Mark Doherty celebrates as Derry book their All-Ireland semi-final. (Pic: Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile)
ELECTRIC IRELAND ALL-IRELAND MFC SEMI-FINAL
Derry came back from the brink twice to blow Meath away in the final quarter of Saturday's All-Ireland minor semi-final at Páirc Esler.
The sides were level at the break and Derry, with a slight breeze, had spurned 1-7 worth of chances.
Meath lost influential midfielder Conor Gray to injury, but Derry were never able to fend off a strong performance from the Leinster champions.
Five minutes into the second half, Meath were back in front when Eoghan Frayne had a penalty saved by Kian McGonigle before slamming the rebound home for a 1-4 to 0-5 lead.
It was the turning point of the game. Seconds later Jody McDermott looked to have a score waved as a wide by the umpires. Shortly after, Niall O'Donnell had a chance for goal pulled off the line by Adam McDonnell. The three incidents could've added up to one of those 'it's not going to be your day' moments. But it didn't halt Derry's unbreakable spirit.
The Monaghan and Tyrone games stood to them. Led by Mark Doherty, Dan Higgins and skipper Matthew Downey they tore Meath to pieces in a rampant quarter-final.
Derry had the aid of a slight breeze and Downey opened the scoring for the Ulster championship after 48 seconds.
Meath did well on both their own and Derry's kick-outs in the early stages. A free from Meath skipper Frayne levelled matters.
Derry had a goal chance when Downey put Lachlan Murray in a tight angle, but goalkeeper Hogan made the save.
Points from John McDonagh (free) and Liam Stafford had Meath 0-3 to 0-1 ahead at the first water break.
Derry, who had six first-half wides, were soon back in the game with points from Jody McDermott and a Downey free.
Sean Emmanuel edged Meath ahead before Derry tied the game at the break (0-4 all) with a point from overlapping defender Conor Shiels.
Downey popped over a free on the restart, after Higgins won the throw-in, and a much sharper looking Derry were 0-5 to 0-4 ahead.
Frayne's goal looked to have turned the game in the Royals' favour, but Derry were only beginning to move through the gears.
Downey (2) and Mark Doherty popped over points to put Derry ahead, 0-8 to 1-4, after 40 minutes.
Meath's long kick-outs were a feature of the game and it led to a point for Mark Coffey to tie the game. But that's as good as it got for Meath.
The sight of Adam McGonigle burst out of defence, Dan Higgins plucking kick-outs and Matthew Downey running the show took Derry to another level, with Eoin McEvoy keeping starman Frayne on the periphery.
Just before the water break a Calum Downey block led to a goal for Dan Higgins, putting Derry 1-9 to 1-5 and well on their way to the final.
Meath wing-back Adam McDonnell notched two points late on. Even then they launched a high missile into the Derry box, late on, Higgins made a massive brilliant catch to ease any chances of a late goal.
Lachlan Murray had a late chance saved, but had the composure to tag on a point to put the icing on the cake.
Derry play the winners of Sunday's other semi-final between Kerry and Roscommon in next weekend's decider.
Full coverage in Monday's Derry News and Tuesday's County Derry Post.
DERRY: Kian McGonigle; Adam McGonigle, Eoin McEvoy, Connor Shiels (0-1); Donncha Gilmore, Patrick McGurk, Lee Brady; Dan Higgins (1-0), Patrick O'Kane; Mark Doherty (0-2), Matthew Downey (0-8, 5f), Jody McDermott (0-1); Charlie Diamond (0-1f), Lachlan Murray (0-1), Niall O'Donnell
SUBS: Calum Downey for J McDermott (40), Ryan McEldowney for C Diamond (59), Jude Moore for N O'Donnell (63)
YELLOW CARD: E McEvoy (57)
MEATH: Billy Hogan; Ben Moran, Liam Kelly, Ben Donnelly; Adam McDonnell (0-2), Oisin Kelly, Ciaran Caulfield; Sean Emmanuel (0-1), Conor Gray; Ruairi Kinsella (0-1), John McDonagh (0-1f), Mark Coffey; Alan Bowden, Eoghan Frayne (1-1, 1f), Liam Stafford (0-1)
SUBS: Aaron Murphy for C Gray (INJ 11), Sean O'Donoghue for O Kelly (36), Godfrey Ehichoya for R Kinsella (53), Donal Commons for L Stafford (59), Jack Kinlough for J McDonagh (59)
BLACK CARD: B Moran (55)
YELLOW CARD: R Kinsella (45)
REF: Barry Judge (Sligo)
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