Gutsy Donegal triumph could start a bright new era for Barrett's boys
Derry 1-11 Donegal 2-10
The future of Gaelic football in both Donegal and Derry is in safe hands on the evidence produced in this riveting Ulster minor football championship final at Clones yesterday.
If Donegal prevailed in the end it was largely because of the stylish panache of man of the match Niall O'Donnell, their ability to plunder goals when they were most needed and their skill in transforming defence into attack at blistering pace.
Indeed, Donegal manager Shaun Paul Barrett, while lavishing praise on his own side, generously acknowledged the efforts of a Derry side that was still striving to salvage the contest deep in the bowels of added time.
"I think it's a great reflection on Ulster football that we now have two such talented sides going into the All-Ireland series," said Barrett, "Derry certainly put it up to us but we managed to hold out. I'm overjoyed with the win and hopefully we can kick on from here."
"I thought that Derry enjoyed good success with their kick-outs and they came at us strongly. But I think we showed character and resolve just the same."
Derry's opening flourish, during which they flashed over four unanswered points within twelve minutes, hinted at their possible dominance of the first-half but an O'Donnell point and a well-taken goal from J D Boyle in the 21st minute ensured that the Oak Leaf side were duly reined in.
From then on, they were never ahead again, Donegal securing the upper hand at midfield and resisting Derry's efforts to steal a march on them again.
By half time, Donegal had built up a 1-4 to 0-5 lead, by which stage Caolan Devlin had posted 0-3 of his personal 1-7 total which represented a magnificent contribution to Derry's cause.
Despite their structured build-ups and solid cohesion, Donegal never quite managed to exercise total control and indeed they were only one point to the good (1-6 to 0-8) when the tide swung dramatically in their favour.
Centre-half-back J D Boyle drove forward and when the Derry defence was lacerated, he was on hand again to thunder home his team's second goal.
It was a significant boost for Donegal, yet Derry never showed the slightest hint of lobbing in the towel.
The mercurial Devlin maintained his superb consistency from frees while a brace of points from O'Donnell spanning the 52nd to 54th minutes eased Donegal's nerves as they put rather more daylight between the sides at 2-9 to 0-11.
But any notion that they were about to enjoy a canter to the finishing post was dispelled when Devlin was on hand to touch home Derry's goal in the 60th minute, thus setting up a tense spell of added time.
Donegal, though, closed ranks to hold out, Derry spilling possession on two occasions as they beavered to land the second goal they so desperately needed.
It was not to be, though, as Donegal held firm to clinch the provincial accolade and send out the message that this may not be the last trophy they will win this year.
Disappointed Derry manager Damian McErlain accepted that Donegal's two goals had been crucial to the outcome.
"They came at critical stages of the game. These scores put us under pressure but we were also guilty of some turnovers and Donegal were then able to hit us on the counter-attack.
"We maybe made life difficult for ourselves but I thought that the lads put in a great effort and now we must focus on Kerry," said McErlain.
Derry: B McKinless; C McCluskey, G McLaughlin, A Bradley; P McGrogan, E Concannon, S McErlain; P Coney 0-1, O McWilliams 0-1; C Doherty, C Devlin 1-7 (0-6f), P Quigg; S Downey, F Higgins 0-1, E Bradley
Subs: S Higgins 0-1 for E Bradley (39 mins), J P Devlin for McWilliams (40), R Young for F Higgins (42), L Kielt for McLaughlin (54). Yellow cards: Higgins (32), Bradley (39). Black card: E McKeever for Concannon (58)
Donegal: G Mulreany; S Ferry, A McCrea, M Curran; O Shiels, J D Boyle 1-0, A McLaughlin; J McGee 0-1, K Gallagher 0-1; N Boyle 1-0, N O'Donnell 0-4 (1f), O McFadden-Ferry 0-1; P Mogan 0-1, E McGettigan 0-2, E McCormick
Subs: S McGrath for McComick (47), B O'Donnell for Ferry (55), S Carr for N Boyle (58), A Deeney for J D Boyle (63). Yellow card: Ferry (53)
Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)