In his aftermatch interview with the press Donegal captain Michael Murphy eluded to his satisfaction at beating Tyrone. He mentioned that in the last while they had been given a few bad beatings by Tyrone and were comprehensively beaten in those games. He concluded by suggesting that Donegal had to show some pride and react; they did and Murphy was one of the main reasons Donegal were so dominant last Saturday evening in Breffni.
From Shaun Patton out, Donegal were excellent. They reacted better to the breaking ball, they dictated the intensity and pace of the game, they played the game at lightning speed, something that Tyrone struggled with all through.
Donegal made space for one another in attack and were back in numbers to support the defence when needed. Picking players out for having good games was easy, they won all their battles, best typified by Stephen McMenamin in his tussle with Tyrone captain Mattie Donnelly, who was given a hard time by the Red Hughs defender.
To a man Donegal were on top from the moment the ball was thrown in. Every player was given a role and all carrying it out for the good of the team. Yes everyone will talk about the finishing and pace of Jamie Brennan and Paddy McBrearty, and rightly so; they will talk about the contribution of the likes of Leo McLoone and Ciaran Thompson; his fielding in the last quarter was immense. The power running of both Eoghan Bán Gallagher and Ryan McHugh, who was back to his very best; the covering and unselfish play of Hugh McFadden who had one of his best games in the green and gold, and of course the contribution of one Michael Murphy, who was once again at his best.
The Donegal management deserve great credit in preparing the side for such a performance; they had their homework done and had to have worked extremely hard on their match tactics a lot in the last couple of weeks but I have no doubt that they will point to the players who have shown once again that regardless of playing in Division Two of the national league and not getting the rightful credit for winning last year's Ulster championship, showed that on any given day they are a force to be reckoned with.
Out of the game came many talking points, mostly positive in terms of the quality of the football played and the openness of the game at times but there were a few negatives. The Tiernan McCann incident; I am not going to comment because I wasn’t close enough. In fairness it does not look great from the television coverage and I am sure the authorities will take the action required to stamp out such behaviour. I would add that there are very few players out there now or in the past that have not crossed that line in terms of their behaviour towards an opponent; no one is perfect in that regard, least of all me, so any judgement on the incident should be reserved for those involved.
Another negative out of the game was the black card shown to Peter Harte in the first ten minutes of the game. I look at it from this angle; if that was a Donegal player shown a black card for that, we as Donegal supporters would be livid.
I don’t think Peter Harte is that sort of player and it was one of many questionable decisions carried out by a match official that struggled to keep up with the pace of the game.
To be fair to Mr Gough very few referees would have managed to do so and while the players are getting fitter, stronger and better trained than many professionals, match officials are expected to do it on their own. It is something I have watched for a while and believe that more is needed to be done to aid match officials in terms in their conditioning and fitness levels.
As I said players at inter county level get the best advice on every aspect of their fitness; the same back up should be there for match officials and it would give them every chance to be the best they can be at their chosen career.
As usual the live game on RTE would not be the same if Joe Brolly and Colm O'Rourke didn’t have a bit of an argument. Last Saturday the discussion centred around whether Michael Murphy was one of the best players of his generation. Joe seemed to go along with the idea but Colm was adamant that he was off his head. Of course when Colm tried to talk, Joe interrupted. In his assessment of Murphy, O'Rourke was critical of some of the big mans performance in some high profile game and was cutting in his view of Murphy.
Should someone's career be discussed in such a fashion? Have those presenting the programme learned nothing after the stinging criticism they received when they had a go at Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh a few years back? Getting personal about players rarely happens in other codes and considering Michael Murphy, along with other gaelic footballers and hurlers, are amateurs, should they be subjected to such public debate?
If you have such debates about players should all other members of the Association come under the same scrutiny in the work they carry out in the organisation, from match officials to those that run our games at administration level? Of course not, but just as no one likes to see such incidents that involved Tiernan McCann, personal attacks on players needs to stop.