It took a wonder save from Paul Durcan to keep Donegal on track for the Ulster final and a meeting with Down after a thrilling and close encounter with Tyrone in Clones.
Report: Peter Campbell
Photos: Thomas Gallagher
Durcan pulled off a save similar to Gordon Banks for England in the 1970 World Cup against Brazil when he went full length to deflect an effort from Pele onto the crossbar. In Clones yesterday with time almost up, Durcan did the same to deny Martin Penrose what would have been the winner.
Donegal, lived dangerously throughout the first half and Durcan and Paddy McGrath denied Tyrone a certain goal but got a firm grip midway through the second half with Michael Murphy and especially Colm McFadden punching holes to open up a four point gap 0-12 to 0-8 with seven minutes left.
They could and should have pushed on but Tyrone showed great fighting spirit to stage a comeback that was only foiled by Durcan.
Donegal lost full-back Neil McGee after just three minutes, having to retire after picking up an injury in the warm-up.
Declan Walsh came in and it was all hands to the pump as Tyrone had the initiative in the opening quarter.
Mark McHugh had the opening score on four minutes, his effort from outside the 45m line, just dropping over the crossbar.
Within three minutes Tyrone were in front with Joe McMahon landing a mighty free from well outside the 45m line and Stephen O’Neill adding one from play.
Michael Murphy found the range from a free but Mark Donnelly outstripped the Donegal defence at the other end and fisted a point.
The Donegal goal led a charmed life on 16 minutes when Joe McMahon got in around the back and forced Paul Durcan into a great save. Durcan was unable to hold the ball and it fell invitingly for Mark Donnelly, but Paddy McGrath made a magnificent block to deny him and Joe McMahon, following up, was also denied at the expense of a ‘45’.
In the second quarter Donegal came more into the game and it was point for point. Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden had points for Donegal while Conor Clarke, Sean O’Neill had Tyrone points while Martin Penrose landed a long range effort on the stroke of half-time to leave Tyrone ahead by 0-6 to 0-5 at the break.
It looked as if Tyrone might push on when Joe McMahon landed a 48m free within two minutes of the restart but Donegal were rejuvenated and Rory Kavanagh hit two points within two minutes to level matters again before the 39th minute.
Dermot Carlin came forward to hit a great point for Tyrone but it was to be their last score for 32 minutes as Donegal took a firm grip.
Colm McFadden, now into his stride, won and pointed a free when he rounded Conor Gormley and McFadden then worked an opening for Ryan Bradley to point.
Stephen O’Neill won a great ball in behind the Donegal defence but blazed wide on 57 minutes before Michael Murphy won and pointed a free to put Donegal two points clear for the first time in the game with ten minutes left.
A poor kick out allowed Karl Lacey to add to that lead and Colm McFadden then found the range with the point of the game from fully 55m to open the gap to four. But Tyrone would not give in easily and Stephen O’Neill was almost in again before Conor Gormley landed a ‘45’.
Before that ‘45’ Donegal lost Colm McFadden to a second yellow card and then came the grandstand finish with Martin Penrose almost in but big Papa Durcan got a leg out to deflect it on to the crossbar and it was cleared.
Scorers - Donegal: Michael Murphy 0-3,3f; Colm McFadden 0-3,2f; Rory Kavanagh 0-2; Karl Lacey, Mark McHugh, Patrick McBrearty, Ryan Bradley 0-1 each.
Tyrone: Joe McMahon 0-2,1f; Stephen O’Neill 0-2; Conor Clarke, Dermot Carlin, Conor Gormley (45), Sean O’Neill, Mark Donnelly, Martin Penrose 0-1each.
Donegal: Paul Durcan; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn; Eamon McGee, Karl Lacey, Anthony Thompson; Rory Kavanagh, Neil Gallagher; David Walsh, Ryan Bradley, Mark McHugh; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden. Subs., Declan Walsh for N McGee 3; Martin O’Reilly for David Walsh; Martin McElhinney for Gallagher, both 55; Leo McLoone for Bradley 68; Christy Toye for McBrearty 70.
Tyrone: Pascal McConnell; Aidan McCrory, Conor Clarke, Dermot Carlin; Ryan McMenamin, Conor Gormley, Sean O’Neill; Joe McMahon, Colm Cavanagh; Mattie Donnelly, Mark Donnelly, Peter Harte; Martin Penrose, Stephen O’Neill, Owen Mulligan. Subs., Ronan McNabb for Mulligan 49; Brian McGuigan for M Donnelly 60; Aidan Cassidy for M Donnelly; Niall McKenna for McMenamin, both 64
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).
Man of the match
Paul Durcan gets the award for his wonder save at the end. He also made a great stop in the opening half to deny Joe McMahon, but his save at the end was the reason Donegal are looking forward to a second Ulster final in-a-row.
The period midway through the second half when Donegal came from a point down to go four clear. Colm McFadden had a purple patch in this period dominating Conor Gormley and he also hit two of those scores. It was the first time in the match that any gap appeared on the scoreboard.
Donegal got the rub of the green a couple of times from David Coldrick and they will have little complaints. It was a difficult game to referee but he handled it well in the circumstances.