Thursday 19 October 2017

Donegal 'get at' Red Hand to reach the summit

Donegal 0-12 Tyrone 0-6

Martin O'Reilly of Donegal has his shot blocked down by Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Martin O'Reilly of Donegal has his shot blocked down by Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Chris McNulty

They began the year portrayed as a beaten docket but, all of a sudden, Donegal are beginning to look like dark horses again.

There was so much for Donegal boss Rory Gallagher to be impressed about and encouraged from their performance in MacCumhaill Park on Saturday night when they joined Tyrone and Dublin at Division 1's summit.

Conor Meyler of Tyrone receives a yellow card from Referee David Coldrick. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Conor Meyler of Tyrone receives a yellow card from Referee David Coldrick. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

A six-point win over Tyrone felt like confirmation of Donegal's own belief that they're still able to dine at the top table.

It was a night when the blinding rainfall provided an ample backdrop to this ferocious, vicious rivalry and nine minutes of added time were required to make up for a squabble in the second half.

Michael Murphy - once again in the role conducting of Donegal's orchestra - had Justin McMahon breathing down his throat for the 45 minutes that the Omagh man spent in play before being called ashore by Mickey Harte.

McMahon was booked, and promptly withdrawn by the Tyrone boss in fear that he'd be sent off, for a drag-down of Murphy that lit the fuse.

Eamon Doherty of Donegal in action against Niall Sludden of Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Eamon Doherty of Donegal in action against Niall Sludden of Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

The home side, by then, were well on their way to the win and between the 19th and 57th minutes they outscored Tyrone 8-1 to take a commanding 0-12 to 0-5 lead down the home straight.

"We set out our goal, we had to get at Tyrone," Gallagher said. "They've a great defensive system in place the last couple of years that we've found difficult to break down. We went at it with a really positive attitude and we did very well overall."

Ciaran Thompson, yet again impressive in Donegal's engine room, led the way with two well-executed points and the home side were 0-4 to 0-2 in front, only for Peter Harte to peg them back.

In an instant, Donegal were ahead with a point that outlined their danger.

Mark McHugh of Donegal in action against Kieran McGeary of Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Mark McHugh of Donegal in action against Kieran McGeary of Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Ryan McHugh scuttled clear and the Kilcar man was perhaps too quick with a goal chance gone by the time team-mates caught up. The 2016 Young Player of the Year managed to arch over a point after his lightening burst and Donegal were in a lead they wouldn't let go. Thompson's third of the night had Donegal 0-9 to 0-4 to the good at the short whistle.

"They played with all the quality and all the guile that we've been accustomed to see them do," was how Harte observed his team's a first defeat of 2017.

"They have lost a number of their senior players but they haven't changed the way they play, they are a very efficient team and they very much know what they're doing."

Tyrone skipper Sean Cavanagh, as he had done in the first, cleverly fired over the opening point of the second half, but Donegal were in no mood to let go.

Unbeaten now in 17 league and championship games in Ballybofey, Gallagher's men delivered a statement win to move alongside Tyrone and Dublin at the top.

Mark McHugh of Donegal in action against Kieran McGeary of Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Mark McHugh of Donegal in action against Kieran McGeary of Tyrone. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

SCORERS - Donegal: C Thompson 0-3; R McHugh, H McFadden 0-2 each; F McGlynn, E McHugh, M Murphy (f), P McGrath, C Mulligan 0-1 each. Tyrone: S Cavanagh (2f) 0-3; P Harte 0-2; R Brennan 0-1,

DONEGAL - MA McGinley; P McGrath, N McGee, E Doherty; E Gallagher, F McGlynn, P Brennan; C Thompson, M Murphy; M O'Reilly, E McHugh, R McHugh; M Carroll, H McFadden, J Brennan. Subs: C Mulligan for McGlynn (h-t), M McHugh for McGrath (bc, 56), M McElhinney for McFadden (64), M Langan for P.Brennan (65), B McCole for J.Brennan (70), S McBrearty for E.McHugh (70+5).

TYRONE - M O'Neill; C McShane, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann, J McMahon, R Brennan; C Cavanagh, D McClure; N Sludden, K McGeary, P Harte; M Bradley, S Cavanagh, M Donnelly. Subs: C Meyler for McShane (h-t), P Hampsey for McClure (h-t), Aidan McCrory for McMahon (45), R O'Neill for Brennan (53), J Munroe for McCarron (59).

REF - D Coldrick (Meath).

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