Monday 26 September 2016

Five things we learned from Donegal's hard-fought win over Tyrone

Damian Lawlor

Published 17/05/2015 | 18:06

Donegal's Christy Toye is tackled by Colm Cavanagh and Mattie Donnelly in Ballybofey
Donegal's Christy Toye is tackled by Colm Cavanagh and Mattie Donnelly in Ballybofey

Donegal maintained their stranglehold on this fixture in a game that saw both side finish with 14 men. Here is what we learned from the feisty Ulster championship opener.

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Experience

Experience is what you make of it.

It was Mickey Harte's 13th championship season as manager and only Rory Gallagher's first game as manager of Donegal in the championship. People wondered if Harte's longevity in the hot seat would give Tyrone an edge.

It turned out to be an intriguing sideline battle but Gallagher has been around the blocks and had enough about him to set his team up impressively. They started well and saw the game out when it was needed.

That didn't happen by accident.

Placed ball difference

Place kicking is vital on days like these. Darren McCurry missed two crucial frees around the 20 minute mark and another with eight minutes left.

Those scores could have dragged Tyrone level on a day when scores were never going to be fast and flowing. In contrast Michael Murphy spent the afternoon with Justin McMahon on his tail, but when he was needed he hit three fine frees on the bounce.

Those scores made all the difference.

No blanket suffocation

There's a time and place for the blanket.

All of the talk before today's game was how defensive Tyrone had been during the spring. But to make a game of it this afternoon they couldn't afford to sit back and let Donegal come at them.

To get something from this game - and possibly the rest of the season - they needed to make a statement. Tyrone, in fairness, did that.

The game may have been ugly near the end but in the circumstances there was lots of committed attacking and stylish play on view - from both sides.

Competitive start to the football championship

Ulster football is alive and well. So too are the verbals and sledging but on a day when not much entertainment was expected, and so much pre-match talk centred around the drudgery of Ulster football, the Tyrone and Donegal players put on quite a show.

The rivalry was immense and the stakes high but overall this was a superb game and it might set the tone for a glorious summer.

Mickey Harte with goalkeeper headache

Niall Morgan has work cut out to get back in. Michael O'Neill stepped in between the posts as Niall Morgan failed to recover from injury in time.

Morgan was a huge loss with his agility and his free-taking expertise but he'll have his work cut out to get his place back.

O'Neill made three super saves this afternoon and looked to the manor born. He will be hard to dispossess for the qualifiers.

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