BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Tyrone’s bench was the difference against Donegal

BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Tyrone’s bench was the difference against Donegal

When all is said and done Tyrone’s stronger bench was the difference between Donegal and Tyrone on Sunday in Ballybofey.

Mickey Harte introduced five subs in the second half and four of them scored. The subs between them hit 2-5 but also made significant contributions from play as well.

Lee Brennan scored four points and really caused us a lot of heartache. Harry Loughran and Declan McClure scored the goals and Kieran McGeary kicked one very good point but really won a lot of vital possession in the last quarter.

Declan Bonner sprung Paul Brennan, Niall O’Donnell, Anthony Thompson, Martin McElhinney and Mark McHugh. Niall O’Donnell was the only one of them to hit the target.

The way the game panned out I was disappointed the way we fell away in the last 20 minutes. Up to the three quarter mark we seemed to have the handle on them.

We were three and four points ahead well into the second half and it seemed it was going to be one of those days when we were going to do enough to stay ahead of them.

But Mickey Harte let his bench loose and all of sudden they hit 1-3 in quick succession and we were behind.

Just before Harry Loughran scored their goal Michael Murphy was short from a ‘45’ to put us two ahead. Tyrone went from being four down a few minutes before the goal to being two up.

That forced us to come out and go at them. This created space up front for them and they hit 1-4 to 0-2 in the closing minutes. Their second goal came late and gave the scoreboard a somewhat flattering look to it.

But let's not take anything away from Tyrone. They are right good side and it will be a very interesting semi-final next Sunday in Croke Park, between themselves and Monaghan. I expect Monaghan to give them their fill of it again this time around.

Reflecting on the game after a tentative start and letting Tyrone off to an early lead we recovered well in the second quarter and then got the goal before half-time to lead by three points at the break and I think most Donegal people would have been happy.

We did well early in the second half too and we had a chance for a goal when Eoghan Bán (Gallagher) broke through but lost possession on the edge of the small square. I thought he was fouled which would have been a penalty.

This proved a big turning point and would have given Tyrone a mountain to climb.

Ryan McHugh, once again, was our best player. He showed great awareness to win the short Tyrone kickout to leave the goal on a plate for Michael Murphy.

He kicked one great point and he also was back to get the block in to deny Tyrone two goals early in the second half.

He came in for a fair bit of attention too both on and off the ball and a lot of it went unpunished.

He has great fight and heart as well as being a very skillful and intelligent footballer. He is a super footballer and pound for pound he is one of the best in the game at the minute.

On reflection for a team in transition they did very well this season and let’s not forget the Anglo Celt is in the county and we are Ulster champions.

A big congratulations and well done to the Donegal ladies who qualified for the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday with their win over Armagh.

They showed great character, spirit and heart when Armagh came back at them in the second half to pull away and win.

We wish them all the best in the semi-final against Cork.

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Tom Comack.