Donegal scale the heights to consign rivals to qualifiers
Ulster SFC semi-final: Donegal 1-16 Tyrone 0-15
For the eleventh time in Mickey Harte's 17-season reign, Tyrone will have to rescue their season via the All-Ireland qualifiers.
Last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists were blown away by Donegal's breathtaking first-half performance on Saturday night in Cavan.
Granted, there were mitigating circumstances, including the black carding of Peter Harte after just 11 minutes as well as the failure to avail of three gilt-edged goal-scoring opportunities, thanks primarily to the excellence of Donegal goalkeeper Shaun Patton.
But there were other reasons why they found themselves trailing by seven points at the break (1-9 to 0-5) and effectively beaten.
Harte's decision to entrust 21-year-old rookie Liam Rafferty with the task of man-marking Ryan McHugh was a big call. Additionally, the decision not to deploy All Star Colm Cavanagh in his customary sweeping role and an inability to come to terms with Patton's brilliantly executed re-starts, as well as losing five of Niall Morgan's 13 first-half kick-outs all contributed to one of their worst ever first-half performances in the Ulster series.
Afterwards Harte focused on the impact of the black card. "We intended to perform much better than we did. I suppose there were a few key incidents in the first half that changed the script of the game, one of them being the sending-off of Petey Harte for this magnificent black card which, for me, didn't fit any of the criteria necessary for a black card," he said.
He acknowledged that the team's fate now largely depends on the luck of the draw in the qualifiers.
"Historically we have made a decent hand of availing of that opportunity. It's all to do with the luck of the draw.
"We don't believe we're a bad team because we lost a game today. We had a very good finish to the league and we were in an All-Ireland final last year and one defeat in the Ulster championship shouldn't take away from all that."
Tyrone's woes weren't restricted to their performance. Wing-back Tiernan McCann is likely to face disciplinary action after he was caught on camera appearing to to put his fingers into the mouth of Donegal's Stephen McMenamin in the 43rd minute in a so-called fish-hook incident.
"I wasn't looking through the lens of a TV, as you might well imagine," explained Harte. "I was standing on the sideline as I always do. If something happens a distance away from me, I cannot see every detail that goes on.
"You obviously had a better view of that than I have, because I know nothing about it."
Donegal boss Declan Bonner said that he didn't see the incident either, but had been informed about it after the final whistle.
Bonner added: "Stephen is made of stern stuff. You know if that was the case, it is not acceptable."
The referee took no action, which leaves the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) free to bring a case against McCann. There is no rule covering a fish-hook incident but he could face two category III offences: 'Behaving in a way which is dangerous to an opponent', and to 'kick or attempt to kick an opponent'. Both carry a minimum one-match ban.
This was Donegal's first championship win over Tyrone since 2015 and they will contest their eighth provincial final in nine seasons in two weeks' time.
"Any day you beat Tyrone in the championship is a good day. I thought overall that we deserved to win the match but there is no silverware handed out there today," said Bonner, who acknowledged his team got sloppy in the second half when they were outscored 10-7 by Tyrone.
Indeed, three unanswered Tyrone points in the six minutes of injury time left just a score between the sides before a fisted point from the excellent McMenamin - who did a superb man-marking job on Tyrone captain Mattie Donnell - eased Donegal's worries.
Michael Murphy was immense while McHugh, Eoghan Ban Gallagher and James McFadden played lead roles, though Jamie Brennan's 1-3 from play in the first half stole the limelight.
The influence of ex-Mayo boss Stephen Rochford on Donegal's play, which is now more reliant on kick passing, is becoming more evident. But they need to be mindful that this was a woeful Tyrone effort.
Scorers - Donegal: J Brennan 1-3, M Murphy 0-5 (2f, 1 45), P McBrearty 0-3 (1f), E McHugh, S McMenamin, R McHugh, H McFadden, M Langan 0-1 each. Tyrone: C McShane 0-4 (3f ), D McCurry 0-3 (1f), K McGeary, N Morgan (1f, 1 45), R Donnelly 0-2 each. M Cassidy, M Donnelly 0-1 each.
Donegal - S Patton 8; P McGrath 7, N McGee 7, S McMenamin 8; R McHugh 8, L McLoone 7, E B Gallagher 8; H McFadden 8, J McGee (NA); E McHugh 7, M Murphy 9, N O'Donnell 7, P McBrearty 7, M Langan 7, J Brennan 9. Subs: C Thompson 7 for J McGee (16); D O Baoill 6 for E McHugh (40), F McGlynn 6 for McLoone (47), O Gallen 6 for O'Donnelll (53), P Brennan for J Brennan (65).
Tyrone - N Morgan 6; M McKernan 5, B McDonnell 5, R McNamee 6, T McCann 5, P Hampsey 5, L Rafferty 5, C Cavanagh 5, B Kennedy 6; R Donnelly 7, K McGeary 7, F Burns 6; P Harte (NA), M Donnelly 5, C McShane 7. Subs: C McAliskey 5 for Harte (BC, 11), N Sludden 5 for C Cavanagh (ht), R Brennan 5 for Rafferty (ht), D McCurry 7 for McDonnell (41), M Cassidy 6 for Burns (50), A McCrory 5 for McCann (56).
Ref - David Gough (Meath).
GAA to launch McCann investigation
The GAA are set to launch an investigation into the incident that saw Tyrone defender Tiernan McCann appear to make contact with the eye area of Donegal’s Stephen McMenamin.
McMenamin was prone on the ground for the incident which occurred during Donegal’s convincing Ulster semi-final victory in Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday night.
McMenamin received attention and referee David Gough took no action against the Tyrone man, but the CCCC (Central Competitions Control Committee) has the power to act on an incident if the referee misses it during a game.
The Tyrone man came in for some stinging criticism, with former Derry star Joe Brolly calling for the GAA’s disciplinary chiefs to take swift action. “There’s no place for it in the game and proper action needs to be taken,” Brolly said during RTÉ’s coverage of the game.
The GAA’s disciplinary body have work to get through from the Monaghan-Fermanagh encounter too.
Fermanagh finished the game with 12 men after Paul McCusker and James McMahon joined Lee Cullen in picking up red cards. The Erne County crashed out of the championship at the hands of Malachy O’Rourke’s Farney side.