Donegal 1-16 Tyrone 0-15
Donegal overpowered a helpless Tyrone to book their place in the 2019 Ulster Final. Tyrone took the lead in the 4th minute, but a Jamie Brennan goal seconds later gave Donegal the advantage, one they wouldn’t squander for the remainder of the contest. When called upon Donegal’s big players Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan and Ryan McHugh all rose to the challenge and drove Donegal to within one game of another Ulster title.
The first 10 minutes of the game were filled with excitement and pace, everything the anticipating viewers would have dreamed of. Tyrone attacked straight from the throw in and led by one point after just 14 seconds as Mattie Donnelly’s swinging shot sailed over the bar. Michael Murphy drove over a 45 to level the game before the younger of the Donnelly brother split the posts, Cathal McShane laying off the assist for both Tyrone scores.
The game really sparked into life with Donegal’s next attack. Eoghan Ban Gallagher’s defence splitting pace drew the Tyrone sweeper as he shipped the ball to the on running Jamie Brennan, who burst away from Michael McKernan to find himself one on one with Niall Morgan, the result never in doubt as Brennan eased the ball into the right hand corner of the Tyrone goal.
Brennan’s blistering start continued with a second score in as many touches, this time raising a white flag. Peter Harte could have pulled back Donegal’s major but for a brilliant block by Ryan McHugh, Tyrone settling for a Kieran McGeary point. Three was soon the margin again as that man Brennan, who was lighting up Breffni Park, hit his second point, bringing his personal tally to 1-2 within four minutes.
The game suffered from a stop/start following 10 minutes with injuries and substitutes slowing down the momentum of the contest. The biggest talking point during this period was the controversial dismissal of Peter Harte for what the referee deemed a black card offence. Conor McAliskey replaced Tyrone’s number 14, but Harte’s loss was keenly felt for the remainder of the game.
Brennan had a chance to repeat his 4th minute heroics as his shot on goal this time rattle the post, providing Tyrone with the turnover and the counter attack which ended in Cathal McShane knocking over his first. Tyrone had another half chance on goal, their calls for a penalty kick waved away swiftly by David Gough, allowing Donegal to turn defence into attack and for Michael Murphy to maintain their three point lead.
Brian Kennedy’s powerful run through the heart of the Donegal rear guard saw him through on goal, with Shaun Patton’s right foot this time coming to the rescue to see the ball clear. Donegal really stepped it up in the next few minutes, hitting four of the next five points, Michael Langan, Michael Murphy, Eoin McHugh and Jamie Brennan all on target, with a Niall Morgan free Tyrone’s solitary response during this period.
Patton was again called upon to turn away a rushed Richie Donnelly effort while Eoghan Ban Gallagher’s contribution was felt at the other end, his high ball towards Tyrone’s defensive square allowing Murphy to use all his experience and strength (Seamus Darby like) to move his marker aside, win the ball and fire it over the bar. Donegal in charge and in front at half time 1-9 to 0-5.
Cathal McShane and Kieran McGeary quickly closed the gap at the beginning of the second period while a spectacular Niall Morgan save denied Ciaran Thompson and insured Tyrone were still in this contest. Murphy settled his side with a pointed free while Darren McCurry responded through a dead ball of his own.
Paddy McBrearty and Cathal McShane also switched frees, Donegal keeping their noses in front with a four point advantage. Two quick fire Donegal scores from Eoin McHugh and Patrick McBrearty seemed to knock the stuffing out of the red hands while Donegal continued their cool and controlled performance.
McCurry and McShane (both frees) pulled back two scores for Tyrone but McBrearty again hit the target to keep six points between the sides. Tyrone did end the game with a flurry but found the distance between the teams too much to haul back. Hugh McFadden cancelled out Niall Morgan’s 45, while McCurry, Richie Donnelly and Michael Cassidy all contributed on the score board to leave the goal the difference with one minute of added time remaining.
With Donegal under pressure for the first time since the opening 10 minutes they needed someone to settle them down and that someone was of course the reliable Michael Murphy, his huge catch from a Shaun Patton kick out allowing Donegal to drive forward and hit an insurance point through Stephen McMenamin, who opted to fist the ball over the bar when a goal was on.
Donegal closed down any chance Tyrone had to express their new kicking game, with Hugh McFadden hugely influential in his sweeper position, limiting the impact Cathal McShane (who started brightly) could have on the game. Donegal now deservingly march on to their second Ulster Final in a row and the reigning champions will undoubtedly head to Clones as favourites no matter who they meet.
Donegal: Shaun Patton, Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Stephen McMenamin (0-1), Ryan McHugh (0-1), Eoin McHugh (0-1), Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Hugh McFadden (0-1), Jason McGee, Niall O’Donnell, Leo McLoone, Jamie Brennan (1-3), Patrick McBrearty (0-3), Michael Murphy (0-5), Michael Langan (0-1). Subs: Ciaran Thompson for J. McGee, Daire O’Baoill for E. McHugh, Frank McGlynn for Leo McLoone, Oisin Gallon for N. O’Donnell, Paul Brennan for Jamie Brennan.
Tyrone: Niall Morgan (0-2), Padraig Hampsey, Ronan McNamee, Michael McKernan, Tiernan McCann, Ben McDonnell, Brian Kennedy, Colm Cavanagh, Richard Donnelly (0-2), Matthew Donnelly (0-1), Kieran McGeary (0-2), Frank Burns, Cathal McShane (0-4), Peter Harte, Liam Rafferty. Subs: Conor McAliskey for P. Harte (Black Card), Darren McCurry (0-3) for B. McDonnell, Michael Cassidy (0-1) for F. Burns, Aidan McCrory for T. McCann.