THERE COULD be no doubting, regardless of how much they may have attempted to dim its standing, Saturday’s win over Tyrone was one of real significance for Donegal.
Not only was their Ulster Championship crown on the line at Kingspan Breffni Park, but Donegal had endured fierce, stinging torture against Tyrone in their most recent meetings.
In an Ulster final in 2016, a semi-final in 2017 – when Tyrone appeared to point Donegal for the end of the road – and last year in the Super 8s, Mickey Harte’s men held the upper hand.
Saturday was different.
For the first time since 2015 and a preliminary round blockbuster in Ballybofey – when Donegal recorded a fourth Championship win on the bounce over their rivals – the green and gold triumphed. There was no doubt this was the most comprehensive of the lot.
“We’re just happy, we came into it on the back of a number of defeats against Tyrone, it was three in a row in the championship and playing teams like Tyrone and Monaghan in Ulster, we’ve always taken the thing really seriously,” said Donegal captain Michael Murphy.
“We’re just delighted to get the result and the performance, and as I’ve been saying to everyone so far and as a group since we came off the pitch; all it’s done is put us on a platform to go and compete in a provincial final.
“We’ve been on the back of wins and defeats in provincial finals and it’s important we go into it now mad, mad hungry, the same way we into this game. It’s going to be a huge test.”
The Glenswilly man was masterful on Sunday. Though he had an off day with a couple of awry placed kicks, Murphy’s influence on the game was obvious.
Never one to throw a soundbite for the sake of it, Murphy was asked if this was a ‘big marker’ for Donegal.
“I suppose it is, and it’s just important for this team to experience victories and experience wins,” Murphy – who will lead Donegal to an eighth provincial final in nine years – said.
“it’s important that we did win the game, it’s important for us as a new group and a new team to experience a victory over Tyrone and more importantly to get into a second provincial final.
“It’s big and it gives us an opportunity now to win a provincial final and we know how difficult they are to win.
“All we can do is look after our own part of it now and get back and hungry for training again and push things on. We are very lucky to have a young group who recover quickly and can push things on in training again.”
Murphy was kept in storage for much of the spring when Donegal were toiling away in Division Two, but he came back for the latter phase of the League. Murphy had a major impact on Donegal winning promotion, collecting the Division Two title along the way.
The hard yards earlier in the year, Murphy feels, has cut the teeth of Donegal’s squad.
“Those boys braved it, and it would have been very easy for a lot of them to go back into their shell and not want to come out and play,” he said.
“But they are confident in their own ability and more importantly they work really hard on their game.
“We are lucky with the bunch of players we have, but at the same time the group and everybody is mature enough to know it’s an Ulster final – we are happy with this win but we need to go and push on again in two weeks.”Tags: