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close call Michael O'Neill red card crucial as Donegal edge out Tyrone

Donegal 0-18 Tyrone 0-16

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Padraig Hampsey of Tyrone in action against Peadar Mogan of Donegal

Padraig Hampsey of Tyrone in action against Peadar Mogan of Donegal

Padraig Hampsey of Tyrone in action against Peadar Mogan of Donegal

It’s close to two decades since Tyrone started a game with someone else other than Mickey Harte at the helm.

And as Harte’s new adventure in Louth started with defeat to Antrim and one of his former players Enda McGinley, the Red Hand’s new management pair of Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher were left to rue defeat in a game in which Tyrone had inflicted major damage on themselves. And once again, Donegal were on hand to make them pay.

Michael O’Neill’s dismissal on a second yellow card was the game’s key moment. To that point the sides had been well matched. But O’Neill had been skating on thin ice after an early yellow card. And a hit on Ryan McHugh when the second half was just six minutes old spelled the end for him and proved to be a fatal blow for Tyrone’s chances.

Donegal didn’t exactly sail into the sunset from there. It was never going to be that type of game. But Tyrone struggled going forward with their numerical disadvantage. If they were able to retain much of their defensive security they struggled in transition and scored just one point before the second half water break.

They hung in however. And when the excellent Paul Donaghy steered over his ninth point of the day, they were still within two. But it always felt like Donegal would have enough. And in the end they did, with Michael Murphy doing as he so often does by popping up when his team needed him the most.

He was ably assisted by Paddy McBrearty and some wily defending from Neil McGee but Murphy’s value to the team cannot be overstated. Declan Bonner will need his star man as much as ever this year.

The teams were slow out of the blocks and went in to the first half water break tied at 0-4 each but Tyrone might have stolen a march when Conor McKenna gained a sight on goal after 16 minutes. However, his first time effort was weak and Donegal goalkeeper Shaun Patton got down to make a comfortable save.

The run-in to half time was altogether more lively. With Michael Murphy spending plenty of time close to goal early on, Donegal looked dangerous and they clicked to kick four of the first five points after the water break with Niall O’Donnell and Jamie Brennan curling over nice scores.

Donegal might have gone further ahead in this period but kicked five first half wides and butchered another couple of promising moves.

Tyrone, who lost Ronan McNamee to injury early on, responded and while Conor McKenna showed some signs of ring rust with some of his kicking, he was a constant menace. And beside him debutant Donaghy was excellent, landing five first-half points that helped Tyrone recover. Indeed, the home side might have grabbed an unlikely goal when Kieran McGeary’s point attempt looked to be dipping into Patton’s net. However the Donegal man was able to claw his effort around the post.

Temperatures had begun to rise as the half dragged on. Donegal players had remonstrated with referee Joe McQuillan and his officials on a couple of occasions for what they saw as off the ball interference with McHugh. Their appeals were ignored by the Cavan official but it left the game delicately poised as the teams went in at the break tied at 0-10 each.

And it was a tackle on McHugh that saw O’Neill’s dismissal and in turn ensured that Tyrone made a losing start to life after Harte. There’s little time to lick wounds. They head for the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night while Donegal welcome Monaghan to Ballybofey.

SCORERS – Donegal: M Murphy 0-6 (3f), P McBrearty 0-4 (2f), J Brennan, C Thompson 0-2 each, M Langan, N O’Donnell, C McGonagle, P Mogan 0-1 each.

Tyrone: P Donaghy 0-10 (6f, 145) N Morgan (1 45), M O’Neill, C McKenna, K McGeary, C Meyler, M Bradley 0-1 each

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Donegal: S Patton; C Ward, N McGee, B McCole; R McHugh, P Brennan, J Brennan; H McFadden, C McGonagle; N O’Donnell, C Thompson, M Langan; P McBrearty, M Murphy; P Mogan SUBS: J McGee for McFadden (BS 11-14), D O Baoill for McFadden (HT), E McHugh for Ward (44), O Gallen for J Brennan (61), A McClean for P Brennan (61), E O’Donnell for Langan (67), E Doherty for O’Donnell (70).

Tyrone: N Morgan; R Brennan, R McNamee, P Hampsey; M Cassidy, P Harte, M O’Neill; F Burns, B Kennedy; P Donaghy, M Donnelly, C Meyler; K McGeary, C McKenna, R Donnelly SUBS: M McKernan for McNamee (11), C Munroe for Kennedy (HT), M Bradley for R Donnelly (42), N Sludden for Cassidy (57), D Canavan for McGeary (67)

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)

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