Tallon digs in as Derry are made to go the extra mile
Derry 0-21 Armagh1-15 (AET)
Derry progressed to their first Ulster U21 final since 2008 after an epic tussle with Armagh ended in a three-point extra-time win at Celtic Park. Shane McGuigan, with six points, and Danny Tallon, with a whopping eight, top-scored for the Oak Leafs, who will meet Donegal in Monday night's final.
Armagh were worthy opponents and in Oisin O'Neill they possessed a star man up front whose 1-5 tally, including a last-minute equaliser to take the tie to extra-time, wasn't enough to guide the Orchard side home.
An O'Neill pile-driver minutes from half-time accounted for the only goal of the opening 30 minutes and edged Armagh ahead at the interval at 1-6 to 0-8.
The teams were well matched, and when Patrick Kearney opened the scoring for Derry shortly after throw-in, the contest, which fizzed with open attacking play, swayed one way and then the other.
Points from Peter Hagan and Tallon saw the Oak Leafs draw first blood at 0-3 to a point before the Orchard men returned fire through Caolan McConville and two Shea Loye frees to take the lead for the first time in the 12th minute.
Derry responded. Free-takers McGuigan, a perennial handful, and Tallon nailed their shots as the home side began to look comfortable at 0-7 to 0-4 up after 22 minutes.
But just as Derry hinted at taking control, Peter McDonnell's men finished the half the strongest with O'Neill, Armagh's brightest star, following up a fine point with an even better major.
Back-to-back Tallon frees restored Derry's lead shortly after the restart, but four in a row from Armagh, with O'Neill at times unplayable, handed the visitors a three-point lead by the 49th minute.
But once again Derry battled back with McGuigan and Tallon both hitting a quick brace of points to scrape a single-point Oak Leaf lead in the 59th minute.
However, deep into injury-time, that man O'Neill saved Armagh's skins and took the game to extra-time.
Fergal McCusker's side took the early initiative and raced to a three-point lead in the first period of extra-time, but Steven Morris' final kick of the 10 minutes left Armagh trailing 0-17 to 1-12.
Impact sub Dean Curran extended the home side's advantage as the game entered its final 10 minutes but consecutive Tom O'Kane points left Armagh just a point in arrears as the game finally approached boiling point midway through the second period of extra-time.
But Derry were able to find that extra gear when they needed it most and crucial points from Tallon (his eighth), Hagan and Eamon McGill sealed the win for the home side.
Derry: McKinless, McGrogan, Duffin, Keenan, Mulholland, McEvoy, Curran, Kearney (0-2), Doherty, Coney, Tallon (0-8, 0-5f), Hagan (0-3), McGuigan(0-6, 0-5f), McElwee, Doherty.
Subs: Flanagan for McElwee (H/T), Grant for Coney (HT), McGill (0-1)for Mulholland (44 BC), Curran (0-1) for Grant (58), Feeney for Curran (ET).
Armagh: Kearney, McArdle, Rushe, McConville (0-1), Higgins, McCambridge, C O'Neill (0-1), Creely, Rafferty, Quinn, O O'Neill (1-5, 0-2f), Boylan, Loye (0-2f), Duffy, R O'Neill (0-2, 0-1f)
Subs: McAlinden for McArdle (39), Hoey (0-1) for Rafferty (39), Owens for Quinn (47), O'Kane (0-2) for Loye (47), Quinn for McAlinden (BC 51), Morris (0-1) for Boylan (59), Og Burns for Creely (ET)
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh)