PADDY FLOOD admitted he actually missed the goal that won the Andrew O’Neill Cup – the All-Ireland U-21C championship – for Donegal against Tyrone on Sunday evening in Derry.
The Donegal manager (pictured above with captain Dylan Laverty) was getting his defence organised when Eddie Lynch, with the score 0-11 to 0-11, fooled everyone by driving a 20-metre free into the ground and past a white line of Tyrone defenders on the line, whom expected the Aodh Ruadh forward to slot over for a point.
Photo caption: The Donegal panel before Sunday’s Andrew O’Neill Cup final at Celtic Park in Derry
“I didn’t anticipate that there was going to be a goal,” Flood said afterwards. “Let’s just say he put some spin on it! That’s what it took – that bit of luck. You need that to win championships.”
In a nip-and-tuck final, where the teams were level eight times, Flood was content that his side recovered from Tyrone blitzing over five points in succession in the first half to go 0-6 to 0-4 up. Conor Harkin and Bernard Lafferty ensured interval parity.
“At half-time we were very happy to be going in level,” Flood said of the 0-6 to 0-6 scoreline. “We’d grown into the game and knew we would have the breeze for the second half. It was going to be difficult for Tyrone but we just couldn’t shake Tyrone off. Every time we play Tyrone it’s the same.
“That period before the break was critical. Playing against them, with a sweeper, was going to be difficult had they they lead.”
Donegal had to come through a nail-biting semi-final, when they overcame Sligo 0-16 to 0-15 in Letterkenny with Lafferty having scored 0-12, 10 from placed balls. In the meantime, Tyrone had a walkover victory over Louth. With a focus put on Lafferty, the MacCumhaill’s forward was kept to two points. But his manager felt he played a vital role when the chance came – winning the late free from which Lynch goaled.
“I told Bernard Lafferty afterwards that his run won us the game,” Flood added. “He worked so hard and won a lot of ball. Tyrone might’ve got a good look at us but that was a disadvantage in some ways. There’s absolutely no doubt that the game against Sligo stood us in good stead. We stepped it up and having the semi-final was a huge boost.
“We got some wonderful scores from play today when they were needed. The referee was consistent and didn’t give easy frees. He contributed to a good game.”
Donegal now find themselves with a home fixture in the U-21B quarter-finals, against Mayo on Saturday, August 8.
“Winning the championship is a huge achievement but we knew we had the chance to enter the B competition,” Flood added. “There are teams knocking around that who are in the Liam McCarthy at senior level. It’ll be a huge test.”
Goalkeeper and captain Dylan Laverty wore a broad smile all evening. And outside of the Celtic Park dressing-rooms he was praiseworthy of both Tyrone and indeed, like his manager, match referee Kevin Brady.
“It was very good,” Laverty said. “Great pride in the fact that we’re the first Donegal team to win it at this level. There was nothing easy about it. Tyrone are a really good team and a team who have got the better of us. They’re serious but we probably owed them one.
“Once again, it was a very good game. The referee let things go and let the teams get on with it and for me, that’s the way that hurling should be played. That’s the way you see hurling refereed down the country. I hate it when they blow every little tap. It wasn’t stop and start and that’s great.”
The Donegal management team with the Andrew O’Neill Cup back at the Sean MacCumhaill Centre in BallybofeyTags: