Wednesday 24 May 2017

Red Hand slapped down as revived Donegal move up through the gears

Donegal 0-12 Tyrone 0-6

Frank McGlynn kicks a point against Tyrone last night Photo:Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Frank McGlynn kicks a point against Tyrone last night Photo:Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Chris McNulty

It felt like a significant night in Ballybofey as Donegal went jointly to the summit of Division 1. In front of 8,570 in a soaking yet searing cauldron, Rory Gallagher's team handed Tyrone a first defeat of the year, confirming their insistence that they're not ready to relinquish their status as contenders.

Even through nine minutes of added time at the end of another enticing chapter in their rivalry, Donegal never seemed in danger.

Donegal's Paddy McGrath in action against Tyrone's Cathal McCarron. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Donegal's Paddy McGrath in action against Tyrone's Cathal McCarron. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

They made their hay in the periods before and after half-time. Between the 19th and the 57th minutes, Donegal went from 0-4 apiece to 0-12 to 0-5 in front.

Still without Patrick McBrearty and Karl Lacey, Donegal are playing with conviction and confidence.

The coming of age of Donegal's last generation really began when they derailed Tyrone's bid for a third successive Ulster title in 2011.

When Jim McGuinness took the reigns in Donegal, he had the Red Hand in the crosshairs from early on. As Alex Ferguson might put it, Donegal knocked Tyrone from their perch in a tense semi-final.

Donegals' Mark McHugh in action against Kieran McGeary. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Donegals' Mark McHugh in action against Kieran McGeary. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Last summer, Mickey Harte's men returned to take their seat on the provincial throne for the first time since and the wheel appeared to have come full circle again.

The loss of some of the veterans who led the way through Donegal's golden age meant that expectations were lowered in the north-west.

But they're rising steadily again through what has been an encouraging spring - and they showed last night that their own self-confidence is not without merit or reason.

Gallagher and some of his players have remarked how the suggestion of 'transition' doesn't sit well with the group.

Donegal began with real purpose and had a 0-4 to 0-2 advantage by the 12th minute, Ciaran Thompson continuing his rise with an inspired brace.

Peter Harte landed a pair of points in a 90-second period and Tyrone were level but, within a minute, Ryan McHugh turned on the afterburners to restore Donegal's lead.

Harte's brace was a real test of mettle for Donegal, but their response between then and the half-time break - when they led 0-9 to 0-4 - told a lot.

Michael Murphy landed an imperious free into the driving drizzle and corner-back Paddy McGrath gloriously curled over a score that was only the second in his Donegal career.

Donegal's confidence was evident and long-distance efforts by Hugh McFadden and Thompson gave them a healthy five-point cushion.

Murphy spent the evening with not only the sweeping strands of rain steaming into his face. In a move not dissimilar to the role he played in a 2015 Championship joust at the same venue, Justin McMahon spent 45 minutes in Murphy's airspace.

McMahon was withdrawn after getting a booking for an off-the-ball incident with Murphy and Tyrone were bailing water from the vessel by then.

Cavanagh swept over the first point of the second half, but it was Donegal who appeared like the side with the greater need. Cian Mulligan, another of the new faces in the Tír Chonaill ranks, swung over and Donegal tacked on points from Ryan McHugh and McFadden to stretch the lead.

Tyrone were shut out for more than half-an-hour - Cavanagh scoring 22 seconds into the second half - and the barren spell only ended when the Red Hand skipper landed a free in stoppage time.

Should the two sides get over their respective Championship hurdles, they'll be slated to meet again in two months' time, on June 18.

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).

Referee - D Coldrick (Meath).

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