Electric Ireland MFC Semi-Final – Galway 2-9 Derry 1-11

They needed to withstand a driving finish from Derry but Galway held on to reach their fourth All-Ireland Minor Football Championship final in seven seasons after a thrilling finale in Donnycarney.

Goals in either half from Jack Lonergan and Colm Costello placed a sizeable down payment on victory and with Costello and Éanna Monaghan, their standout forwards, kicking 1-8 between them, Alan Glynn’s side built a 2-9 to 1-5 lead by the 50th minute.

The Oak Leaf County lost wing-forward Johnny McGuckian following a second yellow card offence in the 57th minute but summoned a stirring fightback to kick the closing six points before coming up just short.

The Tribesmen never trailed over the hour and made a perfect start when clever approach work from Tomás Farthing was followed by a superb finish from Lonergan for a fourth minute goal.

Four of the next five points also belonged to the Connacht runners-up with Costello (two), Monaghan and Shay McGlinchey all on target.

Derry’s sole reply came courtesy of top scorer Ciarán Chambers and their chances received a major double boost before the break. First, Eoin Higgins blasted past Kyle Gilmore for a 29th minute goal and then Galway lost McGlinchey to a black card.

Rather than act as a turning point, Galway were galvanised and stretched their lead from 1-4 to 1-1 at the break to 2-5 to 1-1 despite operating with 14 men. Their crucial second goal came when Cillian Trayers found Costello and the Dunmore MacHales forward cut in from the left flank before finishing in fine style.

The excellent Ruairí Forbes, Chambers and Higgins were all on target for Derry but with Monaghan kicking back-to-back scores, Galway remained in control and held a seven-point lead on 50 minutes.

It was a day when Galway defenders came up with several magnificent goal-saving interventions, Vinny Gill in the second half following what Trayers had brilliantly managed in the first.

Derry refused to go away, though, and a storming finish delivered points from McGuckian, sub Conor Downey, Cahir Spiers and three further Chambers efforts. ‘Keeper Ben O’Connor also joined their attack to good effect and despite losing McGuckian, the 2020 champions kept pouring forward.

It was backs to the wall in the closing stages from a Galway perspective but they held out with Antain Donnelly’s last-gasp attempt at an equaliser tailing just wide.

Scorers for Galway: Colm Costello 1-4 (2f), Éanna Monaghan 0-4, Jack Lonergan 1-0, Shay McGlinchey 0-1.

Scorers for Derry: Ciarán Chambers 0-6 (4f), Eoin Higgins 1-1 (1f), Ruairí Forbes, Johnny McGuckian, Cahair Spiers, Conor Downey 0-1 each.

Galway: Kyle Gilmore; Tomás Farthing, Ryan Flaherty, Vinny Gill; Mark Mannion, Cillian Trayers, Ross Coen; Jack Lonergan (joint-captain), Shay McGlinchey; Sean Dunne, Éanna Monaghan (joint-captain), Owen Morgan; Colm Costello, Fionn O’Connor, Stephen Curley.

Subs: Olan Kelly for Dunne (48), James Summerville for O’Connor (57), Charlie Cox for Curley (58), Adam Colleran for Flaherty (60), Padraic McNeela for Coen (60+2).

Derry: Ben O’Connor; Fionn McEldowney, Eoin Scullion, Danny McDermott; James Murray, Odhran Crozier, Shea Birt; Dara McPeake, Ruairi Forbes (captain); Johnny McGuckian, Conal Higgins, Cahir Spiers; Eoin Higgins, Ciarán Chambers, Odhran Murphy.

Subs: Conor Downey for Conal Higgins (39), Antain Donnelly for Scullion (41), Dara McGurk for Birt (52), Joe Dillon for Murphy (53).

Referee: Seán Laverty (Antrim).

By Billy Coss at Parnell Park