Daniel McNulty’s late free seals U-21 Ulster title win for Tyrone
Final agony for Donegal for third year in succession as Red Hand prevail in a thriller
Tyrone’s Cathal McShane and Donegal’s Tony McClenaghan in action during the EirGrid Ulster U-21 football championship final at Celtic Park, Derry. Photo: Lorcan Doherty/Inpho/Presseye
Tyrone 1-11 Donegal 0-13
Daniel McNulty converted an injury-time free as Tyrone landed a first Ulster U21 title since 2006, condemning Donegal to a third final defeat in a row at this grade.
Tyrone senior player Cathal McShane was fouled by Ciarán Thompson and McNulty stepped up to nail the 30 metre free, earning an important underage title for the Red Hand county.
It looked like Donegal had the winning momentum late on when they reeled off three points in a row to draw level before Tyrone struck late.
Ryan McHugh missed a difficult chance to win the game for Donegal, who also crashed to a late Cavan goal in last year’s decider.
In front of 3,239 supporters in Celtic Park, Tyrone opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a Daniel McNulty free before Donegal edged in front with a Hugh McFadden free and Eoin McHugh point.
The crucial score of the opening half was Conor Meyler’s goal in the eighth minute.
Ruairí McGlone’s strong run through the middle drew a couple of defenders to him and he slipped the ball out to Meyler, who drilled the ball into the far corner of the net.
It was the Omagh’s man second goal in as many matches and gave Tyrone a cushion they held onto until half-time.
Both sides looked comfortable breaking forward and Lee Brennan scored a couple of superb left-footed points, one from a very difficult angle before the break.
Ryan McHugh was involved in a great Donegal move, his good run and superb pass to Darach O’Connor resulting in an impressive score.
Ciarán McLaughlin picked up a black card for the second game in a row in the 28th minute and McFadden nailed the free to cut Tyrone’s led to 1-4 to 0-6. However the Red Hands hit two more points before the interval from Michael Cassidy and Brennan to regain their three-point lead.
After a poor first half, Donegal made two half-time substitutions to try and inject some urgency and Willie Gillespie and Hugh McFadden posted scores early in the second half.
Tyrone full-forward Daniel McNulty had a goal disallowed for overcarrying, but he converted a long-range free in the 39th minute to restore Tyrone’s three-point advantage.
Hugh McFadden had a mixed night with his free-taking, kicking five wides, but he nailed a couple of important ones to keep Donegal in touch in the third quarter.
Ruairí McGlone capitalised on a poor Donegal kickout to score a point and McNulty’s great catch and turn led to his first from play to leave Tyrone three points up with ten minutes remaining.
Donegal had their best spell of the game in the last ten minutes, hitting three unanswered points from Eamon McGrath, Darach O’Connor and sub Stephen McBrearty to level matters in the last minute of normal time.
Ryan McHugh missed a difficult chance to land a winner in injury time, and Tyrone mounted one last attack.
But then McNulty got his late opportunity and he duly had the crucial final say.
TYRONE: S Fox; R Mullan, P Hampsey, M Cassidy (0-1); C McLaughlin, R Brennan, K McGeary; F Burns, C McShane (0-1); C Meyler (1-0), M Kavanagh, M Walsh; L Brennan (0-4, two frees), D McNulty (0-4, three frees), R McGlone (0-1). Subs: R Kelly for McLaughlin (bc, 29 mins), M Bradley for McGlone (45 mins), S McKenna for Burns (57).
DONEGAL: D Rodgers; C Morrison, C Parke, J O’Brien; R McHugh, D Mulgrew, E Gallagher; T McClenaghan, C Thompson (0-1, free); O Crawford, L Connor, D O’Connor (0-2); W Gillespie (0-1), H McFadden (0-5, four frees), E McHugh (0-2). Subs: E McGrath (0-1) for Morrison (h-t), S McBrearty (0-1) for McClenaghan (h-t), J Brennan for Connor (55 mins), C Mulligan for Crawford (55 mins), C McGonigle for Gillespie (58 mins).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).