By Orla Bannon
Donegal 3-17 Derry 0-13
Donegal's dazzling array of underage talent sparkled under the lights in the Athletic Grounds tonight, easing to the county's first EirGrid Ulster U21 football title since 2010 against 14-man Derry.
Declan Bonner's side came into the game with a big reputation and they didn't disappoint with Jason McGee, Michael Langan, Michael Carroll and speedster Jamie Brennan particularly influential in a comfortable display.
Lorcan Connor's first-half goal had Donegal in front 1-8 to 0-7 at the break and Derry's challenge faded when defender Oisin Duffin was sent-off 10 minutes after the restart.
The dismissal of top forward, Slaughtneil's Shane McGuigan, to a black card also deflated Derry and Donegal finished strong with two goals in the last five minutes from Ethan O'Donnell and Michael Carroll.
The winners will face Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday at Kingspan Breffni Park.
In front of a crowd of 3,521, it was cagey stuff in the opening 10 minutes with both teams feeling each other out.
Having lost three Ulster U21 finals in a row between 2013 and 2015, Donegal's early nerves were understandable.
Derry too had not won a title at this level in 20 years and were slow to settle.
The opening four scores were all from placed balls, Danny Tallon's early free wiped out as Donegal hit three in a row from Connor (two) and a Michael Langan '45'.
The game really opened up with both teams kicking some lovely scores from distance in near perfect conditions in Armagh.
Peter Hagan, Conor Doherty and then Slaughtneil's Shane McGuigan floated over a lovely point from a difficult angle for Derry to briefly put them in front at 0-6 to 0-5 in the 21st minute.
Donegal responded instantly with speedster Jamie Brennan getting on the end of a well-worked score after Derry had cheaply kicked the ball straight into their goalkeeper's hands a few seconds earlier.
Big midfielder Jason McGee got on a lot of ball for Donegal, and while he didn't always take the right option, was a big influence.
He kicked a difficult score off his left foot, having ignored an easy chance off his stronger right, and the goal came at a great time for the favourites just before half time.
It was all about the speed and composure of Brennan, who broke clear and controlled the ball on the ground, rolling it across to the unmarked Connor who had the easist of finishes at the back post.
McGee tagged on his second long-range point to make it 1-8 to 0-7 at the break.
Donegal started the second half like they had finished the first and two points in as many minutes, with Cian Mulligan getting on the scoresheet, stretched the lead to six.
Then two refereeing decisions went against Derry which cost them any hope of a revival.
Their most dangerous forward Shane McGuigan was black-carded on the advice of the assistant referee on the stand side for a late trip on Conor Morrison just five minutes into the second half.
Five minutes later they were reduced to 14 men when Oisin Duffin picked up a black card followed by a red for taking down Eoghan Ban Gallagher.
Langan's lovely free-kick off the ground made it 1-12 to 0-8 to Donegal and Derry's challenge wilted in the second half.
It was one-way traffic with Brennan tormenting the Derry defence and 10 different Donegal players got on the scoresheet in a convincing display.
After spurning a few goal chances, Donegal got a second when O'Donnell weaved his way through and Carroll palmed the ball to the net in injury time for Donegal's third.
Scorers for Donegal – L Connor 1-5 (5f), E O'Donnell 1-0, M Carroll 1-2, M Langan 0-3 (2 '45's, 1f), J McGee 0-2, J Brennan 0-1, C Mulligan 0-1, N O'Donnell 0-1, C Morrison 0-1, EB Gallagher 0-1
Scorers for Derry – D Tallon 0-3 (3f), S McGuigan 0-2 (1f), P Hagan 0-2 (1f), P Coney 0-1, C Doherty 0-1, J Doherty 0-1, C Mulholland 0-1, J Curran 0-1, N Keenan 0-1
DONEGAL: D Rodgers; C Morrison, C Kelly, E Ban Gallagher; D O Baoill, T McClenaghan, B McCole; M Carroll, J McGee; J Brennan, S McMenamin, S McBrearty; L Connor, M Langan, C Mulligan
Subs: C Doherty for Kelly (24), N O'Donnell (0-1) for McBrearty (41), E O'Donnell (1-0) for Doherty (53), C McLaughlin for Connor (58)
DERRY: B McKinless; N Keenan, O Duffin, C McGrogan; C Mulholland, M McEvoy, J Curran; J Doherty, P Kearney; P Hagan, D Curran, P Coney; D Tallon, S McGuigan, C Doherty
Subs: T Flanagan for McGuigan (BC, 35), E Magill for Curran (44), J Donaghy for Doherty (44), C Feeney for McEvoy (54), F Kearney for Coney (59)
REFEREE: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)