Posted by Shane Stapleton

The All-Ireland champions held off the challenge of Tyrone because their forwards had the killer instinct to go for the jugular

2012 Donegal Murphy 520x280
When two teams have a solid gameplan, strong work ethic and class, the team with more of the latter most often comes through. That’s because hard work only beats talent when talent doesn’t work.

At times, Donegal didn’t quite give the aroma of the 2012 vintage but there were enough whiffs to remind us of how they got to the top. Tyrone could keep Michael Murphy quiet for a long time, and Colm McFadden was in and out, so too Paddy McBrearty — but they couldn’t keep them all subdued all of the time.

The stellar full-forward line all contributed decisively with Murphy conducting traffic, McFadden slotting in a key goal, and McBrearty setting up two green flags in a man-of-the-match display.

On the other hand, Tyrone’s Stephen O’Neill lacked the same supporting cast and though he was able to chip in here and there in the first half, Neil McGee snuffed him out. There weren’t enough classy players around O’Neill to give him space to shine— not that Donegal would be inclined to give much of that to any side. That’s a worry for anyone who gets in Donegal’s road this year. 

There’s an old saying to take your points and the goals will come, but you have to attempt the latter when the opportunities arise. On 25 minutes, Mattie Donnelly burst into the Donegal defence and found himself in on Paul Durcan’s goal. The Tyrone wing-forward decided to take his point to level it up at 0-5 apiece but, not long after, the goal came… but for Donegal.

A long delivery into the Tir Chonaill forward line was padded down by Paddy McBrearty into Colm McFadden’s direction and, in on goal, he never considered what is infuriatingly referred to as “taking the sensible option”. McFadden showed bravery and went for the jugular, as champions do. It rocked Tyrone and, pretty quickly, they turned a one-point deficit into a three-point lead.

Red Hands fans might be rightly aggrieved about Joe McQuillan bringing so far forward the free that led to the goal after Peter Harte infringed and then protested. It made that long ball in all the more dangerous and, in truth, it never would have been a goal scoring chance if the free hadn’t been brought up about double the 13 metres normally awarded for that offence. But you have to have your own house in order first so perhaps Harte will regret giving McQuillan an opportunity to bring the ball forward in the first place.

Donegal don’t concede goals and that’s backed up by Durcan’s record of just four in his last 14 championship games. It might take a couple of more games for that number conceded to rise any higher. As for Tyrone's keeper Niall Morgan, you suspect he might not be trying to wind up the crowd again given how it backfired in Ballybofey, as he missed four of five scoreable frees.

The Kingdom scarcely looked like being invaded at Fitzgerald Stadium. Tipperary never looked like getting a major against Kerry and it actually took more than 33 minutes for them to even create a flowing, scoring move. Philip Austin won a free at midfield and passed it to Paddy Codd, he laid it into Ian Fahey who clipped in into the corner for Barry Grogan.

The forward shimmied and got an inch of space to shoot off his left but sent it wide. The issue was not hitting a wide but how obvious it was that this was all Tipperary had truly offered in terms of creativity in that first half. Either side of that miss, Paul Galvin had knocked over lovely scores. Kerry just always seemed to have time, and this in a first half when they could have played with more pace.

At an 0-11 to 0-4 half-time deficit, the jig was up because you couldn’t see any way for the Premier to create enough opportunities to get to 11 points — never mind to also eclipse what the Kingdom would tack on after the break. Certainly not as Tipp did not score a single point from play in the first period, and that with the wind.

Peter Creedon’s men produced a mini-revival in the second half but Grogan’s red card end the contest altogether (and it was unusual in the extreme to see someone offer Grogan a drink of their Coca-Cola as he sat on the bench!).

2-19 to 0-8 was the result and it wasn’t the only reason this weekend that the Munster championship felt like a two-hose race as Cork beat Limerick 3-17 to 0-8. With Waterford and Clare lined up as the fodder in the semi-finals, you wouldn’t put bad money on anything but a Rebels-Kingdom final.

Not that there weren’t shocks elsewhere. During the live broadcast of Donegal v Tyrone, there popped up the result from Ruislip where London beat Sligo 1-12 to 0-14. For this writer, it was reminiscent of October 2006 when, on a trip to London, live coverage of an Ireland international was not on TV but up came a final scoreline: Cyprus 5-2 Ireland.  Reminiscent in the sense that we can imagine the horror this news would have been received for any Sligo fan who first found out this way. An important win and one that has been coming, if you take into account how hard they’ve pushed Galway and Mayo in recent years.

Eamonn O’Hara was cutting in his appraisal of Kevin Walsh's regime and wants to see the boss fall on his own sword — the knives are already out. Wicklow and Louth got wins over Longford and Laois respectively too, making it an interesting weekend in the GAA.

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