A goal from Aaron Doherty in the 57th minute sent Donegal into an Ulster U-20 final after overcoming Down in very difficult conditions at The Loup GAA Club in County Derry.
Donegal 1-11 Down 0-12
Down had goal chances in both halves, but once again Ronan McGeehin was magnificent between the posts for Donegal, denying them with a super first-half save and then making a brilliant double save in the second half, just before Doherty’s vital goal at the other end.
Donegal will play Tyrone in the Ulster final after they beat Antrim in the other semi-final, also by two points.
Donegal had the advantage of the elements in the opening half.
There was nothing between the teams in the opening 30 minutes but Down were the better team and should have been ahead if they taken one of two good goal chances.
Cormac O’Raw, an impressive midfielder, had them on the board inside a minute but Richard O’Rourke replied for Donegal.
Padraig McGettigan edged Donegal ahead from an mark free but Tim Prenter levelled on eight minutes.
Paul O’Hare, came forward to knock over Donegal’s third point but Cathal Gorman levelled for Down in the 15th minute after a free was moved forward by Referee Conor Dourneen.
Down had a goal chance minutes later when Cormac O Raw had an effort taken off the line by Oisin Walsh but the defender lost possession and Ronan McGeehin came to his rescue making a fantastic save from Tim Prenter.
Aaron Doherty converted a free before Prenter somehow blasted a second goal chance wide on 21 minutes.
Doherty had a second point for Donegal before half-time but Ruairi McCormack and O Rawe replied on both occasions to leave it all square at the break, 0-05 apiece.
Within two minutes of the restart Down were two ahead with Ruairi O’Hare and then Cathal Gorman adding a second before Aaron Doherty pulled a point back from a free.
Ryan McEvoy added a free to put two points between them again on 34 minutes but Conor McHugh hit a great score as Donegal showed they would not go away.
They were back on terms inside 40 minutes when Peter McEniff and Rory O’Donnell for the latter to fire over a great score.
They almost had a goal minutes later when Padraig McGettigan and Ronan Frain combined to create a great opening with but was denied by the ‘keeper. From the ’45’ Peter McEniff edged Donegal ahead again but
Ryan McEvoy converted a free to have Down level again on 44 minutes, 0-9 each.
Padraig McGettigan took another free mark with 11 minutes left to fire Donegal back in front but again Cathal Gorman levelled from a free for Down.
There were goal chances for both sides within 30 seconds. Conor McHugh Fisted a Peter McEniff centre just wide , while at the other end Down went quickly up the field and Ronan McGeehin made a double save to deny Dean Rice on 55 minutes.
The Down side were reduced to 14 when full-forward Ruairi O’Hare was sent to the sin bin for a black card offence. From the free Donegal worked the ball to Rory O’Donnell who fired his side into the lead 0-11 to 0-10.
And moments later Aaron Doherty finished off an excellent move involving a number of Donegal players to fire home a super goal to the far top corner of the net to give Donegal a four point lead.
Down cut the lead to two with points from sub Ryan Connolly and McEvoy’s third of the game but Donegal held their nerve to reach the Ulster final.
Donegal: Ronan McGeehin, Oisín Walsh, Conor O’Donnell, Paul O’Hare (0-1), Cormac Finn , Luke Gavigan , Peter McEniff (0-1), Rory O Donnell (0-2), Richard 0 Rourke (0-1), Ronan Finn, Aaron Doherty (1-3, 2f), Lanty Molloy, Conor McHugh (0-1), Padraig McGettigan (0-2), Ethan Harkin. Subs: Matthew Duffy for Finn (19), Kealan McGroddy for Molloy (21), Eric Carr for Frain (40), Johnny McGroddy for Harkin (48).