Holders Tyrone are back in another Ulster U21 championship final after overcoming Donegal at Celtic Park in an enthralling encounter which was laced with incidents.
It’s fair to say that Tyrone were outplayed during the first half but there’s no doubt they’d have been the happier of the two as they only trailed by two points at the break, 0-6 to 0-4.
Having made a superb save at the end of the opening quarter, Tyrone keeper Sean Fox again came to their aid only ten seconds after the restart to thwart Jamie Brennan in a game-changing moment.
After that there was only one side in it as Tyrone took the game by the scruff of the neck and that coincided with a complete lack of discipline from their opponents.
Donegal were reduced to thirteen during the second half but worse followed at the final whistle as players and members of the management team lost the plot to instigate a squirmish with Tyrone and no doubt the Ulster Council will come down heavily on them.
Red Hands manager Feargal Logan admitted that his team’s win meant more than a game of football to him.
“It was a great game of football from these guys again and it was a pity about the messing at the end” said Feargal. “It was probably more than a game of football to me, that match, for a very significant reason, dating back and the way that some Donegal officials dealt with some stuff last summer.
“It was more than a game of football to me and I’m just delighted that we won it. We work hard at discipline, we coach it and I think it held tonight and I don’t know what excuses will come forth now but we weren’t planning on excuses; we were going to empty everything on the field and that is exactly what we did.”
They certainly give it their all in the second half hitting 1-11 against a shell shocked Donegal side. Tyrone had begun brightly with the opening two points from Mark Kavanagh and Lee Brennan but Donegal took control to establish a 0-5 to 0-2 advantage thanks to efforts from Stephen McBrearty, Ciaran Thompson and Christian Bonner.
Donegal also hit a number of bad wides while Fox denied Andy McClean a goal. The other Sean Fox scored a fine point as Tyrone trailed 0-6 to 0-4.
Straight from the throw-in Caolan McGonagle played the ball long to Brennan who looked set to find the net only for Fox’s intervention. That lifted Tyrone and they scored 1-2 without replay with Frank Burns and Ryan Coleman supplying the points with the latter also finishing in style to the roof of the net after a Kavanagh effort for a point had come back of the post.
Donegal replied from a McBrearty free and, after a poor kick-out, Conor Doherty found the net in 11th minute.
Despite being back in front, the Donegal challenge imploded in spectacular style as within sixty seconds McGonagle was blacked carded - immediately followed by Stephen McMenamin who picked up a second booking for saying something to the referee.
Brennan put Tyrone in front before Bruce Waldron, who had only came on half a dozen minutes earlier for McGonagle, picked up a black card followed by a red having earlier received a yellow!
With Donegal pressing the self-destruct button Tyrone piled on the pressure with Brennan, Cathal McShane, Kavanagh and centre half back Sean Loughran all landing points to push them six clear with five minutes to go.
In injury time Tyrone conceded a penalty with keeper Fox being black carded and his replacement Ronan McGeary could do little to stop McBrearty’s well placed kick. Tyrone though weren’t going to be denied and when wing back Colm Byrne split the posts they had booked their place in the decider with Monaghan.
Tyrone: Sean Fox, Cillian McCann, Peter Teague, Shea Hamill, Colm Byrne, Sean Loughran, Michael O’Neill, Cathal McShane, Ben McDonnell, Mark Kavanagh, Frank Burns, David Mulgrew, Lee Brennan, Ryan Coleman, Sean Fox. Subs – Michael McKernan for Teague, Johnny Harkin for McDonnell (BC), Ruairi McGlone for O’Neill, Eoghan Murray for McShane, Stephen O’Donnell for Kavanagh, Ronan McGeary for Fox (GK) (BC)
Scorers: Lee Brennan 0-5, Ryan Coleman 1-2, Mark Kavanagh 0-2, Cathal McShane 0-2, Colm Byrne 0-1, Sean Loughran 0-1, Frank Burns 0-1, Sean Fox 0-1
Donegal: Danny Rodgers, Conor Morrison, Ciaran Gillespie, Jack O’Brien, Stephen McMenamin, Eamon McGrath, Andy McClean, Conor O’Donnell, Ciaran Thompson, Christian Bonner, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Stephen McBrearty, Jamie Brennan, Caolan McGonagle, Michael Carroll. Subs – Adam Neely for O’Donnell, Jack Scally for O’Brien, Cian Mulligan for McClean, Conor Doherty for Brennan, Mark Coyle for Bonner, Bruce Waldron for McGonagle (BC)
Scorers: Stephen McBrearty 1-5, Conor Doherty 1-0, Conor O’Donnell 0-1, Ciaran Thompson 0-1, Christian Bonner 0-1
Referee: Barry Cassidy, Derry