Derry Minors crowned Ulster champions after defeating Monaghan in thrilling final
2020 Ulster Minor Football Championship final
Derry 1-15, Monaghan 0-15
Derry are the 2020 Ulster Minor football champions after overcoming Monaghan in a thrilling, incident packed final at Healy Park on Friday night.
An Oak Leaf squad who had already lifted Ulster titles at Under 15 and 16 level made it a hat-trick to remember thanks to a breath-taking display of attacking football in the first half and a dogged resilience to to relinquish their lead in the second despite the harsh dismissal of full forward Lachlan Murray in the 43rd minute.
In all there were four black cards, two yellows and that controversial red in a game that was always competitive but never nasty with Derry indebted to keeper Kian McGonigle's championship winning save in injury time when the Dungiven stopper managed to black Connor Eccles point blank effort with his head. It was a superb save and [perfectly summed up a squad who refused to accept they had lost their Ulster dream when Covid forced its postponement three times since last March.
In the end the wait was worth every second for a squad who can now look forward to an All Ireland semi-final next weekend they fully deserve.
All over the pitch Derry had big performances with marauding half back Mark Doherty rightly claiming the 'Man of the Match' honours but he was hard pressed but a number of team-mates. Murray was sublime until his dismissal, Matthew Downey excellent as always including the injury time free which finally settled the contest.
Patrick O'Kane, Donncha Gilmore and Dan Higgins all played pivotal roles but in truth there wasn't one who didn't contribute. Monaghan for their part will look at a first half that caught them cold and despite a vastly improved second period from them, this was Derry's night.
Derry set up with Eoin McEvoy sweeping and Murray inside but the Oak Leafers ability to rotate those positions left Monaghan chasing shadows at times in a hugely unimpressive opening from Martin Boyle's team who should have been further head than their 1-08 to 0-04 interval advantage.
Murray in particular was leading the Farney defence a merry dance, hitting three from play and one mark in a brilliant first half display that was complimented superbly by Matthew Downey's clever play. With much of Monaghan's defensive focus centred on the young Lavey player, his ability to create space allowing colleagues to prosper and they took full advantage.
The Oak Leafers got off to the perfect start with a goal inside four minutes the game's opening score.
Monaghan had passed up a couple opportunities but Derry were already showing signs of clicking into gear when Higgins broke from midfield to release Downey who in turn fed Niall O'Donnell inside. The Ballinderry man showed super composure to sidestep to outrushing Monaghan keeper and slide a lovely finish into the empty net to set the tone for the first half.
From there, it was about how many Derry would lead by at half-time as the Oak Leafers backline totally dominated, winning countless turnovers and setting the likes of Gilmore, Doherty and O'Kane away to feed the forwards.
Monaghan were totally reliant on the free-taking of Stephen Mooney and had to wait until the 28th minute for their first point from play when Diarmuid Marron scored but by that time Derry were well in charge.
A Murray mark coupled with a Charlie Diamond free and a lovely Downey effort had Derry 1-04 to 0-01 ahead at the first water break and by half-time points from Murray (2) one a superb solo score, Charlie Diamond and Downey had the Oak Leafers well in charge at the interval.
With Monaghan's Ethan Graham have been black carded for a cynical block on Doherty n the 27th minute, the Farney men started the second period a man short but you wouldn't have known it as the Monaghan intensity level lifted visibly.
Mooney and Niall rice grabbed Monaghan scores either side of another Diamond point but Derry were still looking comfortable when Diamond then received a black card for an off the ball block in the 39th minute.
The incident which changed the game completely was the red card for Desertmartin's Murray who had been superb and it's a decision Derry are bound to appeal. Murray had won countless dirty ball and was at it again close to the Monaghan posts when he became entangled with full-back Louis Kelly. It looked little more than a tangle of legs but the referee's attention was called by one of the umpire's and Murray was promptly dismissed.
The red card gave Monaghan a huge lift but Kelly then received a black card for fouling Higgins as he charged through to momentarily mean it was 14 playing 13.
All the time Monaghan were chipping away at the Derry total, Mooney's free the main source of points and meaning they had brought it back to 1-14 to 0-15 as we ticked into injury time.
The large crowd was in a frenzy as Derry battled to hang on with McGonigle's save almost taking the roof off the Healy Park stand. Seconds later, Downey showed nerves of steel to slot of a superb free and Derry were Ulster champions.
With the 2021 Minor championship due to start in a few weeks time, they won't reign for long but they'll remember this one forever.
Derry scorers: Niall O'Donnell (1-0), Lachlan Murray (0-4, 1m), Charlie Diamond (0-3, 2f), Matthew Downey (0-6, 4f), Ryan McEldowney (0-1)
Monaghan scorers: Stephen Mooney (0-7, 7f), Diarmuid Marron (0-1), Niall Rice (0-1), Dan McCahey (0-2), Cian Conlon (0-3, 1 '45'), Nathan Lavery (0-1),
Derry: Kian McGonigle, Adam McGonigle, Patrick McGurk, Conor Shiels, Mark Doherty, Eoin McEvoy, Lee Brady, Dan Higgins, Patrick O'Kane, Donnacha Gilmore, Matthew Downey, Jody McDermott, Charlie Diamond, Lachlan Murray, Niall O'Donnell. (Subs) Jude Moore for C Shiels, 46mins; Calum Downey for N O'Donnell, 52mins; Niall Duggan for L Brady, 61mins; Ryan McEldowney for C Diamond, 64mins;
Yellow cards: M Downey, 33mins;
Black Card: C Diamond, 38mins;
Monaghan: Daragh Croarkin, Joe Carey, Louis Kelly, James Slevin, Nathan Lavery, Dylan Byrne, Ethan Graham, Connor Eccles, Tiarnan O'Rourke, Diarmuid Marron, Stephen Mooney, Ryan Duffy, Michael Hamill, Dan Cahey, Niall Rice. (Subs) Cian Conlon for T O'Rourke, 42mins; Dylan O'Reilly for N Rice, 46mins;
Black Card: E Graham, 27mins; L Kelly, 45mins; N Lavery, 35mins;
Yellow cards: M Hamill, 59mins
Referee: James Lewis (Fermanagh)