COMMENT - DONEGAL V TYRONE

Crucifixion of Donegal in St. Tiernach's Park, Clones

Tyrone snipers end Donegal's hopes

Gerry McLaughlin

Reporter:

Gerry McLaughlin

Crucifixion of Donegal in St. Tiernach's Park, Clones

Donegal supporters in Clones on Sunday.

JUST BEFORE THE BIG CRUCIFIXION - on the day Donegal were executed by a deadly bunch of long range Tyrone snipers, who showed that the greatest skill of all is the ability to kick points from long range.
Of course it helps if you are given the time and space to do so.
But, unfortunately, this looked like burly, hardened warriors against boys.
Meanwhile it’s 10.05 am in the morning and “Edmund” appears.
There is only one Edmund Brennan, the genial GAA walking encyclopaedia, the “Caesar” of the fans who glides into the Creighton Hotel, with all the gravitas of a Gaelic chief.
He is impeccably clad in the colours of his county and that tells you that it is summer in Clones, it’s serious and that occasionally feral creature that is Tyrone is waiting with bared teeth.
And little did we think that we were about to get the mother and father of a mauling in the cloying heat of Clones, at the hands of those blood red battlers from old Tyrone.
But, the Creighton is still the social heart of this old Market Town and holds great memories of when we were all young and invincible.
It has the same comforting smell of an old country hotel with no pretensions.
It is still the place to let the world know who you really are in a warm jug of cool, dark tall pints of Guinness, and the wonderful warm clasp of a wee Powers.
And then there is the big Hill to be climbed in eternal hope into Ulster’s greatest Gaelic Colosseum and you are all ready to roar with the best.
This part of the Democrat is in the quite imperial Overflow, and the view is matchless as the good, great and middling of the GAA file into the Gerry Arthurs Stand.
This stand, or more accurately the white plastic seats, are the Shelbourne Hotel of the GAA in the province and it's full of movers and shakers, leaders and dealers of all descriptions, with a few clerical captains to add some grace to the occasion.
And then Brian McEniff makes his appearance.
The Gaelic football ‘Capo di tutti capi” leader of all leaders has always stood tall and straight before the world.
He is like the teacher with that eternal knowing sidelong look that says he will not dish the dirt-if you play ball.
Down on the line, Donegal boss Rory Gallagher is a restless crackling ball of energy on the line.
A swift sip of the bottled water, and then a business like spit on the hand like a man about to sink a slean in a bog bank.
In contrast Tyrone boss Mickey Harte is all Zen and contemplation.
Mickey is as composed and inscrutable as the Dalai Lama or the abbot of an expanding monastery.
But he has three All-Irelands …..'nuff said.
Oh and then there is the tension of a rivalry that is stark and visceral between the best of sparring partners.
And the old master was about to inflict a severe lesson on his younger protagonist.
Up in the stand we can clearly hear Rory’s barked instructions as he plays every ball with his young team.
And, it opened like a firecracker with both teams missing two great goaling chances.
The whole of Tir Conaill held its breath, as big Sean Cavanagh sliced through the defence like a rattlesnake at a table-cloth in the 10th minute.
But Mark Anthony McGinley made himself into a giant and saved the day
At the other end the pace of Eoin McHugh took him through the Tyrone defence but shot agonizingly wide.
That was as good as it got as Tyrone thereafter gave us a lesson in marksmanship and their fans stood and bayed in delirious delight.
They were popping points from 30-45 metres, a real rarity in this era of mostly Gaelic Handball.
Was there any hope, as the day got even more cloying.
In the second half Martin McElhinney and Hugh McFadden were brought on to try and stick a few fingers in the raging torrent that was the Red Hand dyke of Tyrone.
But the torrent got even greater when Tiernan McCann, the coiffed one, strolled through our defence like a Sunday afternoon dandy and calmly slipped the ball to the net.
That was the start of a long and excruciating second half for this young team.
Roll on the Qualifiers, thank God the Creighton will be just the same next year when we are hopefully a year older, wiser and stronger.
As for the football, get yourself a swift pint of stout and short please, preferably Powers!