Ulster SFC semi-final: ruthless Red Hands demolish Donegal

June 18, 2017

Tyrone's Peter Harte and Jason McGee of Donegal

Holders Tyrone left Donegal in the shade at sunny Clones today as they coasted to an emphatic 1-21 to 1-12 victory.

The Red Hands were quite simply irresistible in sealing a provincial final date with either Monaghan or Down next month, in the process denying their disappointing opponents a seventh consecutive appearance in the Anglo Celt Cup decider.

After an evenly-contested opening 15 minutes, Mickey Harte's men took complete control by knocking over seven unanswered points to lead by 0-12 to 0-5 at the break. On-song Tyrone struck a succession of exceptional first-half points, with eleven of them coming from play, most of those from distance.

Nine different Tyrone players found the range in the first half, with Peter Harte, Niall Sludden and Padraig Hampsey each registering twice.

Both teams made a couple of changes to their starting XVs: Cathal McCarron and David Mulgrew replaced Rory Brennan and Conor Meyler in the Tyrone team, while Eamon Doherty and Eoin McHugh got the nod ahead of Caolan Ward and Hugh McFadden for Donegal.

Niall Morgan did superbly to prevent a Patrick McBrearty effort from going over the bar inside the opening 30 seconds but McBrearty nonetheless opened the scoring from a straightforward free from the hands three minutes later. Michael Murphy supplied the Tir Chonail men's second point from a sweetly-struck '45'and Mulgrew had the Red Hands up and running with a tidy strike seconds later.

With 22,609, enjoying the football and the sunshine, Mattie Donnelly equalised with a sensational point from distance in the ninth minute but McBrearty restored Donegal's lead with a precise finish from play on eleven minutes. Tyrone had a great goal chance but Sean Cavanagh drilled his shot straight at the grateful Mark Anthony McGinley before Murphy and Mark Bradley traded points; Harte hammered a shot over the bar to make it four points apiece after 15 minutes.

Eoin McHugh was clean through with just Morgan to beat but - when it looked like the net was about to bulge - he dragged his shot to the left of the post and wide, and Tyrone led for the first time when midfielder Tiernan McCann got forward to supply their third successive point in the 22nd minute; instantly, Martin O'Reilly finished with aplomb to make it five each.

Sludden punctuated a terrific, flowing Red Hands move with their sixth point and corner back Hampsey executed a sublime finish off the outside of his right foot to make it 0-7 to 0-5 in favour of the O'Neill County with ten minutes left in the opening period. Harte then cut inside to take a lovely point off his weaker right peg as Mickey Harte's men moved three clear.

Kieran McGeary added another super Tyrone score from distance in the 28th minute; on the stroke of the half-hour, Sludden sliced over another wonderful point to give the rampant Red Hands a double-scores advantage, 0-10 to 0-5.

Tyrone should have added a goal four minutes from the break but Hampsey blazed his shot high over the bar - the point was awarded even though the shot was waved wide by an umpire; Cavanagh added an injury-time free - the first Tyrone score not to come from play! - and that point assured the winners of a commanding seven-point interval lead.

Three minutes after the restart, the gap was ten when McCann's miskicked shot bounced perfectly over the outstretched arms of both McGinley and a covering defender to trickle to the net and make it 1-12 to 0-5 - he couldn't have hit it better / worse! McBrearty replied but a majestic Bradley finish in the 43rd minute restored the winners' ten-point cushion. Bradley was then black-carded by referee David Gough upon the advice of one of the umpires.

The Red Hands were on fire in the scorching heat of North Monaghan and Donnelly toed over his second sensational point in the 50th minute as they eased eleven clear, 1-14 to 0-6, and it was soon triple scores after McGeary also landed his second point of the day.

McGeary fisted his third point with the goal at his mercy 16 minutes from time, with outclassed Donegal having given up the ghost. McBrearty notched his fourth score for the losers seconds after McGinley denied substitute Rory Brennan from close range as the Donegal rearguard was again cut open.

Murphy contemptuously thumped over a Donegal '45' with eleven minutes left but the outstanding Sludden replied with his third point two minutes later. Rory Gallagher's men had created a number of goalscoring chances and they finally got a three-pointer when Michael Carroll buried his 62nd-minute shot. But back came the Red Hands with points from substitute Ronan O'Neill and Sludden.

With the game over as anything resembling a meaningful contest, Donegal pulled back consolation points through Michael Langan and McBrearty but substitute Declan McClure clipped over the 20th Tyrone point before Langan grabbed his second. Goalkeeper Morgan closed the winners' scoring from a '45'in the fifth minute of injury time and McBrearty replied from another late, late free as the Red Hands marched through to the provincial final in the most impressive manner imaginable.

Tyrone - N Morgan (0-1'45); A McCrory, R McNamee, P Hampsey (0-2); T McCann (1-1), C McCarron, P Harte (0-2); C Cavanagh, C McCann; K McGeary (0-3), N Sludden (0-4), D Mulgrew (0-1); M Bradley (0-2), S Cavanagh (0-1f), M Donnelly (0-2). Subs: D McCurry for M Bradley (BC), R Brennan for D Mulgrew, D McClure (0-1) for C McCann, R O'Neill (0-1) for S Cavanagh, C McShane for K McGeary, J McMahon for P Harte.

Donegal - M A McGinley; P McGrath, N McGee, E Ban Gallagher; R McHugh, F McGlynn, E Doherty; J McGee, C Thompson; M Carroll (1-0), M O'Reilly (0-1), J Brennan; P McBrearty (0-6, 2f), M Murphy (0-3, 2'45), E McHugh. Subs: K Lacey for J McGee, M McElhinney for F McGlynn, H McFadden (0-1) for J Brennan, C Gillespie for E Doherty, M Langan (0-1) for E McHugh.

Referee - D Gough.

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