A LATE GOAL from Eddie Lynch was the decisive score as Donegal overcame Tyrone in the final of the Andrew O’Neill Cup -the U-21C All-Ireland.
Donegal 1-11 Tyrone 0-11
With the sides level at 0-11 and little of nothing to choose between them, Bernard Lafferty won a free right in front of the posts with just three minutes remaining. Standing 20 metres from goal, Lynch stood over the sliotar but instead of slotting just over, the cheekily went for a low one.
The ball skewed and slipped underneath a Tyrone defender and over the line. It mightn’t have been the cleanest of goals but Donegal, who were brave throughout, they didn’t care.
Paddy Flood’s side had come through a close-run semi-final against Sligo eight nights’ beforehand, winning 0-16 to 0-15 against Sligo.
In that contest in Letterkenny, Lafferty scored 12 points, with 10 coming from placed balls. This evening on the Lone Moor Road, the first half was a more open affair with all but two of the 12 points the sides shared at the break coming from play.
At half-time it was 0-6 to 0-6 and it was Donegal who would’ve been the more content with that. Despite a good start when they led 0-3 to 0-1 on 13 minutes, with Kevin Meehan, Sean Curran and Conor McNeely on the mark, it was Tyrone who took over.
The side managed by Mattie Lennon posted five unanswered points – with Matthew Mulgrew and Dywer Marshall scoring twice apiece, while Ryan McKernan added to Peadar Daly’s opening score of a damp evening.
That gave the Red Hands a 0-6 to 0-4 lead and on the face of it, it was a deserved cushion. Stephen Doherty had a goal chance for Donegal on 23 minutes but his effort flashed wide.
It would be Marshall who was at the centre of most of Tyrone’s positive work. He would score six points in all, while Donegal had a good spread of scorers – with no fewer than eight players scoring from play on the day.
Donegal kept clawing away and finished the half on a positive note, Conor Harkin and Lafferty, with a free, tied things up at the interval.
Then, on 35 minutes, Doherty edged Donegal in front from distance only for Marshall to level at 0-7 each – it was the fourth time the sides were level. It was anyone’s game.
That trend of tit-for-tat showed little sign of abating. Eddie Lynch put Donegal ahead, Mulgrew equalised. Then Harkin posted a Donegal point only for Marshall to again. Now it was 0-9 to 0-9 – and the teams had been level six times.
Again, there was no deviation. Tyrone went in front from another couple of Marshall points but on each occasion Donegal had clawed their way back into it. Sean Curran and Conor O’Grady were the scorers for 0-11 all. By then, level eight times something had to give.
Lafferty’s late strike ensured that it wasn’t Donegal who blinked first. It was a cruel end for Tyrone but with the closeness of the contest, it always seemed as though it was going to take something a little out of the ordinary to win it. That’s what happened.
The reward for Donegal is a place in the quarter-finals of the U-21B competition and a meeting with Mayo on Saturday week, August 8.
Donegal: Dylan Laverty; Ciarán Rami, Gavin McGrath, Mark Callaghan; Conor O’Grady (0-1), Dónal McLaughlin, Oisin Rooney; Conor Harkin (0-2), Stephen Doherty (0-1); Sean Curran (0-2), Kevin Meehan (0-1), Conor McNeely (0-1); Bernard Lafferty (0-2, 1f), Conor Gallen, Eddie Lynch (1-1, 1-0 f). Subs: Aaron McAuley for Gallen (43), Cathal Doherty for McNeely (50), Justin McBride for for Curran (56), Colm Melaugh for Meehan (60)
Tyrone: Aaron Devine; Andrew Byrne, Ruairí Devlin, Mark McCroary; Dominic Rushe, Sean Muldoon, Lorcan Devlin; Ryan McKernan (0-1), Dean Rafferty; Josh Ferguson, Dwyer Marshall (0-6, 3f), Ricky Kelly; Peadar Daly (0-1), Matthew Mulgrew (0-3), Ciarán McCrudden. Subs: Paul Conway for Rushe (40), Brandon Molloy for McCrudden (58)
Referee: Kevin Brady (Louth).Tags: