Derry end 24-year wait for Anglo-Celt with win over Donegal in Ulster final epic
2022 Ulster SFC Final: Derry 1-16 Donegal 1-14 (aet)
BACK in its traditional home of Clones, a very untraditional Ulster Senior Football Final was won in thrilling fashion by Derry after a 24-year wait, beating Donegal after extra time.
Shane McGuigan, man of the match Brendan Rodgers, and Conor Glass all scored in the second period of added time, with Donegal only able to respond through substitute Ciaran Thompson, and the Oak Leafs held on for an unforgettable triumph.
Extra time was required after Derry pegged Donegal back repeatedly in the second half, the Tir Chonaill men having netted an equalising goal in the first minute of the second half through Odhran McFadden Ferry, cancelling our Derry’s major score from Niall Loughlin.
Inseparable at 1-12 apiece, the sides were again on a par after the first period of extra time, with just one more score each.
However, Derry finally ended their long wait with a first triumph since 1998. Donegal were in their 10th final in a dozen seasons, with the first of those coming 11 years ago when they defeated Derry - who hadn’t been back on the big provincial stage since then.
Derry went with the same starting side as began their impressive victories over both Tyrone and Monaghan. Donegal made two changes from their semi-final success against Cavan, with Caolan McGonagle replacing Hugh McFadden and McFadden Ferry in for Ciaran Thompson. Big Buncrana man McGonagle pushed forward frequently, while McFadden Ferry played deeper, allowing Peadar Mogan to augment the attack.
The anticipated tight, tense, tactical tussle was there in spades, with neither side scoring in the first 10 minutes, although Michael Murphy did send a ‘45’ side while Donegal goalkeeper Shaun Patton had to punch clear a kick across the face of his goal from Derry full-back Brendan Rogers.
However, when the opening score did come it was a major one, with Derry finding the net through Greenlough man Loughlin. The breakthrough came courtesy of Ethan Doherty sending Niall Toner racing in from the left corner and he picked out his namesake Loughlin, who fired in low from close range.
Donegal responded, opening their account through Shane O’Donnell, but Derry dominated the next period, at both ends.
Paul Cassidy struck a huge point, Shea Downey surged forward to score, and Shane McGuigan converted a free, to put them five ahead, 1-3 to 0-1. Donegal remained stuck on that single score because Loughlin tracked back to block a McGonagle shot and Murphy sent another ‘45’ wide, to the delight of the massive Derry support.
Yet Mogan then began to show his quality with two quick points, albeit separated by a score from that man Loughlin after he soared superbly to take a catch out on the left wing.
Murphy put just the goal between the teams, and although Derry scored twice, including a point from the brilliant Rogers, Donegal got the gap back down to that same margin through Mogan again and a free from Patrick McBrearty - Derry skipper Chrissy McKaigue had to allow him the room to take that.
Donegal might even have gone in on level terms when Caolan Ward’s looping shot escaped the grasp of Derry goalkeeper Odhran Lynch, but Michael Langan somehow sent the loose ball wide of the gaping goal.
The Dunfanaghy man quickly made amends, though, involved in the equalising goal inside 50 seconds of the re-start. His low shot was only parried to the right, where McFadden Ferry forced it in, with Derry appealing for a ‘square’ ball offence.
The sides were level for the first time since the opening score, but not for long, as Rogers span before sending the ball over the Donegal bar.
Yet the momentum was with the Tir Chonaill team, who reeled off three points in a row inside four minutes, through Jason McGee, Ryan McHugh, and O’Donnell.
Before this final the question had been posed: how would Derry deal with going behind?
The answer was provided - in gritty, determined fashion. They were soon back level, through a McGuigan free and a Conor Doherty point.
Donegal again went ahead. Derry again equalised.
Donegal went two up, after a period of patient possession finished with Murphy taking over, and booming over a stunning score from downtown, then McGee somehow squeezing a point over from a very narrow angle.
Derry came back yet again, and indeed Donegal appeared fortunate to finish with 15 men, with two cynical fouls late on, first on Conor Glass, then on Shane McGuigan, only resulting in a yellow card for the latter foul by Stephen McMenamin, with Jason McGee escaping without any punishment.
McGuigan put both frees over the bar, but Glass couldn’t manage to do the same with a shot from open play in the second minute of added time, so extra time it was.
That was as nerve-wracking as would have been expected, but Derry showed greater guts and tenacity, and carved out a two-point win with scores from McGuigan - who hurt his ankle in pointing that free - then the exceptional Rogers.
Thompson gave Donegal hope, but Glass sealed the triumph, prompting an outpouring of emotion and a joyous pitch invasion from a huge Derry following in Clones.