Donegal take off the gloves to comfortably see off Tyrone

Alan Foley

Reporter:

Alan Foley

Donegal take off the gloves to comfortably see off Tyrone
As the showers cleared on Sunday, it had been suggested in the lead-up to the vital Allianz League Division One fixture - with Donegal and Tyrone due to reacquaint on May 17 in the preliminary round in Ulster - that shadowboxing might be the order of the day.

As the showers cleared on Sunday, it had been suggested in the lead-up to the vital Allianz League Division One fixture - with Donegal and Tyrone due to reacquaint on May 17 in the preliminary round in Ulster - that shadowboxing might be the order of the day.

However, Donegal have proved on occasions over the last few years that they can reach levels that most teams cannot. They came out to box.

And once Rory Gallagher’s team hit those heights yesterday they did enough to earn Division One status for next season. Well, more of less.

The manager can be content as it was the best he has seen his side play since taking charge.

On the other hand - the Red Hands - it was Tyrone’s worst showing under the management of Mickey Harte in some 13 years.

Donegal used the wind, when we all could work out which way it was blowing, to their advantage in the first half.

An exhibition of free-taking from Michael Murphy means Tyrone and Kerry will face-off on Sunday at Healy Park as both bid to survive the drop to the Allianz League Division Two.

The Donegal captain was in exceptional form from placed balls in the thoroughly awkward conditions to score six points as Gallagher’s team steamrolled the side managed by Harte.

“I was very pleased with the first half performance,” Gallagher said afterwards.

“We played with a lot more quality than we have at any stage in the league.

“Maybe the local rivalry with Tyrone brought out the best in us.”

By half-time, Donegal were in a commanding position, 1-9 to 0-3 in front. Ryan McHugh netted what proved to be the only goal of the game on 31 minutes when he was on hand to shoot past Tyrone substitute goalkeeper Sean Fox, who had saved initially from Hugh McFadden when Frank McGlynn’s effort had come back down off the upright.

“We didn’t let Tyrone back into it and we probably could have had another couple of scores,” Gallagher added.

“I was pleased with the overall attitude from everybody. Tyrone have had a fairly good league campaign.

“They only had one bad day out, which was the first day against Monaghan. They were a bit flat today, but everyone is at different stages in their training and I expect the full force of Tyrone in May.”

In what has been a predictably unpredictable Division One, Donegal have stepped away from the pitfalls of relegation that the last day might bring.

“The league is funny,” Gallagher added. “The Monaghan game is the one where I’d be disappointed with the level of our performance.

“Survival was the aim. You want to go into the Championship in good confidence and a positive frame of mind.

“Division 1 is where the best teams are and it’s great for bringing on new players.

“Our preparation wasn’t spot on coming into the Monaghan game. Our attitude and approach to the game wasn’t what it could have been.

“All the data says that when you’re in hard training your energy goes. We have a couple of wee knocks, which are part and parcel of hard training.”

Murphy’s late black card means he will be unavailable for Castlebar.

“There was a tackle on him when he was bearing down on goal in the first half,” Gallagher said.

“To me, that was a black card. He was in on goal and the referee gives a free – what else was it for? Michael is a big guy, but the challenge today probably did deserve a black card.

“He misses the next day out and we just have to deal with that.”

Instead of worrying about relegation, though, Donegal can look up the table at next Sunday’s opponents, Mayo, who stand in they way of a first top-flight semi-final since Brian McIver’s vintage of 2007.

“We’ll be going down there to battle for two points,” Gallagher added.

“The opposition changes over the course of the League, but 95 per cent of what we do is about ourselves.

“We’d like to finish the campaign on a high.

“When your up near the top for a number of years you’ll develop these rivalries.

“If we hadn’t won by as many this week it could have been a dogfight next week, but now we have an outside chance of making the semi-finals.”

There were smiles from Donegal in equal measures to the groans from Tyrone.

But the bigger picture remains unpainted - it’s May 17 and it’s Tyrone again.