Tyrone moved ominously into the Ulster final with an impressive nine-point victory over Donegal at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones.
Just two points separated the sides in last year’s final, when Tyrone came out on top, and Donegal were six points to the good when the sides met in the league earlier this year, but Mikey Harte’s men were far too good for Donegal on Sunday, 1-21 to 1-12.
Rory Gallagher’s young Donegal side had performed well in Division One and won an Ulster Under 21 title, but Tyrone handed out a reality check with a masterclass of textbook tackling and long-range point-taking by Tyrone.
Tyrone’s disciplined tackling and long-range shooting were key and they kicked seven points in a row in 15 minutes before half time to effectively win the game.
Three minutes after the restart Tiernan McCann found the back of the Donegal net to effectively settle matters, and from there Tyrone coasted through to a final against the winners of Monaghan or Down on 16 July.
For Tyrone and Harte it was a vindication, after criticism that they lacked firepower up front.
Tyrone delivered the perfect response to silence their critics, with ten of their starting 15 registering on the scoresheet.
“I’ve been seeing that coming for a long time – this past year and a half,” said Harte.
“I knew that some day we would actually deliver the kind of performance that we’re capable of and I think conditions were prime for us today. We do like the dry sod, we like good, hot days in Clones.
“I’m smiling because I was thinking you might’ve been going down that other road of, ‘we didn’t score enough goals’.
“We had a lot of the things that people are saying are not in our game anymore. There was lots of fast break play, there was lots of play in open spaces, of course there were defensive setups too and there were times it was very clogged.
“But I think the game had a bit of everything: a bit of the old, a bit of the new and a bit of what might be to come.”
Donegal manager Rory Gallagher, said: “There’s no doubt Tyrone were the better team. It was nip and tuck for the first 15 minutes, but Tyrone took over.
“They stretched the lead out coming up to half-time, to six or seven points at that stage having it been five each for a while. Listen, Tyrone were very convincing in the second-half.
“I wouldn’t say there was anything unfortunate about our display. Tyrone kicked some great scores. I thought our boys defended too deep and we didn’t pressure the man on the ball and Tyrone picked us off easily in the first-half.”
Scorers for Tyrone: Tiernan McCann 1-1, Niall Sludden 0-4, Kieran McGeary 0-3, Mark Bradley 0-2, Mattie Donnelly 0-2, Peter Harte 0-2, Padraig Hampsey 0-2, David Mulgrew 0-1, Sean Cavanagh 0-1 (f), Declan McClure 0-1, Ronan O’Neill 0-1, Niall Morgan 0-1 (45).
Scorers for Donegal: Patrick McBrearty 0-6 (2fs), Michael Murphy 0-3 (2 ’45’s), Micheal Carroll 1-0, Martin Reilly 0-1, Michael Langan 0-1, Hugh McFadden 0-1.
TYRONE: Niall Morgan; Aidan McCrory, Ronan McNamee, Padraig Hampsey; Tiernan McCann, Cathal McCarron, Peter Harte; Colm Cavanagh, Conall McCann; Kieran McGeary, Niall Sludden, David Mulgrew; Mark Bradley, Sean Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly
Subs: Darren McCurry for Bradley (BC, 45), Rory Brennan for Mulgrew (47), Declan McClure for C McCann (51), Ronan O’Neill for S Cavanagh (57), Cathal McShane for McGeary (57), Justin McMahon for Harte (70).
DONEGAL: Mark Anthony McGinley; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Ryan McHugh, Frank McGlynn, Eamonn Doherty; Jason McGee, Ciaran Thompson; Michael Carroll, Martin Reilly, Jamie Brennan; Patrick McBearty, Michael Murphy, Eoin McHugh.
Subs: Karl Lacey for J McGee (32), Martin McElhinney for McGlynn (HT), Hugh McFadden for Brennan (HT), Ciaran Gillespie for Doherty (47), Michael Langan for E McHugh (60).
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