Sean Paul Barrett full of praise for Donegal side edged out by superior Galway at Croke Park
All-Ireland minor championship: Donegal 1-11 Galway 2-12
Donegal manager Sean Paul Barrett cut a forlorn figure as he surveyed the debris of his team's All-Ireland minor football championship title dream deep in the bowels of Croke Park yesterday.
Barrett had just watched his side edged out in a game in which for the greater part they had stayed on their opponents' shoulder without managing to carry any real level of conviction.
"I thought the boys put in an awful amount of effort. They did their very best but on the day Galway were the better side," said Barrett.
Yet his faith in the county's mechanism for nurturing quality players at under-age level remains undiluted.
"I have belief in the players in this team and I feel that we will be capable of producing good players in the county," Barrett added.
"These lads will learn from this experience and be the better for it."
While the Ulster champions took Galway down to the wire, they might well have been left floundering much earlier had the Connacht side not squandered a series of goal chances and engaged in an element of showboating on occasions.
For all that, they had in Robert Finnerty a superb finisher - he grabbed 1-5 in all - and twin defensive rocks in Sean Mulkeerin and Adam Quirke.
It was Finnerty's impact on the first-half proceedings that effectively sabotaged Donegal's efforts to establish any sort of foothold in the contest.
He whipped in a goal after just five minutes, had tacked on three points with a quarter of an hour gone and came close to adding a second goal before the break by which stage his side led by 1-6 to 0-6.
The efforts of Jason McGee and Kieran Gallagher at midfield and the creative talents of Niall O'Donnell had kept Donegal in contention and when lively corner forward Peadar Mogan burst into life in the third quarter the north west side found themselves just three points adrift at 1-9 to 0-9.
But that was as good as it got for them. Galway skipper Desmond Conneely applied a deft finishing touch to a movement in which man of the match Finnerty was also involved to send his side comfortably clear at 2-9 to 0-9.
To their credit, Donegal displayed resilience and character in the last quarter even though they found they were swimming against the tide.
When Mogan posted his third point, Finnertly swept over yet another for Galway but Enda McCormack plunged the match temporarily back into the melting point when he thundered home a superb Donegal goal with eight minutes left for play.
But by then Evan Murphy and substitute Ross Murphy had spooned over further Galway points that saw the westerners seal their place in the final.
Donegal: G Mulreany; S Ferry; A McCrea, M Curran; A Deeney, J D Boyle 0-1, A McLaughlin; J McGee 0-1 ('45'), K Gallagher 0-1; N Boyle, N O'Donnell 0-2 (1f), E McCormick 1-0; P Mogan 0-3 (2f), E McGettigan 0-2, O McFadden-Ferry. Subs: O Shiels for McLaughlin (25), S McGrath for Nathan Boyle (38), B O'Donnell for Ferry (Black Card 40), G Molloy 0-1 for J D Boyle (44), D Lyons for McCrea (52).
Galway: C Haslam; C Darcy, S Mulkeerin, E McFadden; A Quirke, E McDonagh, F Garvey 0-1; S Raftery, J Maher; F O Laoi, E Murphy 0-3, R Forde; R Finnerty 1-5 (3f), D Conneely 1-2 (2f), B Goldrick 0-1. Subs: R Murphy for Maher (53)