DONEGAL advanced to the Nicky Rackard Cup Final with this impressive victory over neighbours and old rivals Tyrone.
Donegal 3-25 Tyrone 1-21
By Charlie Collins
Mickey McCann’s team had to field without three star forwards Declan Coulter, Davin Flynn and Bernard Lafferty but their absence seemed to inspire others to produce their best form and see the team through to a final meeting with Mayo.
The game produced a super opening quarter and at the water break Tyrone led by 1-7 to 0-08 points.
Keifer Morgan scored the goal for Tyrone in the 6th minute a super solo effort , drilling the ball to the corner after a 50-metre run.
Ronan McDermott, Ciaran Mathewson and Gerard Gilmore had early points for Donegal but Damien Casey and Conor Grogan kept Tyrone in touch before Morgan’s goal put Tyrone ahead. Casey added a point but Mathewson and Joe Boyle replied for Donegal to leave it 0-5 to 1-03.
Bryan McGurk, Morgan and Casey added Tyrone points to a lone Jack O’Loughlin score and when Casey added another point Tyrone led by three points.
Ronan McDermott and O’Loughlin both scored from play to leave a point in it but Casey and Bryan McGurk quickly replied to make it 0-8 to 1-8 in Tyrone’s favour.
A minute later the teams were level. Jack O’Loughlin did the hard work and found Richie Ryan who managed to get his shot away and past Conor McElhatton – 1-8 apiece in the 20th minute.
Two O’Loughlin frees had Donegal ahead but two Casey frees had Tyrone level again.
Donegal goalkeeper Luke White scored a monster point after leaving his goalmouth to receive a free from Mark Callaghan. Mc Gurk and O’Loughlin exchanged points but Damian Casey had the final say of the first half with a pointed free to leave it 1-12 to 1-13 Tyrone at the break.
Donegal now had the wind at their backs but Three Casey points to two from O’Loughlin had Tyrone two ahead in the 40th minute. However things changed considerably within two minutes as Gerry Gilmore hammered home two super goals from acute angles followed by a point and suddenly Donegal led by five points.
That was soon out to eight as O’Loughlin, Kevin Kealy and Gilmore again pointed , all from play to make it 3-18 to 1-16.
Casey replied but Mathewson, Joe Boyle, sub Josh Cronolly, Gilmore and another two from the excellent Jack O’Loughlin to a pair by Tyrone sub Cian Ferguson and a final point from Casey had Donegal safely in next week’s final against Mayo.
Donegal: Luke White (0-1), Gavin Browne, Stephen Gillespie, Mark Callaghan, Jack O’Loughlin (0-11, 6f), Joe Boyle (0-2), Michael Donaghue, Ronan McDermott (0-2), Gerard Gilmore (2-3), Danny Cullen , Kevin Kealy (0-1), Conor O Grady , Richie Ryan ( 1-0), Ciaran Mathewson (0-3). Subs: Lee Henderson (0-1), for O Grady (45), Josh Cronolly for Ryan (0-1), Conor Parke for Browne (64), Stephen Doherty for Donaghue (66), Ciaran Bradley for Mathewson (68).
Tyrone: Conor McElhatton , Ruairi Devlin , Dean Rafferty, Sean Paul McKernan , Sean Donaghy , Ciaran Kearns , Cormac Munroe , Tiarnan Morgan , Chris Cross, Conor Grogan (0-1), Bryan McGurk (0-3), Kiefer Morgan (1-1), Brannan Molloy, Damian Casey (0-14, 9f), Matthew Mulgrew. Subs: Lorcan Devlin for Cross (22), Cian Ferguson (0-2) (34), John McGurk for Mulgrew (53), Justin Kelly for Molloy (66).
Referee: Colm McDonald ( Antrim).