All Ireland heartbreak for Derry minors as Galway winning thrilling semi-final

Electric Ireland All Ireland Minor football Championship semi-final

GOAL . . . Eoin Higgins grabbed a brilliant first half goal as Derry minors went down to Galway in Parnell Park. (Photo: George Sweeney)
GOAL . . . Eoin Higgins grabbed a brilliant first half goal as Derry minors went down to Galway in Parnell Park. (Photo: George Sweeney)

Derry 1-11, Galway 2-09

Derry minors suffered semi-final heartbreak as they were pipped for a place in the All Ireland final by Galway in Parnell Park on Saturday.

Martin Boyle's team were never at their fluent best against an excellent Galway side but fought back from a three point half-time deficit and late red card for Johnny McGuckian to push the Tribesmen to the pin of their collective collars in a thrilling injury time finale.

Trailing 2-09 to 1-05 with 10 minutes remaining, the young Oak Leafers rallied brilliantly and driven forward by Cahir Spiers and Ciaran Chambers, they hit six unanswered points to bring it back to a one point game as the last of four added minutes ticked by.

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And there was still time for one last Derry attack, Oak keeper Ben O'Connor well inside the Galway '45' to lay the ball off for substitute Anatain Donnelly who had only seconds to get his shot away from a difficult angle. It was a fine effort but still inches wide of the far post.

With no time even a second bounce of the ball as it landed, Sean Laverty's full-time whistle signalled the end of a gallant championship crusade which deserved more than it eventually brought.

In corner-forwards Colm Costello and Eanna Monaghan, Galway have two superb prospects and they fleet footed duo showed all their tricks in a performance that brought 1-04 for Costello and 0-4 for Monaghan. In truth their finishing was probably the difference between Derry being in an All Ireland final and not, though the Oak Leafers did contribute to their their troubles at times by getting caught at their kick-outs.

Despite the defeat, the potential within this Derry panel was evident as the likes of Spiers, Chambers, Fionn McEldowney and Ruairi Forbes all played well. The frustration would be that they allowed Galway to dictate for periods and capitalise too often on turnovers from Derry short kick-outs.

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Galway started the better of the two sides, pressing the Oak Leafers high and forcing them to lose possession at a rate not normally associated with this talented young Derry team. It was a start that had its reward within three minutes as well thanks to a superb run from corner-back Tomas Farthing who made his way in from the right before off-loading superbly to midfielder Jack Lonergan, who had found space in front of goal, and he finished well to the net for the game's opening score.

The goal stung Derry and galvanised the Tribesmen even more with the Connacht side going on to dominate Derry for most of the opening half hour until Eoin Higgins' goal, followed by the black card for Shay McGlinchey finally signalled a Derry foothold in the game.

Despite playing second fiddle for most of the opening half though, Derry still had chances to be much closer than the 1-01 to 1-04 advantage Galway eventually turned around at half-time with. Indeed, both Johnny McGuckian and Odhran Crozier were in on goal only to be denied by excellent Galway defending. In a game of small margins, two goal chances might have been pivotal and only two scores in the half will have been a major concern for Boyle and his management team.

As it was, Lonergan's goal paved the way for an excellent Galway side to push on, corner forward Monaghan tagging on a point shortly after before Ciaran Chambers finally got Derry on the scoreboard with a hard earned ninth minute point, the first of 0-6 for the Bellaghy teen.

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For all their dominance and intensity, Galway were struggling to put any real distance between themselves and Derry who were showing real character to hang doggedly to the westerners' coat-tails and they finally got their reward on 28 minutes when Odhran Murphy's pass sent Higgins in and he finished superbly, high into the roof of the Galway net for 1-01 to 1-04.

Seconds later a trip by Galway midfielder, Shay McGlinchey, on Danny McDermott meant Derry would have 10 minutes at the start of the second half against 14 men.

If the plan was Derry pressure, things went awry quickly for Derry as the loss of possession close to the Galway posts saw the Tribesmen break the length of the pitch and Costello run away from the trailing defenders to finish superbly with his right foot for a second Galway goal.

The second goal shook Derry and the third quarter belonged to Galway, or more precisely to Costello and Monaghan as Galway built a 2-09 to 1-05 lead by the 50th minute.

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Derry looked gone, and even nice points from McGuckian, whose goal bound shot was deflected over, and substitute Conor Downey looked a mere footnote when McGuckian then received a second yellow card for a high challenge on Monaghan.

This Derry team is made of stern stuff though and set about showing it. With caution thrown to the wind, a point from Spiers and three from the excellent Chambers had Derry back to 1-11 against Galway's 2-09, with the Connacht men having not scored since the 50th minute.

Donnelly's fine final effort was inches away from forcing extra-time and completing an epic comeback but in championship football inches can make the difference.

Derry scorers: Eoin Higgins (1-1, 1f), Ciaran Chambers (0-6, 4f), Ruairi Forbes (0-1), Johnny McGuckian (0-1), Conor Downey (0-1), Cahir Spiers (0-1)

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Galway scorers: Colm Costello (1-4, 2f), Eanna Monaghan (0-4), Jack Lonergan (1-0), Shay McGlinchey (0-1)

Derry: Ben O'Connor, Fionn McEldowney, Eoin Scullion, Danny McDermott, James Murray, Odhran Crozier, Shea Birt, Dara McPeake, Ruairi Forbes, Johnny McGuckian, Conall Higgins, Cahir Spiers, Eoin Higgins Ciaran Chambers, Odhran Murphy. (Subs) Conor Downey for C Higgins, 38mins; Antain Donnelly for E Scullion, 41mins; Dara McGurk for S Birt, 51mins;

Galway: Kyle GIlmore, Tomas Farthing, Ryan Flaherty, Vinny Gill, Mark Mannion, Cillian Trayers, Ross Coen, Jack Lonergan, Shay McGlinchey, Sean Dunne, Owen Morgan, Stephen Curley, Eanna Monaghan, Fionn O'Connor, Colm Costello. (Subs) Olan Kelly for S Dunne, 48mins; James Somerville for F O'Connor, 57mins; Adam Colleran for R Flaherty, 60mins; Padraic McNeela for R Coen, 61mins

Referee: Sean Laverty (Antrim)