Derry Under 20s defeat Donegal to make Ulster Championship final

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Eirgrid Ulster U20 Football Championship Semi-final

Derry 0-11, Donegal 0-05

Derry will meet Down or Monaghan in the Ulster Under 20 Football Championship final after an ultimately comfortable victory over Donegal in Owenbeg on Saturday.

The semi-final build up had been over shadowed by the controversy over the implementation of the GAA's new 'seven day' ruling which ultimately meant this last four clash was brought forward from April 12th, but there proved precious little fireworks on the pitch as Martin Boyle's team won with plenty to spare against a Donegal side who too often lacked ambition, especially with the wind at their backs in the second half.

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Peter McCullagh was in superb form for Derry, hitting 0-4 as the Oak Leafers advanced to the Ulster Under 20 final by defeating Donegal in Owenbeg on Saturday. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2052GS - 002Peter McCullagh was in superb form for Derry, hitting 0-4 as the Oak Leafers advanced to the Ulster Under 20 final by defeating Donegal in Owenbeg on Saturday. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2052GS - 002
Peter McCullagh was in superb form for Derry, hitting 0-4 as the Oak Leafers advanced to the Ulster Under 20 final by defeating Donegal in Owenbeg on Saturday. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2052GS - 002

Of the five players who would have missed out had the original date stood, only Matthew Downey, Niall O'Donnell and Mark Doherty played with neither Lachlan Murray and Eoin McEvoy even among the Derry substitutes.

Derry certainly show signs of rustiness in the opening half yet still managed to establish a five point lead and the second half Tir Chonaill onslaught never materialised as Matthew Downey pushed forward to orchestrate a possession based Derry display that kept Donegal tied up inside their own half for most of the half.

Star man for Derry was four point Peter McCullagh and while there is plenty to work on ahead of the decider, Boyle will happy to get this one out of the way after the distraction and uncertainty of the build-up.

With the wind at their backs Derry completely dominated the opening half without ever looking like being able to opened up a massed Donegal defence. So often the poor relation of the age grades, moving to U20 has already had its challenges for All Ireland winning minor manager Boyle. Collective training sessions and challenge matches with a full panel have not been easy come by and that restricted preparation period showed at times in the first half.

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With Matthew Downey operating in a quarter, Derry bossed the ball but often washed up against the massed visitors defence or tried to force a kick pass when a more simple hand-pass was on.

That said, they never looked in any trouble from the moment Patrick McGurk opened the scoring with a lovely long range score two minutes in. A Shaun Ward free cancelled that out but McGurk's impressive start continued when it was his block on Luke McGlynn that proved the catalyst for a move that ended with McCullagh's first score of the day.

Derry's 0-2to 0-1 lead became 0-6 to 0-1 by the 20th as two more points from the excellent McCullagh were added to by two Charlie Diamond frees.

Donegal's first wide of the half, only their second shot, from Daniel Gildea, brought the half to a close but with the considerable Owenbeg breeze to come in the second half, there was plenty of reason for optimism among the visitors who trailed by five points.

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Yet the Donegal reaction never came. Even late when they introduced Kevin Lynch as a target man there were never enough numbers around him to make the long ball in a realistic weapon of attack.

Derry shifted Downey into a more advanced role as well as introducing both Ruairi O'Mianain and Lee Brady at the break and an increased intensity and speed of movement meant Donegal struggled to gain meaningful possession. Leo McLoone's men did open the second half scoring with a well worked McGlynn scored but it would take another 17 minutes before they added to their tally.

In the meantime, Derry worked the ball with patient possession, Dan Higgins superb fielding the spark for a move that ended with Downey's first point of the game and Derry second half opener.

The same player added a free before Donncha Gilmore and McCullagh with his fourth stretched the lead to 0-10 to 0-2 by the 46th minute.

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Donegal responded with a brace of scores from Oisin Caulfield (mark) and Donal Gallagher but any momentum was stopped in its track's by Diamond's third free of the game to leave it 0-11 to 0-04. McGlynn's second score of the semi-final brought the deficit back to six before Gallagher blotted his copybook with a needless black card for trying to haul Lee Brady to his feet after a foul on the Derry player.

It summed up a frustration day for Donegal who can feel aggrieved at the rescheduling but they will have no complaints about the result. Derry look formidable and if Murray and McEvoy are added to the mix, they will be difficult to stop in the decider which is initially scheduled for April 26th.

Derry scorers: Peter McCullagh (0-4), Patrick McGurk (0-1), Charlie Diamond (0-3, 3f), Matthew Downey (0-2, 1f), Donncha Gilmore (0-1),

Donegal scorers: Shaun Ward (0-1, 1f), Luke McGlynn (0-2), Oisin Caulfield (0-1, 1m), Donal Gallagher (0-1),

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Derry: Ben O’Connor; James Murray, Jody McDermott, Danny McDermott; Patrick McGurk, Donncha Gilmore, Ruairí Forbes; Dan Higgins, Paddy O’Kane; Peter McCullagh, Charlie Diamond, Mark Doherty; Matthew Downey, Niall McGonagle, Niall O’Donnell (Subs) Ruairi O'Mianain for N McGonigle, HT; Lee Brady for D McDermott, HT; Callum Downey for N O'Donnell, 51mins;Sean Deehan for R Forbes, 58mins;

Yellow Cards: N O'Donnell, 16mins; M Doherty, 30mins;

Donegal: Aaron Cullen; Sean Doherty, Ferdia Doherty, Donal Gallagher; Cian McMenamin, Kyle Murray, Karl Magee; Christy Mulligan, Luke McGlynn; Conor O’Neill, Shaun Ward, Oisin Caulfield; David Boyle, Daniel Gildea, Blake McGarvey. (Subs) Daniel Marley for C O'Neill, 39mins; Liam McGranaghan for C Mulligan, 45mins; Kevin Lynch for D Boyle, 51mins; Fionnan Coyle for D Gildea, 55mins; Aaron Ward for C McMenamin, 59mins;

Yellow Cards: S Doherty, 42mins; D Boyle, 43mins; S Ward, 53mins; L McGlynn, 62mins;

Black Card: D Gallagher, 60mins;

Referee: Mark Loughran (Tyrone)