Donegal 3-20 Roscommon 3-16
Donegal played with a fervour, courage and intensity that would have done their footballers’ proud as they overcame a numerical disadvantage for 35 minutes to claim the Nicky Rackard Cup after a breathtaking final.
The Tír Conaill men took the honours just two years after garnering the Lory Meagher Cup and just about edged the verdict.
It was very tough luck on Roscommon sharpshooter Gerry Fallon, who finished with 2-9 of his side’s tally.
Crucially though, Donegal had a greater spread of scores and remarkably, still had enough energy to break away for the game’s last two scores from Danny Cullen and Stephen Boyle.
Neither side looked inconvenienced by nerves as they contributed equally to a pulsating start to proceedings, where every attack seemed to yield a score.
What’s more, the first six scores were from play and most of them were right out of the top drawer.
Donegal had slightly the better of the midfield battle in the first 10 minutes and Danny Cullen opened the scoring for them in the third minute.
Gary Fallon responded from the puckout and the trend didn’t alter much for the remainder of the opening half.
A strong fetch and finish by Stephen Boyle made it 0-3 to 0-2 in the Ulster side’s favour and it took a magnificent flick by Ian Delaney to deny Lee Henderson what looked a certain goal.
Roscommon capitalised from the next passage of play as Cathal Kelly goaled from close range in the eighth minute.
The game’s first score from a free arrived from Gerry Fallon soon after to put Roscommon three points clear.
Fallon continued to find the range – as did Lee Henderson at the other end – to increase the margin by one but Donegal appeared to be finishing the half the stronger.
Consecutive points from Paddy Hannigan, Henderson and Ciaran Mathewson left the minimum between the sides before a sensational 29th minute goal by Seán McVeigh put them ahead.
The left half-forward had a lot to do when gathering possession on the 45m line and tight to the Hogan Stand sideline.
He made little of it though, careering away from Seán Melia towards the Hill 16 end before unleashing a bullet of a shot into the far corner from an angle on the left, giving Pádraig Dolan absolutely no chance.
Roscommon responded brilliantly though. Or Fallon did anyway. He nonchalantly slotted a 60m free before driving a 20m free to the Donegal net with such ferocity that the sliotar rebounded back over the line.
That made it 2-10 to 1-10 and though Hannigan flicked brilliantly to the Roscommon net after just 37 seconds to bring the sides level, Fallon’s free was mis-handled by Pádraig Dolan a minute later, the horrified netminder holding his head in his hands as the sliotar dropped over the line.
When Rory McDermott was sent off immediately after, it looked bad for the Ray Durack’s men but they had gotten themselves level by the time Paul Sheridan’s 49th minute long ball went all the way to the net and a goal was awarded– even though it looked like Hannigan had impeded Dolan.
Two brilliant Henderson frees extended the margin to five but Kilroy and Fallon (two) had it dangerously close again before Cullen and Boyle sealed the verdict.
Donegal: L Henderson 0-10(7fs); P Hannigan, S McVeigh 1-1 each; P Sheridan 1-0; D Cullen 0-3; C Mathewson, S Boyle 0-2 each; J Boyle 0-1
Roscommon: Gerry Fallon 2-9(2-7fs); Cathal Kelly 1-1; R Fallon 0-2; J Lawlor, Gary Fallon, E Kenny, N Kilroy 0-1 each
DONEGAL: P Burns; B Harrigan, J McGee, M McGrath; C McDermott, J Donnelly, J Boyle; R McDernmott, D Cullen; L Henderson, S McVeigh, E McDermott; C Mathewson, P Hannigan, S Boyle. Subs: P Sheridan for S Boyle 43; J Browne for McGee 61; K Campbell for E McDermott 64
ROSCOMMON: P Dolan; S Curley, R O’Meara, I Delaney; S Melia, M Kelly, N Keenan; J Lawlor, A Murphy; Cormac Kelly, Gerry Fallon, C Egan; R Fallon, Gary Fallon, Cathal Kelly. Subs: N Kilroy for Egan 29; D Nolan for Murphy 42; C Dolan for Keenan 49; E Kenny for Cormac Kelly 53
Referee: P Murphy (Carlow)