DONEGAL had no answers for Tyrone in this Allianz National Hurling Division 3A clash in O’Donnell Park as they went down by 11 points on Sunday afternoon.
The defeat was Donegal’s second of the campaign having suffered a 1-18 to 1-11 loss to Monaghan in their opening game in Clones two weeks earlier.
And with Sligo – next week’s opponents for Donegal – earning a draw with a fancied Louth, Donegal are already bottom of the table and looking down the barrel of relegation with just three games to play.
They are at home to Sligo next weekend, and then have away trips to Louth and Fingal.
On Sunday Donegal were totally outclassed by the O’Neill County, who except from a brief period in the middle of the second half, totally dominated the game.
Tyrone led by 13 points, 0-15 to 0-2, at half-time after putting on an exhibition of point taking from Justin and Aidie Kelly, Damien Casey, Sean Og Grogan and Seimie Hagan who all lit up the scoreboard.
Donegal, who were way off the pace and lacked the sharpness and the first time touch of their opponents, relied on Kevin Campbell from an acute angle on 22 minutes and Niall Campbell eight minutes from half-time for their first half scores.
Donegal did enjoy a good 10-minute spell in the middle of the second period as Niall Campbell banged home a goal and also converted four frees and Lee Henderson scored the locals’ second point from play to reduce the margin to seven points.
But that only came after Tyrone, through Conor Grogan with two swashbuckling strikes on the run and one each from Aidie and Justin Kelly, had stretched their advantage out to 15 points, 0-19 to 0-4.
While Donegal’s flurry from Campbell and Henderson did put a dent in the visitors’ ascendancy, the visitors, despite being reduced to 13 players - Conor Grogan on 55 minutes and Marty Grogan on 61 minutes both were sent off for second yellow card offences - stepped it up again in the closing minutes.
Damien Casey, who was menacing all through, hit four points in the closing six minutes to see Tyrone run out comfortable winners and go to the top of the Division 3A League table.
Donegal were reduced to 14 men in the closing minutes when in between the sending offs of the two Tyrone men, when Shane Gallen got his marching orders for a second yellow card offence.
Donegal: Paul Brown; Colm Flood, Conor McLaughlin, Shane Gallen; Benny Harrigan, Joe Boyle, Christopher McDermott; Paul Sheridan, Ardal McDermott; Ronan McDermott, Eugene Organ, Enda McDermott; Lee Henderson (0-1), Kevin Campbell (0-1), Niall Campbell (1-8, 8f). Subs: Justin Browne for C. Flood (h/t); Padraig Doherty for C. McDermott (42 inj); Stephen Gillespie for R. McDermott (44).
Tyrone: John Nevin; Mickey Kelly, Steve McGrory, Ryan Winter; Mike O’Gorman, Marty Grogan, Sean P. Begley; Aidie Kelly (0-4,1f, 65), Gary Fox; Conor Grogan (0-3), Justin Kelly (0-8, 8f), Shea McKiver; Seamie Hagan (0-1), Sean Og Grogan (0-1), Damien Casey (0-7, 1f). Subs: Mark Devine for S. McKiver (41); Jason Patton for R. Winters (46); Rory O’Neill for S. Hagan (56).
Referee: James Clarke (Cavan).
Man of the match
Take your pick! Justin and Aidie Kelly, Conor Grogan, Damien Casey were the main contenders, and in the end it was a toss up between the two Kellys and Casey. Justin Kelly, with eight points, all frees from a variety of angles and a number of them from well outside the 60 metre mark, tipped the scale in favour of the man in the No. 11 shirt of Tyrone.
Niall Campbell with 1-8 out of 1-10 was Donegal’s best player by a long shot and on most days would be enough to claim man of the match.
The writing was on the wall very early and Tyrone had the look of winners and their opening three points in the space of six minutes from the fifth to the 11th minute set the tone.
Cavan official James Clarke was not afraid to flash the cards and his yellow card had a busy afternoon before he produced three reds late on – two to Tyrone and one to Donegal. Conor Grogan and Shane Gallen should have no complaints about their second yellows, but Marty Grogan may feel a little aggrieved as he could make a good case that the Donegal man charged into him and forced him into committing the foul.
Overall though the referee was always up with the play and had a reasonably good performance in a game in which there were more clumsy than dirty tackles.
A black mark against the GAA and the organisers of Sunday’s game for not providing a match programme for those who attended - both supporters and press.
While this game is at the lower end of the hurling order, a programme should still be produced and I’m not talking about anything too extravagant, just maybe an A4 sheet listing the two teams. From what I’m led to believe, both teams were asked to have their starting line-ups with Croke Park by Wednesday morning.
When Donegal and Tyrone met in last year’s Lory Meagher final in Croke Park, a late Ciaran Mathwewson goal sealed a 2-12 to 0-17 win for Donegal. The Lory Meagher final was a closely fought encounter with just a point in it at the end. Now eight months or so on, the margin is 11 points and Tyrone win at ease. Food for though for all involved in Donegal hurling.