Sports Digest GAA: Tyrone no match for eager Donegal
Donegal 2-10 Tyrone 0-10
It was the Tyrone manager Mickey Harte who made the most pertinent observation as the rain came down on Ballybofey, but Donegal’s bid to retain their Ulster and All-Ireland football titles remained on track with a big win.
The 2-10 to 0-10 scoreline tells only half the story of a match that drew a packed crowd to the Donegal venue and featured goals from Colm McFadden and Ross Wherity, a red card for Joe McMahon and a man of the match performance from Paddy McBrearty.
Tyrone ‘keeper Niall Morgan, normally so reliable from frees at the other end of the field, had a nightmare from placed balls, and Donegal’s dogged defense held the visitors scoreless for 33 of the 35 second-half minutes.
Little wonder then that Tyrone boss Harte is convinced Donegal are ever better in 2013 than they were in 2012 when the whole “Jimmy’s winning matches” legend was born.
“I think the evidence is there that Donegal are improving all the time. They have improved the last couple of years we have met them, and that’s the best I have seen them there today,” Harte said.
“They have tremendous hunger and they are really, really ready for this championship and if they keep repeating that kind of performance in terms of energy and commitment they will be very difficult to beat. Definitely they are on an upward curve still.”
In many ways, Donegal are the new Tyrone. Kingpins of Ulster football, they are on target again to be the dominant force across the land despite their recent relegation from Division One of the National Football League.
Substitute Mark McHugh, introduced along with Karl Lacey as they continue their recovery from injury, admitted afterwards that recent criticism following the poor league run was a factor in Donegal’s performance on Sunday.
McHugh, son of the legendary Martin, said, “We got a bit of bad press during the league, that we got relegated. We had a tough winter, boys went on holidays and that. We were quietly preparing for this game all winter.
“Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher had a plan and thankfully that plan worked out. We beat
Tyrone by six in the end. I don’t know if it signals intent to the rest of the country but we always look at the next match and we will find out next week whether it’s Derry or Down we will be preparing for next.”
Manager McGuinness also spoke of the criticism of his team following their relegation and his commitment to the belief that the championship is all that matters for his side.
“We had the exact same approach as we had last year. The only difference this year was that we were relegated. It was the media who made the story out of that,” he said.
There is still however, he warned, much to play for and much work to be done before Donegal play Derry or Down.
The All-Ireland winning boss added, “The bottom line is we have won in the first round of the championship. I have said all along that our preparation was for this day and now our preparation is for the next day.”
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