Donegal turn tables on Wicklow to book place in NHL Division 2B final
Allianz Hurling League Division 2B sem-final: Wicklow 0-16 Donegal 0-17
Dazzling Donegal hurlers produced a performance for the ages in edging out a strong Wicklow side in Aughrim on Saturday.
And they did it with 14 men after team captain Ronan McDermott was sent off for two yellow cards two minutes into the second half.
They were without stellar figures, like Danny Cullen, Declan Coulter, Stephen Gillespie, Bernard Lafferty, Conor Gartland, Gavin Browne and Davin Flynn who has taken a year out.
But young gladiators like the darting Ruairi Campbell Stephen McBride, Ciaran Bradley, Sean Ward and Oisin Marley stood tall to pull off a memorable victory.
Two weeks ago, Wicklow came to Donegal in Letterkenny and gave the home team a real thumping on a score of 2-24 to 0-11.
A superb display in midfield from Brian McIntyre and Ciaran Bradley who was only in his second start for the county, was the basis for this victory.
Up front Liam McKinney was deadly accurate from the frees while Wicklow constantly struggled with the raw pace of Campbell and the physical presence of Ritchie Ryan at full-forward.
But this was a great collective team effort-spurred by the recent memory of that heavy defeat to the Garden County just two weeks ago.
Nobody would have given Donegal the slightest chance going into this match, but McCann’s young men were clearly on a mission from the off.
Wicklow, who looked surprisingly sluggish, relied on marksman Christopher Moorehouse, but the rest of the forwards did not show the same fluency as they did in Letterkenny two weeks ago.
But that was mainly due to the pressure they were put under by a relentless Donegal side.
The winners were well worth their 0-10 to 0-5 lead at the break and were never headed.
Wicklow did manage to bring the deficit back to a point after the excellent McIntyre had put Donegal ahead by 0-17 to 0-16 with four minutes left.
Moorehoue landed a free for Wicklow in the 68th minute to leave the minimum margin.
And they had two more chances but fluffed both as Donegal deservedly held on a for a great victory.
Exchanges were pretty even in the opening five minutes with Daire O’Maoileidigh and a pointed from Liam McKinney being cancelled by two similar efforts from Moorehouse and late starter Seanie Germaine.
But, already Donegal looked the hungrier side and sprinted into a six-point lead by the 20th minute thanks to points from McKinney (0-3) Ronan McDermott, Ryan Hilferty and Ritchie Ryan.
Moorehouse ended Wicklow’s scoring famine in the 21st minute with a pointed free.
But, they were well subdued and could only manage three more points by the break with Donegal adding further scores from McKinney (two frees) and Brian McIntyre as they led by 0-10 to 0-5 at the break.
A stung Wicklow had a rapid response after the break with three points in as many minutes from Davy Maloney, a Moorehouse free and Diarmuid Masterson to reduce the gap to two points.
To make matters worse Donegal also lost their talismanic captain Ronan McDermott in the same period.
The momentum seemed to be going with Wicklow, but Donegal replied with a McKinney free which was followed by a McIntyre point and a 65 from McKinney to put Donegal into a 0-13 to 0-8 lead by the 15th minute.
Luke Maloney responded for Wicklow as Donegal threw on Oisin Marley and Sean Ward for Conor O’Grady and Sean Ward.
The home side brought in a few subs too as the game to a close with Mickey Lee and Andy O’Brien on target to narrow the gap to two points.
But Donegal were in no mood to surrender and kept up the momentum with points from Ruari Campbell and McIntyre which were replied to with two Moorehouse pointed frees.
Wicklow pressed hard but Donegal hung tough and now meet Meath in the NHL Division 2 B final next week at a neutral venue.
Wicklow scorers: C Moorehouse (0-9, 0-8 frees); M O’Brien (0-1 free); L Maloney (0-1); D Masterson (0-1); S Germaine (0-1); D Maloney (0-1); A O’Brien (0-1); M Lee (0-1);
Donegal scorers: L McKinney (0-10, 0-7 frees); B McIntyre (0-3); R Hilferty (0-1); R McDermott (0-1); R Campbell (0-1); R Ryan (0-1);