Morgan saves day as Tyrone 'seize chance'
Tyrone 0-13 Donegal 1-7
NIALL Morgan returned to the Tyrone side to inspire a season-opening win over Donegal in the Dr McKenna Cup.
The goalkeeper's last outing was a forgettable Ulster Championship defeat by the same opposition in Ballybofey.
Nothing went right for Morgan that day, and he subsequently missed Tyrone's run to the All-Ireland semi-final because of a knee injury.
Yesterday the Edendork man was back on top form, superbly saving a first-half penalty by Donegal captain Michael Murphy and then stepping up to convert three second-half points on a day when Mickey Harte's under-strength side defeated a Donegal outfit that had eight of their 2012 All-Ireland final team.
Murphy netted a superb goal in the 31st minute to give Donegal a three-point lead at the break, but it was Tyrone -- with only Conor Clarke, Ciaran McGinley and Mattie Donnelly on show from their All-Ireland semi-final loss to Mayo -- who were on top in the second half.
"We could not be but happy," Mickey Harte said. "I know people will say it is only January and it is only the McKenna Cup, but I would rather be winning no matter what time of the year it is.
"We probably did not expect to win but as the game progressed our players saw that we had a chance of winning and they seized the chance."
The sides were level at three apiece when Morgan was adjudged to have fouled Donegal debutant Darach O'Connor in the 22nd minute, but the 'keeper denied Murphy with a superb low save.
Had Murphy rattled the net from the 22nd-minute spot-kick, Tyrone could have buckled with a six-point deficit.
Instead, they remained in touch and they hit the gas once Donegal lost influential midfielder Rory Kavanagh to the only black card of the contest 12 minutes from the end.
On 31 minutes Murphy punished lax play by Aidan McCrory when he lashed a blistering effort to the top corner. Yet it was Tyrone who emerged the brighter on the resumption. Paddy McNiece and Ronan O'Neill cut the deficit and they drew level when McNiece pointed a free in the 43rd minute.
Donegal went ahead again when Murphy tapped over, but that 52nd-minute score was his side's last. Paul Durcan magnificently saved from Mattie Donnelly, but soon after McNiece equalised again.
When Kavanagh saw black for impeding a run by Tiarnan McCann in the 58th minute, Morgan pointed the resulting free and, with sub Peter Hughes getting in on the act, Tyrone pressed on to claim the win.
Jim McGuinness wasn't particularly troubled by the defeat, saying: "When we did get going we got a bit of fluency. It was fits and starts but you expect that for the time of year.
"We fatigued badly towards the end but we've a bit of work done there in the last three or four weeks so it was a chance to get some game time."
SCORERS -- Tyrone: P McNiece 0-4 (2fs), N Morgan (2fs, 1 '45), R O'Neill (1f) 0-3 each, T McCann, S McGuigan, P Hughes 0-1 each,. Donegal: M Murphy 1-4 (0-1f), C McFadden 0-2 (1f), E McGee 0-1.
TYRONE -- N Morgan; A McCrory, C Clarke, B Tierney; C McGinley, D McBride, T McCann ; P Kane, C Grugan; N McKenna, S McGuigan, E McKenna; P McNeice, M Donnelly, R O'Neill. Subs: P Hughes for Kane (h-t), K Gallagher for McKenna (h-t), Ronan McNamee for McBride (50).
DONEGAL -- P Durcan; F McGlynn, E McGee, E Doherty; A Thompson, L McLoone, Declan Walsh; R Kavanagh, O MacNiallais; G McFadden, M O'Reilly, D Molloy; D O'Connor, M Murphy, C McFadden. Subs: T McKinley for O'Reilly (57), A McFadden for Kavanagh (58, BC).
REF -- B Cassidy (Derry)
Irish Independent Sport Star Awards
Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.