Tyrone find form
Dooher's Red Hands inflict first defeat of year on league champs
Tyrone 2-15 Donegal 1-7
DURING a break in play to allow medical attention for an injury to Donegal's Paddy Campbell, a short silence fell across St Tiernach's Park in Clones.
However, a lone voice could be heard reverberating across the field of play. Tyrone's menacing defensive presence Ryan McMenamin was using the time-out to send an important message to those in close enough proximity to hear him.
Gesturing to colleagues and clapping his hands intently, McMenamin was snarling what most of the 21,985 crowd for this Ulster semi-final were sensing.
"We have them. We have them. They can't handle it, they can't handle it," laughed McMenamin with that grin that has sent many a chastened opponent's temperature soaring.
To some there may have been an element of distaste to what he said, but he spoke the truth. They had them. Donegal couldn't handle it.
It will be Donegal's epitaph from Clones yesterday and maybe for some time to come. They finished the game with 13 players as frustration told in the actions of Colm McFadden and Kevin McMenamin in the closing stages.
McFadden felled Colm Cavanagh with a punch to the face for a straight red on 68 minutes; McMenamin, already on a booking, fired a ball at his Tyrone namesake two minutes later, netting a second yellow. Referee David Coldrick didn't realise a red card was due for more than a minute as play continued.
Any headway Donegal were making at that stage was on individual initiative. In contrast Tyrone were a team. Everything they did had team ethic written all over it, Raymond Mulgrew's goal on 52 minutes a case in point.
If there's a better construction of a goal in this year's championship then we'll be privileged to see it. The impressive Colm McCullagh's deft pass to Stephen O'Neill provided the opening, O'Neill's exchange to Owen Mulligan had Mulgrew primed in space for the killer touch. He delivered. More than that, he showed that the downpayment of potential he banked since the 2004 All-Ireland minor championship is now nearing maturity.
Mulgrew's goal on 52 minutes pushed Tyrone 2-11 to 1-5 clear and had them spinning for the exits. Brian McIver figured they could have made the same charge after just 20 minutes, so bad were Donegal.
There weren't any explanations, only that Donegal couldn't live with Tyrone's pace. Mickey Harte offered the best and somewhat abstract reason for why Donegal collapsed.
Sometimes, mused Harte, the more you win, the closer you are to defeat. It had to happen. Donegal were sitting targets and Tyrone took lethal aim.
After winning their last 10 competitive games, defeat could come as a release of pressure for Donegal. It was only their fourth defeat in 26 competitive (league and championship) games under McIver. But it has already been a long season.
Harte warned afterwards about rising expectation. In his four previous years as manager, only one Ulster title has been claimed so the motivation for now is clear.
But their prospects have brightened. They have the right men coming right at the right time. McMenamin controlled centre-back, where he had tracked Adrian Sweeney; Conor Gormley threw the shackles on Brendan Devenney; Philip Jordan and Davy Harte got forward, Kevin Hughes had too much mobility for Neil Gallagher, while McCullagh, Mulgrew and Mulligan showed lovely touches.
But one man stood head and shoulders above them all. Brian Dooher gave a performance that belied his 32 years and, more significantly, his recent history of injuries.
He finished with five points, two off a left foot that few can remember him doing much with before, but it was his appetite that had Harte drooling afterwards.
He got the show on the road with a rare left-footed stroke and by the time he had kicked his fifth on 51 minutes, he was on his third marker, with Karl Lacey detailed to do what Eamonn McGee and Paddy McConigley had not managed.
In between, Donegal had one brief spell of dominance when they exposed Cormac McGinley's frailties by peppering Colm McFadden with quick, long ball. An modh díreach.
McFadden had the ball in the net for what looked like a superb goal after fielding above McGinley, but Coldrick had already blown for a penalty on eight minutes, which Tyrone 'keeper John Devine saved from the St Michael's man.
However, McFadden had a hand in the Donegal goal that counted two minutes later, when he spun past McGinley, floated a pass for Rory Kavanagh to catch on the edge of the square and Kavanagh put Kevin Cassidy in for another championship goal.
It provided a 1-2 to 0-2 lead, but also false security. Donegal didn't score again until added time in the half. But worse, they reverted to type, tried to work the ball in short by their more traditional route and allowed the ravenous cover to swallow them up.
By that stage the Dooher show had moved into overdrive and Tyrone had 1-6 on the board for a three-point interval lead.
The penalty from McCullagh on 34 minutes for a throw by Donegal 'keeper Paul Durcan in the square was not a harsh decision, but it is a harsh rule that penalises such an offence with a penalty.
Donegal's lethargy didn't abate after half-time. Dooher and Bonner traded points but Kevin Hughes (with what should have been a goal), Dooher again and McCullagh, from a free, opened a gap.
Donegal wilted. For Tyrone it was show time, a chance to stretch the legs. Their reassertion as prospective champions was firm and clinical.
SCORERS - Tyrone: B Dooher 0-5, C McCullagh (1-0 pen, 1f), R Mulgrew 1-1 each, O Mulligan 0-3 (2f), S O'Neill 0-2, K Hughes, D Harte, S Cavanagh 0-1 each. Donegal: K Cassidy 1-0, B Devenney (1f), C Bonner 0-2 each, K McMenamin, R Kavanagh, C McFadden all 0-1 each.
TEAMS AND PLAYER RATINGS
TYRONE - J Devine 8; D Carlin 7, C Gormley 8, C McGinley 4; D Harte 7, R McMenamin 8, P Jordan 7; K Hughes 7, S Cavanagh 7; B Dooher 9, R Mulgrew 8, E McGinley 5; C McCullagh 7, C Cavanagh 8, O Mulligan 7. Subs: J McMahon 7 for C McGinley (13), S O‘Neill 8 for E McGinley (47), R Mellon for Dooher (66).
DONEGAL - P Durcan 6; N McGee 6, P Campbell 5, K Lacey 6; P McConigley 6, B Monaghan 6, E McGee 5; N Gallagher 5, K Cassidy 7; C Bonner 7, A Sweeney 6, R Kavanagh 6; C McFadden 7, B Devenney 6, B Roper 5. Subs: K McMenamin 6 for Sweeney (47), R Bradley 5 for Roper (47), N McCready 5 for Campbell (60), S McDermott for Bonner (66).
REF - D Coldrick (Meath).
The game at a glance
Man of the match
Brian Dooher (Tyrone): He's been criticised for not having a right foot, never mind the left, from which he launched two of his five points.
Just before half-time, Donegal 'keeper Paul Durcan was adjudged to have handled the ball on the ground in the square. Referee David Coldrick awarded the penalty, which Colm McCullagh converted for a four-point lead. Tyrone never looked back.
Tyrone's pace blew a lethargic Donegal away. After so many injuries, they can survive without Peter Canavan and it seems, are coping without Brian McGuigan too.
Mickey Harte (Tyrone manager): "They put a huge effort in since October and went through the league undefeated. The more games you go undefeated, the nearer you are to a defeat. It's going to happen some day somewhere."
Brian McIver (Donegal manager): "Tyrone were excellent, we never turned up. We were never at the races. You could have blown that match up with 20 minutes to go."
Wides: Tyrone 10 (5) Donegal 7 (4).
Frees: Tyrone 25 (16) Donegal 24 (13).
Yellow cards: Tyrone 1 (C McCullagh 68) Donegal 6 (B Roper 14, P McConigley 35, P Campbell 43, K McMenamin 53, 70, N Gallagher 62).
Red Cards: Donegal 2 (C McFadden 65, K McMenamin 71).
Tyrone advance to the Ulster final on July 15, against the winners of Monaghan and Derry. Donegal go into the All-Ireland Qualifiers.