GAA round-up: Murphy steers Donegal past Tyrone
ULSTER title holders Donegal hit a few obstacles along the way but are still standing as they edged out Tyrone in the rain in Ballybofey on a 1-13 to 1-10 scoreline in the Championship Match of the Day.
Mickey Harte's side did enough to suggest that they could be a force in the All-Ireland qualifiers, though they will be bitterly disappointed that yet again they have failed to overcome the challenge of their next door neighbours in championship.
It was an archetypical Ulster championship derby - even the weather obliged as it poured rain making conditions miserable at MacCumhaill Park for the sell out crowd of more than 17,000.
After a totally absorbing first half; there was a fracas near the tunnel as the teams left the field.
The second half was a foul ridden, badly tempered affair as the verbals flew and not surprisingly both sides finished with 14 men with Donegal losing Neil Gallagher while Sean Cavanagh also saw red.
This was Tyrone's fourth successive loss to Donegal in the Ulster Championship and it means that during his 13 seasons with Tyrone Mickey Harte has only managed the team to one Championship win over Donegal.
Donegal boss Rory Gallagher will probably be the most contented GAA coach in Ireland at the moment.
Having taken over from Jim McGuinness last autumn this was his first serious test and when the chips were down his players responded.
But despite the win all it secures Donegal is a quarter-final clash against Division 3 champions Armagh at the Athletic Ground on June 14. It will be a repeat of last year's All-Ireland quarter final which Donegal squeezed through by a single point.
The nightmare scenario for Donegal is that if they lose to Armagh there is a one in eight chance that they will be drawn against Tyrone in the first round of the qualifiers!
For the moment, though, they can celebrate their continued dominance over Tyrone. Ultimately, a brilliant start stood to
them. Despite playing against the elements they raced into 0-4 to 0-0 lead after ten minutes.
But a brilliant Darren McCurry goal - the first Donegal had conceded to Tyrone in Championship football since
2007 - sparked the contest into life.
With Peter Harte outstanding and Michael Murphy being effectively marked out of the game Tyrone took control and the lead.
But crucially a goal just before half time from Martin McElhinney, who followed up after Tyrone goalkeeper Michael O'Neill had brilliantly saved Odran MacNiallais' effort, changed the momentum of the contest.
The home side led 1-8 to 1-6. Tyrone stayed in the hunt right throughout the third quarter and the teams were still deadlocked (1-10 each) with
ten minutes left.
Then Donegal captain Michael Murphy took control, kicking two frees and a 45 which effectively decided the issue.
Tyrone had chances to secure a replay with Donegal keeper Paul Durcan saving brilliantly from Peter Harte and Colm Cavanagh hitting the crossbar in injury time.
But in the end they came up short yet again when faced by the challenge of Donegal.
Meanwhile, Westmeath avenged the defeat they suffered to Louth in last year's Leinster Championship when they comfortably saw off the Wee County in
Goals wins matches and Westmeath, who were relegated to Division 3, hit three as they strolled to a 3-14 to 0-16 win to set up a quarter-final clash against Wexford in Cusack Park, Mullingar on June 14.