
It had taken them 17 minutes to raise a white flag, O’Donnell converting from a free and there was a fear that the nerves were weighing Barrett’s men down.
Until, that is, JD Boyle struck gold and the Tir Chonaill men settled in an instant.
Donegal made one change from the team that defeated Monaghan in the semi-final, Enda McCormick replacing Shane McGrath.
Donegal had a great goal chance early in the second half when McCormick found himself one-on-one with McKinless after being played in by Aidan McLaughlin. McCormick might have done better, but the Termon man’s close-range shot was saved by the legs of the Derry netminder.
Last year, Derry had popped the Donegal balloon at this venue in a semi-final, a day when Donegal’s comeback arrived when the fatal blow had long since been inflicted.
Here, the goals ensured there was no repeat of that.
O’Donnell and McGee, the Donegal joint captains, put three between them with quick-fire scores, only for Devlin to keep Derry in touch with a pair of frees.
Donegal should have been more comfortable after Nathan Boyle hit the second goal, but with Devlin on fire and Donegal retreating into their shell, the conclusion was everything but straightforward.
Down the home straight O’Donnell – despite appearing inhibited by a leg injury – booted over two points, one a free, but Devlin’s goal made for a tense finish, where Donegal prevailed.
Donegal: Gavin Mulreany; Seaghan Ferry, Aaron McCrea, Mark Curran; Odhran Shielsm JD Boyle (1-0), Aidan McLaughlin; Jason McGee (0-1), Kieran Gallagher (0-1); Nathan Boyle (1-0), Niall O’Donnell (0-4, 3f), Odhran McFadden-Ferry (0-1); Peadar Mogan (0-1), Eoghan McGettigan (0-2), Enda McCormick. Subs: Shane McGrath for McCormick (48), Brian O’Donnell for Ferry (56), Stephen Carr for N.Boyle (59), Aaron Deeney for JD Boyle (60).
Derry: Ben McKinless; Conor McCluskey, Gearoid McLaughlin, Aaron Bradley; Padraig McGrogan, Eoghan Concannon, Simon McErlain; Patrick Coney (0-1), Oisin McWilliams (0-1); Conor Doherty, Caolan Devlin (1-7, 6f), Patrick Quigg; Shea Downey, Feargal Higgins (0-1), Eoghan Bradley. Subs: Seamus Higgins (0-1) for Bradley (39), Jon Paul Devlin for McWilliams (41), Ronan Young for Higgins (42), Odhran McKeever for McCluskey (black card, 59).
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan).Tags: