Donegal will play Monaghan either next Friday or Saturday in the Eirgrid u20s Ulster semifinal after victory over Tyrone in Healy Park this evening. Monaghan won in Derry on a 0-11 to 2-9 scoreline while Down will meet Fermanagh in the other semi-final.
Always a tough place to get a result the young Donegal men were clinging on late in the game but showed the character to hold out. A superbly worked goal very early in the game, neatly finished by Eoin Dowling, was the difference between the teams at the break with a half-time score of 1-6 to 0-6. Donegal dominated the third quarter. They did not trouble the scorekeeper until the 8th minute of the second but hit a further three without reply to lead by seven points at the second half water-break 1-10 to 0-6. The water-break itself was less a turning point than two unforced Donegal errors.
Tyrone were looking a beaten side when a misplaced pass in the middle of the park led to the Red Hand’s first score of the second half in the 18th minute, Another unforced error this time 20m in front of their own posts gifted Rory Donnelly a goal and within another minute the gap was down to just two points. Donegal lived on their nerves for the next five minutes as Tyrone “owned” the ball. Some heroic Donegal defending and three good scoring opportunities missed by Tyrone slowed the red and white momentum and a long range Nathan Byrne point on 26 minutes lifted the siege. Tyrone kept coming and were within two points when a super save by Dathí Roberts, in the last minute of normal time ,kept Donegal hopes alive just as 4 additional minutes were signalled. A Johnny McGroddy free gave the Donegal men a three point cushion again and they seen out the extra time to advance to the semi-finals
Afterwards manager, Gary Duffy, spoke very highly of his young team and commended their character, their heroic defending and their composure, particularly late in the game when legs were getting heavy after last week’s exertions against Armagh in the preliminary round. Mentor Eamonn McGee acknowledged Donegal were “under the cosh” close to the end but gave “serious credit” to the way the young lads reacted. He noted “nights like tonight are so valuable as you can do all the training you like …. but tonight is the night when you learn your trade” and how to make the right decisions.