Ulster Minor Football Championship Round Two
By Michael McMullan
DERRY booked their semi-final spot with victory over Donegal thanks to an impressive first-half showing on Saturday afternoon at Owenbeg.
Martin Boyle’s side led 1-9 to 1-2 at the break, but failed to raise a flag for the last 24 minutes of the game after Odhran Murphy’s 42nd minute penalty put them 10 points ahead.
The win came at a cost with a knee injury to captain Ryan McNicholl after just ten minutes. He’ll await the outcome of a scan, but the Glenullin starlet will be a major doubt for the semi-finals.
Luke Barrett described his side’s display in the opening 30 minutes as “flat” but was given encouragement ahead of next weekend with how they finished out the game.
Donegal face a qualifier, with the outcome dependent on the winner of Saturday evening’s Round Two clash of League champions Tyrone and Antrim.
Derry bossed the midfield exchanges in the first half and when Donegal ‘keeper Conlon kicked straight to McNicholl, he delicately lobbed the ball into the empty net for a fourth minute goal.
Donegal could’ve had a goal two minutes later when Lorcan McGee’s shot off the post dropped into the arms of Cian McGee who fired over from close range with a goal for the taking.
The loss of McNicholl could’ve thrown Derry off their way, but a Chambers free was followed by a fine Forbes effort.
Derry controlled the first half with Johnny McGuckian like a magnet in possession. When Derry’s brilliant defensive until turned over the ball they went on the attack. Even goalkeeper Ben O’Connor made two interceptions and played positioned himself on the 45 metre line for every Donegal kick-out.
Trailing 1-6 to 0-2, Donegal – who went 18 minutes without a score – found a way back into the game. Mark McDevitt got away from the otherwise flawless Fionn McEldowney who tugged him back and Cian McMenamin tucked away the resultant penalty.
Conor McGinty pulled deep from centre forward to win possession, but it allowed Odhran Crozier to sit back at centre back and close up Derry’s defence.
Derry tagged on three points to put them into a commanding interval lead and the influential Forbes notched the first point of the second half.
Conal Higgins had a goal chance saved by goalkeeper Conlon in the 39th minute with eight points between the sides.
Three minutes later Odhran Murphy tucked away a penalty he won himself and Derry were 2-11 to 1-4 clear.
Donegal started to get a foothold in the game and Derry needed a Dara McPeake block to prevent a half chance for goal from Daithi Gildea – scorer of 2-8 against Fermanagh – who was brilliantly marshalled by James Murray.
McGinty fired over a point and Karl Joseph Molloy blazed a goal chance wide as Donegal had their moments of control.
They were wasteful and appeared to be trying to work the ball long when points would’ve asked more questions of a Derry team who didn’t have the same squeaky clean use of the ball they had before half-time.
Elsewhere, Cavan were 0-18 to 3-6 winners over Fermanagh in the Qualifiers where Monaghan also advanced thanks to a 5-13 to 0-12 win over Down.
Derry: B O’Connor; F McEldowney (0-1), J Murray, D McDermott; J McGuckian, O Crozier, S Birt (0-1); D McPeake, R Forbes (0-2); C Higgins, O Murphy (1-1, 1 pen), C Spiers (0-1); E Higgins (0-3, 1f), R McNicholl (1-0), C Chambers (0-2, 1f)
Subs: C Downey for R McNicholl (10), A Donnelly for O Murphy (46), T Quinn for C Higgins (58), P McMullan for S Birt (61), J Dillon for R Forbes (62)
Yellow card: C Spiers (41)
Donegal: Z Conlon; S McMenamin, N Prenderville, D Gallagher (0-1); F Roarty (0-1), E Kelly, S Martin; S McLaughlin, L McGee (0-1); KJ Molloy, C McGinty (0-1), C McMenamin (1-1, 1 pen, 1f); M McDevitt, D Gildea (0-1f), C McGee (0-1)
Subs: P Coyle (0-1) for S McLaughlin (HT), K Lynch (0-1) for D Gildea (51), O Doherty for E Kelly (56)
Yellow cards: C McGee (36), M McDevitt (37)
Referee: E Mallon (Armagh)