That Tyrone were even as close as four points gave lie to the 81 minutes played upon the Cavan canvas as Donegal delivered something of a statement.
Donegal 1-16 Tyrone 0-15
By Chris McNulty at Kingspan Breffni Park. Pictures by Evan Logan
Jamie Brennan’s scorching goal in the first half and some superb performers saw the Ulster champions return to the provincial final for the eighth time in nine years.
Picture: Niall O’Donnell on the attack. Photo Evan Logan
As displays go, this was right up there as Tyrone – until it was too late – couldn’t muster a stirring response to Donegal’s dominance.
When the clock was red at the end, Darren McCurrie, Richie Donnelly and Michael Cassidy – who whizzed narrowly over the top – momentarily had Tyrone within a goal.
Donegal swiftly broke and, via Patrick McBrearty and Eoghan Ban Gallagher, transferred to corner-back Stephen McMenamin, who took the sensible fisted option to seal the deal.
Declan Bonner’s men shouldn’t have needed that insurance on a day when the buzzing Brennan hit 1-3.
Michael Murphy again held the Donegal controls and goalkeeper Shaun Patton was magnificent. Not only did the St Eunan’s man keep a clean sheet, thwarting Tyrone at a number of key junctures, but the Donegal number 1’s distribution was near-perfect.
Donegal had seven points to spare when they led 1-9 to 0-5 at half-time, but it took 14 minutes for Michael Murphy to break their second-half duck.
Brennan was eyeing up an unguarded net after Niall Morgan, the Tyrone goalkeeper, was turned over, when he was pulled down and Murphy stroked over.
Cathal McShane and Kieran McGeary chipped a little at the deficit, but Murphy restored a six-point advantage for Donegal.
Ciaran Thompson – who was flown to Cavan from his brother’s wedding – was denied by Morgan from a first-time effort by the Donegal attacker.
As the game headed for its final quarter, McBrearty put Donegal seven ahead and the margin in no way flattered them at that point. From the get-go, Bonner’s men were intent on delivering a message – and that they did so against their fierce foes will make this taste all the sweeter.
The teams burst from the traps and there were already three points on the board – two of them for Tyrone, via Mattie and Richie Donnelly – by the time Brennan netted in the fourth minute.
Brennan, energised by the goal, took a pass from Murphy a minute later and Donegal were three to the good.
Brennan’s searing pace took him clear again in the 17th minute to reach onto Patrick McBrearty’s pass but, having beat goalkeeper Niall Morgan, the Bundoran man’s shot agonisingly flew off the inside of the far post.
Donegal were in the mood and Murphy curled over form the left flank after Cathal McShane – who has been a real star for Tyrone so far this year – reduced the margin.
Tyrone were dealt a hammer blow when Peter Harte was black carded. Harte had been one of their stars in recent triumphs over Donegal, particularly the 2016 Ulster final that turned the pendulum again in the Red Hands’ favour, but he fell foul here after a trip on Ryan McHugh in the 11th minute.
Harte had, only moments previously, been denied by Shaun Patton, who beat away a stinging shot from 15 metres.
Patton had to be at his best to keep out Brian Kennedy’s shot after a quick-fire Tyrone move. Kennedy might have taken his point, but went for glory only to meet Patton on form.
In added time at the end of the first half, Patton thwarted Richie Donnelly, who powered through the middle.
Donegal, though, had a real zip about them and they led by seven points at the break, with Eoin McHugh, Brennan and Murphy on target.
Tyrone, scoreless for some 16 minutes before goalkeeper Niall Morgan converted a free in the 34th minute, were looking all rather rudderless and bereft of ideas.
After McBrearty widened the gap to seven, Donegal could have pushed on and twisted the knife. There was a moment of anxiously looks at the watch that were needless on a day when others, outside of Ulster, might have taken note.
Donegal: Shaun Patton; Stephen McMenamin (0-1), Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath; Ryan McHugh (0-1), Leo McLoone, Eoghan Ban Gallagher; Jason McGee, Hugh McFadden (0-1); Niall O’Donnell, Michael Murphy (0-4, 1f, 1 ’45), Eoin McHugh (0-1); Patrick McBrearty (0-3, 1f), Michael Langan (0-1), Jamie Brennan (1-3). Subs: Ciaran Thompson for J.McGee (16), Daire Ó Baoill for E.McHugh (40), Frank McGlynn for McLoone (48), Oisin Gallen for O’Donnell (54), Paul Brennan for J.Brennan (65).
Tyrone: Niall Morgan (0-2f); Pádraig Hampsey, Ronan McNamee, Michael McKernan; Tiernan McCann, Ben McDonnell, Brian Kennedy; Colm Cavanagh, Richard Donnelly (0-1); Matthew Donnelly (0-2), Kieran McGeary (0-2), Frank Burns; Cathal McShane (0-4, 3f), Peter Harte, Liam Rafferty. Subs: Connor McAliskey for Harte (black card, 12), Rory Brennan for Rafferty (half-time), Niall Sludden for Cavanagh (half-time), Darren McCurry (0-3, 1f) for McDonnell (41), Michael Cassidy (0-1) for Burns (52), Aidan McCrory for McCann (56).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).Tags: