For a team that swashbuckled their way through the spring, it was the more traditional values of diligence and endeavour that saw Donegal overcome Tyrone in yesterday’s Ulster Minor Football Championship preliminary round.
A decent start eroded into interval parity, with Tyrone giving as good as they were getting by the end of the second quarter.
But Donegal kept their neighbours scoreless in the second half and that defensive resolution, for a side more famed for their offensive abilities, was the bedrock.
Up front Donegal kicked five balls short but defensively were sound, not even having a player yellowed and conceding only 11 frees.
They picked off to win then with half a dozen points, the first of which was a stylish effort from the free-spirited Daire Ó Baoill.
Kane Barrett scored two frees, while Niall O’Donnell also curled over a couple of eye-catching efforts. Rory Carr, as he had done in the first half, pierced a 45 over the crossbar.
When Declan Bonner gathered six remnants of last year’s panel - the first from the county to ever reach an All-Ireland final - and plotted this year’s assault, there was a wave of new talent that was drifting in. That’s been married to a willingness that was evident in Ballybofey.
Yesterday, the contest was played in wintry conditions and Donegal and Tyrone had to adapt to that. Although there were creases in the Donegal performance in the first half having not scored for 20 minutes, they still sent an electric streak through the crowd when they did attack, creating space much easier than their opponents, who were more content with the patient approach.
On the face of it, a goal inside of three minutes from Conor Doherty would’ve been considered something with which to calm the nerves. Doherty was a late addition to the team in place of Mark Coyle, having recovered from a knee injury that kept the Kilcar forward sidelined for the latter stages of the Ulster Minor League.
The goal owed much to a penetrating run from Naoise Ó Baoill, which had the Tyrone defence turning for the Town End. Ó Baoill laid on possession to Doherty and at the second attempt - the first having being saved by visiting goalkeeper Brendan Gallen - the ball was swept into the empty net.
Donegal had steamrolled their neighbours in the Ulster Minor League 1-16 to 0-7 at Sigerson Park in March on their way to retaining the trophy a month later.
Tyrone manager Mickey Donnelly fielded only six survivors from Strabane.
With Doherty having earmarked his return with a point inside of one minute yesterday, Donegal were in a decent position - as Tyrone were still finding their whereabouts - at 1-1 to 0-0 in front without even four minutes having been played.
But the hosts, who moved out to 1-2 to 0-1 and then 1-3 to 0-3 ahead, failed to built on it. Two points, though, from the deep-lying Ethan O’Donnell, the first of which came from a placed ball with the second courtesy of a run from deep, which appeared at that early stage to be the most profitable avenue available to Donegal.
Tyrone improved the longer the half went on and had lots of possession, composed with it when they did. There was nothing in the form of scratchiness and in Conan McLernon had a played who kicked four points before the break. Tyrone led 0-8 to 1-5 before scores from Carr and Barrett got Donegal level.
In the second half, though, Donegal, who lost Ethan O’Donnell to concussion at the break, tightened their belt and it was Tyrone who felt the squeeze. Jason McGee brought a sizable presence.
A minefield of a championship is likely to take place in Ulster, as is the norm, but Donegal have sidestepped a significant mortar.
Donegal: Danny Rodgers; Gary McFadden, Stephen McMenamin, Philip Doherty; Dáire Ó Baoill (0-1), Nathan Gavigan, Brendan McCole; Micheál Carroll, Michael Langan; Naoise Ó Baoill, Niall O’Donnell (0-2), Rory Carr (0-2, 2 ’45); Conor Doherty (1-1), Kane Barrett (0-3, 3f), Ethan O’Donnell (0-2, 1f).Subs: Jason McGee for Gavigan (half-time), Philip McNern for E O’Donnell (half-time), Sean McHugh for N Ó Baoill (54), Mark Coyle for Carr (56), Barry Curran for D Ó Baoill (60).
Tyrone: Brendan Gallen; Ciaran McGlinchey, Christopher McGuigan, Conor Shields; Eoighain Murray, Colin Campbell, Johnny Harkin (0-1); James Darcy (0-1), Cormac O’Hagan; Michael Corless, David Mulgrew, Ryan Coleman (0-1); Conan McLernon (0-4), Fintan McClure (0-1), Tomas Carney. Subs: Jack McGuigan for Carney (30), Emmet McNabb for O’Hagan (half-time), Brian Kennedy for Corless (40), Conn Kilpatrick for Coleman (44), Michael McKernan for Harkin (black card, 49), Ronan McGuigan for McGlinchey (60).
Referee: Paul Faloon (Down).