Tyrone 3-6 Donegal 1-11

Tyrone made the most of three goals to defeat Donegal in a robust senior football encounter last Sunday.

Despite a 12 score output to nine for the winners, Donegal will rue the soft goal that was given to Tyrone at the opening of the game. They battled hard throughout, but after they had tied the contest, they were overtaken in the last five minutes by a brace of points by Tyrone.

Donegal had two goal chances to open the game, and they made full use of the second. John McGinley stopped Anton Toner on the first after a nice three-player move, but the keeper was helpless in the second minute when Conor Brosnan latched on to a C.J. Molloy pass and drove it into the net.

It was a short held lead, however, as Tyrone punished a defensive slip with a goal by John Murtagh. Donegal settled and took the rebuttal in stride and had the next two points of the game through Brosnan again and Tom Hardwick, an excellent score.

A point in reply by Murtagh from a free that scrapped its way over was quickly cancelled out by Kevin Lilly, and with 15 minutes gone Donegal had a 1-3 to 1-1 lead.

The ugly side of the game reared its head in the moments thereafter, and when the dust had settled it was a surprise that the sides still had 14 each on the field.

It began when Molloy found the floor, and a large melee started. While the county under-21 would certainly have had valid reason to retaliate, he was subject to further abuse.

Now Donegal were not entirely innocent, but when calm was restored in round one Molloy and Conor McNabb both had straight reds.

Within moments round two began, full-fledged shots were given and taken but the game resumed with all still on the field. It had in fact been just as intense as the first round.

Most certainly one player should have gone as the shots he landed could be seen from 70 yards away; he remained, however. 

Donegal came out of the donnybrook far livelier. They had three of the next four points as Tyrone were punished by four balls coming out of their defense, but going straight into Donegal hands.

Aiden Downes, Niall Bradley and Sean Carr all had timely interceptions and worked the ball out effectively. Bobby McDonald had a goal chance, but he blasted wide on the run from a very capable position and it allowed Tyrone to stay within earshot.

They have a history this year of taking advantage when they are behind. It was no different on this occasion.

With the clock ticking down another glorious chance came their way, and again the defense was in the giving mood. Darren Petit grasped the ball on the left wing and found Garth McCrory. The poacher made no mistake as he found net seconds before the buzzer arrived.

Tyrone followed the goal with a point to open the second half from Eamonn Lyons. It arrived, however, after Donegal had lost Hardwick to an injury when he landed hard on the throw in. We wish him well.

After Gary Dowd cancelled the score out with his first of the game, again Tyrone used the net shaker as a way to take the lead. They worked the ball out from the back, with the repositioned Petit winning the ball in the middle of the field and firing to Conor Downey in the corner. His long ball to the square was met first time by Brendan Moran, the lone Tyrone player in four, and his touch found the net.

For the next 10 minutes it was a case of hot potato as both sides kicked the ball back and forth to each other. It was a game literally between the two 21s as both sides moved the ball 50 yards before the final ball let them down.

A Downey point from the right corner broke the ice on 18 minutes, but it preceded an intense period of Donegal pressure that resulted with three points on the board and the game tied up.

Lilly had a pair from frees as he took the team on his shoulders for a period. Tyrone responded, however, and they had points from Murtagh and Conor Skeffington. His was a brilliant score from deep in the left corner. It may have been a cross but certainly looked a great score.

It moved them back into a 3-6 to 1-10 lead, and despite a wonderful John McNicholas free Donegal could not get any closer.

John McGinley made an important save for Tyrone in the first minute, and his kick outs were a great way to relieve danger. Gerard McCullough, Steve Keating and Joe Bell were the best of the defenders; Eamonn Lyons the most dominant of all the midfielders. His point was a good one.

John Murtagh showed a lot of his Crossmaglen promise, while Darren Petit continues to come alive—1-2 from the bench was a huge help.

Aiden Downes was terrific for Donegal. Eoin McNeill, James Huvane, Bobby McDonald all had contributions. John McNicholas and Lilly had some very good scores.

Donegal: 1 Eunan Doherty, 2 Tony McMahon, 3 Aiden Downes, 4 Eoin McNeil, 5 Niall McMahon, 6 Shane Carr, 7 James Huvane, 8 Gary Dowd (0-1), 9 Tony Hardwick (0-1), 10 Bobby McDonald, 11 Conor Brosnan (1-1), 12 John McNicholas (0-4), 13 Kevin Lilly (0-4), 14 C.J. Molloy, 15 Anton Toner. Subs: Justin Friel, Kevin Purce.

Tyrone: 1 John McGinley, 2 Joe Bell, 3 Gerard McCullough, 4 Niall Bradley, 5 Sean Coyle, 6 Aiden Power, 7 Steve Keating, 8 Eamonn Lyons (0-1), 9 Conor McNabb, 10 Eunan McEler (0-1), 11 John Murtagh (1-2), 12 Martin Hughes, 13 Garth McCrory (1-0), 14 Darren Petit, 15 Peader Donnelly. Subs: Conor Downey (0-1), Brendan Moran (1-0), Conor Skeffington (0-1).

Man of the match: Aiden Downes (Donegal).

Referee: John Fitzpatrick (Rockland).

Down 0-17 Four Provinces 0-5

A five-point outburst at the beginning of each half made life very easy for Down in this senior football encounter. A defense that never allowed Four P’s clear cut chances, eight different scorers all contributed to the facile win.

A slow beginning to the contest as the first 20 minutes was nearly devoid of any scores. Points from Michael Sloan -- a free that just made it over -- preceded a Robbie Moran score, and that was the total.

Both sides had chances that went awry, with the defenses winning the open play constantly. Brian Murray, Gary Cornyn and James Mitchell were defending with vigor for Down, while Padraic Mallon and Michael Jordan were impressive at the Four Ps end.

The contest was certainly for the most devout supporters of the GAA to this point. The final 10 minutes at least moved the scoreboard somewhat, with both sides finding the range.

Down added three points to go further in front from Moran, a flick by Barry Annett when he just about reached a Pakie Downey fisted pass, and a Sloan score.

Downey had a goal chance when he beat his defender for speed and bore down on goal but he drilled hard to the side netting with two defenders closing in. He was unlucky to get called back for traveling before the halftime break when again he was headed for goal.

In the last five minutes of the half Four Ps finally found the target. Mike Higgins had their first, while Jordan stepped forward and slotted over their second.

Amazingly they were within shouting distance with two points on the board, and no score for 28 minutes.

Down had three further points to their total in the first four minutes as they looked to put the game away early. They had a series of shots that went wide that slowed their progress, with Moran slicing a goal chance wide off the right post.

It mattered little, however, as they again got in the grove after a Chris Calhoun score. They rattled off a further six points, with Downey very prominent in all good things for the team.

Impossible to mark in open play one on one, when he was fouled Moran converted; when double teamed he laid the ball off.

Points for Four Provinces by James McCann and Jordan, two of the team’s half back line, showed the glaring problems up front. The scores were easily cancelled out by scores by Mark Dobbins and Paul Higgins, with Higgins having a chance at goal but his thunderbolt tailed high over the bar.

For Down, a win is a win. They will not be overly happy with the performance, however. They did what was necessary.

Brian Murray, Mark Connolly, who is a solid defender, and James Mitchell were the best of a strong defense. Brendan McGrourty did a lot of running in the center.

All the forwards scored, with Downey and Sloan a very competent one-two punch.

Four Provinces will be very disappointed. Michael Jordan, Padraic Mallon, Michael Grimes and Chris Calhoun were the few who left with reputations intact.

Down: 1 Mark Kelly, 2 Brian Murray, 3 Eugene O’Hagan, 4 Diarmuid Hayes, 5 Mark Connolly (0-1), 6 James Mitchell, 7 Gary Cornyn, 8 Brendan McGrourty, 9 Paul Higgins (0-1), 10 Shaun Munnelly (0-1), 11 Robbie Moran (0-5), 12 Michael Sloan (0-3), 13 Patrick Downey (0-4), 14 Mark Dobbins (0-1), 15 Barry Annett (0-1). Subs: Sean Kelly, Cormac Doyle, Liam Farrell, Michael Sheridan.

Four Provinces: 1 Michael Grimes, 2 David Doyle, 3 Padraic Mallon, 4 Mark Peacock, 5 Justin O’Halloran, 6 Michael Jordan (0-2), 7 James McCann (0-1), 8 Cailon Daly, 9 Paul Walsh, 10 Steve Robinson, 11 Mike Higgins (0-1), 12 Ciaran Moore, 13 Anthony Moore, 14 Chris Calhoun (0-1), 15 Steve Calhoun. Subs: Eoghan Kyne, Frank O’Neill.

Man of the match: Pakie Downey (Down).

Referee: Larry McGrath (Donegal).

Leitrim 1-13 Sligo 0-8

Leitrim had more than enough firepower to take the points against Sligo on Sunday when they jumped on the shoulders of Scott Conroy and followed him home.

The Laois star, who has been on the sideline for the last two games but finally had his paperwork come through, was outstanding over the hour. Seven points from play from a variety of angles, he was outstanding.

Leitrim had a six-point lead at the break, and despite going five scores each in the second half they were able to easily stay in front.

Leitrim had a 0-7 to nil lead after 14 minutes as Scott Conroy, Dan Doona and Donal Hartnett started on fire. They also forced Dermot Fleming to make a good save from Doona when the former Kerry senior stormed in on goal.

Sligo did pull back two points from Niall Moran and Paul Kelly, but again Leitrim attacked. The terrible twins, Conroy and Doona, again had scores to give Leitrim a 0-9 to 0-2 advantage.

Keeping the Sligo forwards at bay to this point was the excellent work of Alan Foley, John Goldrick and Eoghan O’Neill. O’Neill was fairing very well at full back, and his play coming out with the ball in his hands was very confident. 

With four minutes left in the half Conor Brady had Sligo’s third point, but the foundation was already laid for a Leitrim win.

Leitrim added to their lead after the restart when they had a goal within seconds. Pat Madden won the throw in and released Conroy. He in turn found a speeding Jamie Doolin, and the Kerry man found the net.

The half was 20 seconds old. In a 1-9 to 0-3 hole, Sligo were to be commended for their dogged play in the next 10 minutes.

They had a pair of points from Moran, and their defense battled hard for everything. Peter Kelly, Sean Pender and James Walsh were breaking the ball and picking up the loose ball as they fed the forward line with chances.

Granted, the Leitrim defense where Johnny Goldrick and Eoghan O’Neill were stopping most of the advances was making it difficult, but at least Sligo was showing promise.

By the 13th minute Leitrim got back on the score line with Conroy firing over. He had his sixth of the game shortly after as he punctuated his man of the man performance.

A point by Brady was the only change to the Sligo side as the game progressed, and despite all their efforts they could not put a further dent in the Leitrim armor over the next twelve.

Hartnett forced a brilliant save from the Dermot Fleming, then Conroy again and Doolin fired over two points to extend the lead to 1-13 to 0-6.

The final two scores of the game by Damien Fleming and Moran had little baring except to pad the statistics of both.

Leitrim will be very happy to get their first championship win to go along side their KO championship. Their defense was dominant, with Alan Foley, Dermot Keane, John Goldrick and Shane Doolin all playing leading roles.

John O’Neill did well in the middle and picked up a lot of scraps as well as serving as a good go between from defense to attack. Scott Conroy was clinical and easily the best forward on show throughput Sunday. Jamie Doolin took his goal well, while Dan Doona continues his resurgence.

Sligo will be very happy with the second half performance. Niall Higgins battled Pat Madden to a draw, Sean Pender did quite well, while Dermot Fleming could not be faulted.

Sligo improved dramatically when a host of subs came on. The only problem was the team was swapping jerseys between the players coming off and the players going on due to a lack of spares.

This made it impossible for the press to have any idea who was who. It was not a case of giving up, but not being able to keep up. 

If I gave a point to the wrong player, Sligo will have to forgive me.

Leitrim: 1 Pa Ryan, 2 Niall Maguire, 3 Eoghan O’Neill, 4 Alan Foley, 5 John Goldrick, 6 Shane Doolin, 7 Dermot Keane, 8 Pat Madden, 9 John O’Neill, 10 Mark Smith, 11 Scott Conroy (0-7), 12 Jamie Doolin (1-1), 13 Donal Hartnett (0-2), 14 Dan Doona (0-3), 15 Danny O’Sullivan. Subs: Mike Creegan, Tony Cullan.

Sligo: 1 Dermot Fleming, 2 Paddy Brennan, 3 Sean Pender, 4 Peter Kelly, 5 Roy Henley, 6 James Walsh, 7 Colm Beirne, 8 Niall Higgins, 9 Brian Quinlan, 10 Eamonn Duffy, 11 Conor Brady, 12 Trevor Boland (0-1), 13 Niall Moran (0-4), 14 Paul Kelly (0-1), 15 Nester Allen. Subs: Damien Fleming (0-2).

Man of the match: Scott Conroy (Leitrim).

Referee: John Fitzpatrick (Rockland).