Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Donegal end eight-year wait for Minor glory

Donegal 2-12 Armagh 0-10

Silver lining: The Donegal minors team celebrate with the Fr Murray Cup at Clones
Silver lining: The Donegal minors team celebrate with the Fr Murray Cup at Clones

Donegal won their first Ulster MFC since 2006 with a comfortable victory over Armagh in the final at Clones yesterday.

Goals by John Campbell and Jamie Brennan were the key scores as Declan Bonner's side justified their status as favourites.

Donegal were on top throughout the first half and full value for their 10-point advantage, but Armagh were much more competitive in the second period and had the gap down to five by the time Brennan's major definitively killed the game off late on.

The goalscorers had good support from the likes of Lorcan Connor, Stephen McBrearty, Caolán McGonigle and man of the match Eoghan Bán Gallagher for Donegal, who are fancied to go close to becoming the first team from the county to win an All-Ireland minor title.

Oisín O'Neill, Ryan Hughes and lively substitute Conor Cullen led the second-half comeback for Armagh, whose wait for silverware at this level goes into a sixth year.

Donegal signalled their intent from the off with a Jamie Brennan point from the first attack and Brennan then won a close-in free for fellow corner-forward Lorcan Connor to open his account.

Stephen McBrearty added a point, before Micheál Carroll set up John Campbell to fire to the net in the 14th minute.

Carroll added a fine point from out on the left wing and Donegal would have pulled even further clear but for Ryan Kearney denying Campbell a second goal, following a strong run by Caolán McGonigle.

A sweetly-struck '45 by McGonigle and well-taken points from play by McBrearty and Campbell continued Donegal's dominance, before Armagh finally got off the mark on 21 minutes via a fine score from Oisín O'Neill.

O'Neill would kick another good point before half-time, but Armagh lost Cathal Boylan to a black card when he dragged down the goal-ward bound Connor.

Connor converted the resulting free and added a point from play after a Brennan shot at goal had been blocked; moving Donegal into a 1-9 to 0-2 interval lead.

Armagh were much better after the restart, from the moment Ryan Hughes got his first score of the game. They then had goalkeeper Ryan Kearney black-carded for pulling Brennan down, but substitute Colm Rafferty's first action was to save Connor's penalty.

A Hughes free gave Armagh another boost and they were inches away from finding the Donegal net through a punched attempt from Conor Grimley, but it was cleared off the line by the hard-working Eoghan Bán Gallagher.

Points by Connor (free), McBrearty and Brennan opened up an 11-point gap and although Armagh sub Conor Cullen hit a brace of points, shots at goal by Ryan McKeown and Kyle Mallon couldn't get past Donegal keeper Danny Rodgers, while a Conor McNicholl effort hit the post.

An O'Neill free, a couple of fine scores from Hughes and a third point by Cullen made it six without reply for Armagh and cut their deficit to five, while Donegal had sub Ethan O'Donnell black-carded for a trip three minutes from time.

Donegal ended any lingering doubts in added time, however, when Brennan flicked a high ball from Gavin McBride home for their second goal.

Both teams now progress to the All-Ireland MFC quarter-finals on the first weekend in August, Donegal carrying an unbeaten record into the All-Ireland series, with their Ulster Minor Football League win earlier in the year.

Donegal: D Rodgers; D McMonagle, C Gillespie, A McClean; C Mulligan, T McClenaghan, C Kelly; N Harley (Capt.), C McGonigle (0-1, '45); S McBrearty (0-3), M Carroll (0-1), E Gallagher; L Connor (0-4, 3f), J Campbell (1-1), J Brennan (1-2). Subs: N Friel for Mulligan (H-T), E O'Donnell for Campbell (42), C Doherty for Harley (52), C Bonner for McClean (54), C O'Boyle for O'Donnell (black card, 57), G McBride for Connor (60).

Armagh: R Kearney; C Donnelly, A Rushe, F Quinn; C Boylan, C McKinney, C McNicholl; J Óg Burns, J Rafferty; K Mallon, O O'Neill (0-3, 1f), C Grimley; R Hughes (0-4, 1f), S Conlon, C McConville (Capt.). Subs: C Cullen (0-3) for Boylan (black card, 27), C Rafferty for Kearney (black card, 34), R McKeown for Grimley (42), C Murphy for Conlon (48).

Referee: R Barry (Down).

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