Derry upset Donegal to set up Under 20 Championship semi-final against Down

Derry forward Ben McCarron.
Derry forward Ben McCarron.

Ulster Under 20 Championship Quarter-final

Derry 0-16 Donegal 2-9

Heart, guts, passion and pride are all words that can be used to describe the Derry performance in Healy Park on Sunday.

The Oak Leafers came into the game as massive underdogs against a Donegal side fancied for not only provincial but national titles.

Gary McDaid’s side were backboned by players with plenty of senior experience including star man Niall O’Donnell who kicked 1-12 against Cavan just over one week ago.

Spectators had to wait seven minutes before the game's first score as both sides hit early wides amid some ferocious tackling.

O’Donnell it was who eventually got the scoreboard moving from a close range free after Nathan Boyle was brought down.

Declan Cassidy curled over Derry’s first score in the 10th minute, profiting from some patient build up before Mark McGrogan played the killer pass.

Two minutes later, Derry took the lead when Ben McCarron claimed a kick out before going on a driving run, typical of the Steelstown man. Lorcan McWilliams was on hand to tap over the resulting free.

However, disaster struck for Derry from the very next attack. That man O’Donnell went on a marauding run before slipping the ball to Peadar Morgan who came bursting off his left shoulder to make no mistake, shooting low under Oran Hartin and into the bottom left corner of the net.

The Oak Leaf men needed a response which Jude McAtamney provided when he nailed a free off the ground.

Steelstown attacker, McCarron would then go on to level the game after showing some lovely skills and using the outside of his left boot to split the posts from 40 yards.

Shane McGrath’s movement inside saw him picked out by a long direct ball before being fouled and O’Donnell was on hand to tap over the close range free. Paddy Dolan extended the Donegal lead to two after bursting through the heart of the Derry defence before dispatching over the bar. Jude McAtamney replied for the men in red and white, nailing a long range free off the ground.

Oisin McWilliams levelled for the third time after winning a kick out before getting up the pitch to finish off the move.

In the 22nd minute, Donegal hit the net for the second time when Paddy Dolan showed real pace and desire, going on a 40 yard run before shooting into the bottom corner.

To their credit, Donnelly’s knuckled down and continued to play their game, McAtamney nailing yet another free on the 45 yard line to bring his tally to 0-3. Jason McGee repeated the feat for Donegal from outside the 45 seconds later after Boyle was adjudged to have been fouled.

Callum Brown wasn’t going to be outshone by his opposite number though and took the ball on the move, showing real power to break the tackle before shooting over.

Brown’s midfield partner, Oisin McWilliams, got the final score of the half and it was one to behold, nailing an outside of the right effort from out on the right sideline.

After 30 minutes of the highest quality of football you are likely to see, the referee’s whistle sounded for half time with a scoreline of Donegal 2-5 Derry 0-8.

Derry would emerge sharpest for the second half, Darragh Rafferty winning the throw in before slipping to Oisin McWilliams who duly split the posts.

Whatever Donnelly had said at the break it was working wonders with Declan Cassidy turning the ball over deep in his own half, driving 60 yards before setting up McCarron to point.

Seven minutes into the half it was the left foot of McCarron that restored parity, O’Donnell then edging his side back into the lead with a free as it looked unlikely the sides would be separated.

Brown rose highest in the air to claim a kick-out from Limavady clubmate, Hartin before slipping the ball to Shea Downey who played the ball to Oisin McWilliams who finished a fine, flowing move.

Dolan then caught a kick-out of his own, lending the ball to Oisin Gallen before getting the return and shooting over.

It was now fast and frantic, McAtamney playing in Cassidy who sensibly opted to take the point with the goal on. McGee and McAtamney trading frees as the sides were level.

With the game in the melting pot, Derry were awarded a penalty after Brown was fouled. Up stepped Lorcan McWilliams to send the ball over the bar and edge his team in front.

The Oak Leaf omens looked bad on 56 minutes however when Derry were reduced to 14 after McCarron picked up a red card.

There was exactly two minutes left when a McAtamney free was sent high into the Omagh sun before dropping between the posts and Derry led by two when Dolan nailed a 45 of his own.

Donegal pressed for an equaliser in the five added minutes but Eoghan Concannon made a vital interception to ensure Derry held on for a one point win.

Mickey Donnelly’s men now advance to the Ulster Semi Final next Sunday where they will meet Down at 2pm in Clones.

DERRY: Oran Hartin, Sean McKeever, Darragh Rafferty, Conleith McShane, Jude McAtamney (0-4 4f), Conor McCluskey, Padraig McGrogan, Callum Brown (0-1), Oisin McWilliams (0-4), Conor Doherty, Shea Downey, Ben McCarron (0-3 2f), Mark McGrogan, Lorcan McWilliams (0-2 1f 1pen), Declan Cassidy (0-2).

SUBS: Eoghan Concannon for Conleith McShane (HT), Brian Cassidy for Mark McGrogan (49), Marty Bradley for Declan Cassidy (54), Eoghan Bradley for Lorcan McWilliams (54),

BLACK CARDS: None.

YELLOW CARDS: Shea Downey (36), Darragh Rafferty (58).

RED CARDS: Ben McCarron (56)

DONEGAL: Eoin O’Boyle, Mark Curran, Aaron Deeney, Conor O’Donnell, Peadar Morgan (1-0), Odhran McFadden, Peter McEniff, Jason McGee (0-2 1f), Luke Gavigan (0-1), Shane McDevitt, Niall O’Donnell (0-2 2f), Paddy Dolan (1-3 1 45’), Shane McGrath, Oisin Gallen, Nathan Boyle.

SUBS: Enda McCormick (0-1) for Shane McDevitt (HT), Timmy Govorov for Mark Curran (42), Ryan Cunningham for Oisin Gallen (51), Stephen Carr for Luke Gavigan (58)

BLACK CARDS: Enda McCormick (65).

YELLOW CARDS: Mark Curran (18), Nathan Boyle (51), Jason McGee (58).

RED CARDS: None.

REFEREE: Anthony Marron (Monaghan)