No tomorrow for Donegal as Tyrone march into Ulster final

Red card shown to Michael Murphy proves key as his side fall short in the sunshine

Donegal’s Eoghan Ban Gallagher is tackled by Niall Sludden and Ben McDonnell of Tyrone during his side’s Ulster semi-final defeat. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Donegal’s Eoghan Ban Gallagher is tackled by Niall Sludden and Ben McDonnell of Tyrone during his side’s Ulster semi-final defeat. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

Tyrone 0-23 Donegal 1-14

In these moments, there is no promise of tomorrow.

Feargal Logan jostled plenty on these afternoons as a player.

On a baking afternoon in Brewster Park, the great old Ulster foes went to war. Tyrone, in their first campaign with Logan and Brian Dooher as managers, have booked their tickets to an Ulster final.

With the sun as high as it has felt in some time, Donegal are already looking to the winter.

Declan Bonner’s men battled for much of the afternoon without two of their frontline warriors, Neil McGee injured after just five minutes and Michael Murphy, just five minutes after missing a penalty, sent off in the 33rd minute.

“It was great, proper old, ‘80s, ‘90s, Championship football,” Logan grinned.

“There’s no tomorrow. So you are a write-off. There’s no tomorrow in that football and that keeps you motivated, keeps you on edge and we preached it to our guys and thankfully they stood up to a man.”

Murphy started in spite of a hamstring injury that has ailed him in recent weeks. When the Glenswilly man nailed a 25th minute free from just shy of the ‘45, Donegal were 0-7 to 0-5 ahead. Their afternoon felt bright.

Donegal were in a groove and when Ciaran Thompson was fouled by Rory Brennan, he was black-carded for his troubled. Deeming it a goal-scoring chance, Joe McQuillan awarded a penalty. Murphy’s effort clipped the outside of the post and wide.

Moments later, Donegal lost the very man they would have ordinarily turned to when the temperature ratcheted up late in the afternoon; “the best manager of a football game on the field I have seen”, Logan called the Donegal captain.

Murphy was already on a yellow card when a foul on Kieran McGeary earned black and the accompanying red.

The pendulum swung decisively.

“To me it wasn’t a sending off,” Bonner said.

“Today, I think Joe got a number of decisions wrong but I’m not going to blame the referee for it. These things happen in championship football.”

Bonner pointed to an apparent foul on Michael Langan by Frank Burns late in the first half, an incident he felt might have warranted a second penalty.

Donegal lost veteran full-back Neil McGee after only five minutes.

The Gaoth Dobhair colossus was appearing for the 192nd time in Donegal’s colours. Helped off by doctor Shane McCool and physiotherapist Cathal Ellis, McGee’s diagnosis seemed “pretty serious” according to his manager.

“At the end of the day all we could focus on was the lads that were playing and they gave everything for the Donegal jersey today. I am immensely proud of the work and the effort the guys put in.”

MIchael Murphy watches on after his red card against Tyrone. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
MIchael Murphy watches on after his red card against Tyrone. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Caolan McGonagle, after a swift move involving Ryan McHugh and Eoghan Ban Gallagher, smacked in a Donegal goal five minutes into the second half. That score enable Donegal to stay on the Red Hand coattails until the home stretch.

With the temperature rising, Patrick McBrearty’s two frees had Donegal within striking distance.

Tyrone held sway with Tiarnan McCann, twice, Darren McCurry, Niall Sludden and Cathal McShane landing late points.

Logan said: “I do know there is a group of players with ambition and they have suffered hurt at the hands of Donegal in the past and I knew somewhere deep down that could be dug out and we got a bit of that out of them today.

“People want a Tyrone team that represents them well, so that’s all we are trying to do in every respect. Everybody who has soldiered for years. Some of us are living off the glow of All-Irelands maybe, but some of us remember well before that.

“Some of us are living off the glow of All-Irelands but some of us remember it well before that. Every contribution up the way from everyone for the last 100 years plus, we are just carrying it on for a wee while and we will see where it takes us.”

For Bonner, his tomorrow is littered now with uncertainty, the Na Rossa man having completed his fourth year in the role.

He said: “It’s frustrating. We’ll sit down and lick our wounds over the next couple of days and we’ll see after that.

“It’s disappointing. I’ve been involved in Championship football for a long time. There is no worse feeling than being involved in a losing dressing room.”

McCurry posted seven points for Tyrone and had a blistering shot repelled by Donegal goalkeeper Shaun Patton on the 10th minute.

Kieran McGeary, Sludden and McCann contributed three apiece and Conor Meyler added a point to an afternoon when he kept Ryan McHugh out of the reckoning.

Even with the numerical advantage and with Donegal missing two of their leading cast, the afternoon was in the mix.

Finally, Tyrone took a grip and could look into tomorrow.

Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, P Hampsey; R Brennan, P Harte (0-1), C Meyler (0-1); B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick; N Sludden (0-3), M O’Neill, K McGeary (0-3); D McCurry (0-7, three frees), M Donnelly (0-2), F Burns (0-1). Subs: T McCann (0-3) for Brennan (half-time), C McKenna (0-1) for Kilpatrick (48), B McDonnell for Kennedy (53), C McShane (0-1, free) for O’Neill (62), N Kelly for McKernan (66).

Donegal: S Patton; B McCole, N McGee, E Gallagher; O McFadden-Ferry, R McHugh, P Mogan (0-1); H McFadden, C McGonagle (1-0); C Thompson (0-1), N O’Donnell (0-2), M Langan (0-2, one free); J Brennan (0-2), M Murphy (0-2 frees), P McBrearty (0-4, two frees). Subs: S McMenamin for McGee (5), P Brennan for McFadden-Ferry (46), O Mac Niallais for McFadden (47), E McHugh for J.Brennan (62), A McClean for Mogan (70).

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)

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