Donegal’s start to the 2014 season was not as expected as they succumbed in the final quarter to a young Tyrone side in O’Donnell Park.
The underfoot conditions were far from ideal, but for three quarters of this game it was a good contest, but the young Tyrone team proved too strong in the final quarter for a Donegal team that had a fair sprinkling of All-Ireland medal winners.
Tyrone were at their best in that final quarter with goalkeeper Niall Morgan proving a matchwinner with three points from placed balls. Ironically, that was better than the entire return for Donegal in the second period - two points.
The final quarter also saw the only black card of the contest, Rory Kavanagh banished after a late challenge on Tiernan McCann.
The January cobwebs were evident in the first quarter as both sides turned over ball. Tyrone fared the better, though, with two points from Ronan O’Neill.
Donegal gradually got back in the contest with points from Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy. Murphy was involved in the two best incidents of the opening half, being denied in spectacular fashion by Niall Morgan from the penalty spot on 20 minutes, but three minutes from the break, the Donegal captain availed of hesitancy by Aidan McCrory to fire home a cracker of a goal to the corner of the net.
The penalty save by Morgan from a sweetly struck Murphy penalty was sheer class although Morgan was at fault in the lead up to the penalty, dropping a centre from Gary McFadden and then fouling Darach O’Connor as the Donegal debutant got to the ball first. O’Connor is a son of the famous John ‘Jigger’ O’Connor of Roscommon fame in the 1970s and 80s.
Tyrone kept in touch with Tiernan McCann and Patrick McNiece but further Donegal points including one from full-back Eamon McGee saw Donegal lead at the break, 1-5 to 0-5
Tyrone were level by the 42nd minute with Patrick McNiece (2) and Ronan O’Neill finding the target and Michael Murphy and McNiece also traded points to leave the sides still level in the 54th minute, but from there Tyrone took over with Morgan really impressive.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Frank McGlynn, Eamon McGee (0-1), Eamonn Doherty; Declan Walsh, Leo McLoone, Anthony Thompson; Rory Kavanagh, Odhran McNiallais; Gary McFadden, Dermot Molloy, Marty O’Reilly; Darach O’Connor, Michael Murphy (1-4,1f), Colm McFadden (0-2,1f). Subs Thomas McKinley for O’Reilly 56; Antoin McFadden for Kavanagh 57 ( black card)
Tyrone: Niall Morgan (0-3,3f,45); Aidan McCrory, Conor Clarke, Barry Tierney; Ciaran McGinley, Danny McBride, Tiernan McCann (0-1); Plunkett Kane, Conor Grugan; Niall McKenna, Shea McGuigan (0-1), Emmett McKenna; Patrick McNiece (0-4,2f), Matthew Donnelly, Ronan O’Neill (0-3,1f). Subs., Peter Hughes (0-1) for Kane; Kevin Gallagher for E McKenna, both ht; Ronan McNamee for McBride 50
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)