At the end, all they could do was fall to the turf as Donegal’s U20s crashed to the floor and careered out of the Ulster Under-20 Championship.
Donegal 2-9 Derry 0-16
By Chris McNulty at Healy Park. Pictures by Evan Logan
Months of work is, just like that, gone, for Gary McDaid’s Donegal after Derry shocked them in Omagh.
Just a week after blowing Cavan away by 17 points, Donegal failed to repeat the trick at Healy Park and their disappointment was laid bare.
There was anger too, with some Donegal backroom members and players surrounding referee Anthony Marron as they made their exit.
Defeat comes as a bitter pill for a Donegal side that had prepared so thoroughly and had serious designs on landing silverware.
Donegal led 2-5 to 0-6 in the 29th minute, having had goals by Peadar Mogan and Paddy Dolan. At that stage, Donegal looked to be on their way to the semi-finals, but Derry hit the game’s next six points to swing the pendulum in their favour.
In a move to counter the early morning start, many of Donegal’s players stayed in Letterkenny last night and the Tir Chonaill men shook the heads clear with Enda McCormick and Dolan on the mark.
However, Declan Cassidy might well have rattled the net, but the Bellaghy forward had to settle for a point as he drilled high and hard to get Derry on an even keel.
Donegal were looking rattled by that point and Jude McAtamney’s third free of the day had Derry ahead as the clock ticked into the final quarter.
A monster from Luke Gavigan settled Donegal and they had a lifeline when a Lorcan McWilliams penalty – awarded after Callum Brown was brought down when surrounded by a posse of Donegal defenders – rose up and over the crossbar 12 minutes from the end.
Derry’s Ben McCarron was sent off five minutes from the end as Marron flashed red following an apparent off-the-ball strike by the Steelstown forward. Donegal would also conclude with 14 men as McCormick was black carded and time was up before a replacement could be sent on.
Donegal went in search of a goal and almost got it in the dying moments of normal time. Aaron Deeney was denied by a strong block by a Derry defender and Oak Leaf goalkeeper Oran Harkin deflected wide when Mogan wormed his way in.
Dolan converted the ’45, but got his co-ordinates wrong in added time from a ’45 and, despite five minute son added time, Donegal couldn’t force another breakthrough.
Donegal’s opening goal arrived in the 12th minute. Mogan, who pops up so often in these areas, collected a pass from the excellent Conor O’Donnell. Mogan’s finish was precise and true, firing low past Derry ‘keeper Oran Harkin.
Ten minutes later, Dolan carried from deep and the Convoy man galloped far into Derry territory before sending a deadly arrow to the net.
Mogan’s goal had been cancelled out by a McAtamney free and a well-taken point by McCarron, arched over even as he lost his footing.
Donegal began their campaign in superb fashion last week with a 2-21 to 0-10 win over Cavan in Derry, where Niall O’Donnell landed a masterful personal haul of 1-12.
Here, O’Donnell was off target with an early free, when Marron called play back just as Mogan, who had been fouled, was clipping between the sticks.
O’Donnell got Donegal back in front after Shane McGrath foraged well to make the chance and, when Donegal won the subsequent kick-out, Dolan swung over.
McAtamney wonderfully sailed over a 46-metre free to bring the arrears to three after Dolan’s powerful goal, but Jason McGee answered the call at the other end with a free from an identical distance before the Cloughaneely man added another from close range.
Callum Brown and a majestic effort from Oisin McWilliams ate into the deficit and the contest was finely poised at the interval, where Donegal held a 2-5 to 0-8 advantage.
Gary McDaid’s starting XV showed just one change from the Cavan game with Luke Gavigan coming into the fray, in place of Seaghan Ó Fearraigh and the Donegal manager was able to call upon McCormick at the interval.
McCormick, who is not long out of a protective boot he’d worn after a leg injury, played the last few minutes of the Cavan game and was sprung here at the break.
But Derry were back to within a point when Oisin McWilliams, after just 12 seconds, and McCarron, after Cassidy dispossessed McCormick and made a deadly incision, hit early points.
When Mogan was penalised for a foul on Oisin McWilliams, McCarron slotted the free and Derry were level for the third time.
Derry were in command of things now and Donegal struggled to get a foothold in the second half.
Donegal: Eoin O’Boyle; Peter McEniff, Odhrán McFadden-Ferry, Peadar Mogan (1-0); Aaron Deeney, Mark Curran, Luke Gavigan (0-1); Jason McGee (0-2, 1f), Conor O’Donnell; Shane McDevitt, Niall O’Donnell (0-2f), Paddy Dolan (1-3, 1 ’45); Shane McGrath, Oisin Gallen, Nathan Boyle. Subs: Enda McCormick (0-1) for McDevitt (half-time), Timmy Govorov for Curran (42), Ryan Cunningham for Gallen (51), Stephen Carr for Gavigan (59), Ronan Docherty for Boyle (59).
Derry: Oran Harkin; Sean McKeever, Darragh Rafferty, Conleith McShane; Jude McAtamney (0-4f), Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan; Callum Brown (0-1), OIsin McWilliams (0-4); Conor Doherty, Shea Downey, Ben McCarron (0-3, 1f); Mark McGrogan, Lorcan McWilliams (0-2, 1f, 1pen), Declan Cassidy (0-2). Subs: Eoghan Concannon for McShane (half-time), Brian Cassidy for M.McGrogan (49), Eoghan Bradley for L.McWilliams (54), Marty Bradley for D.Cassidy (54), Hugh McGurk for O.McWilliams (60).
Referee: Anthony Marron (Monaghan).