Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Inpho No way through: Tyrone couldn't live with Donegal's intensity and energy
As it happened: Donegal v Tyrone, Ulster SFC Semi-Final
It was intense, it was tactical, it was fascinating and it was all worth it as Donegal dispensed of Tyrone to reach the Ulster decider. We had all the action and analysis right here.

We went minute-by-minute and, as always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. Leave a comment below, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall.

Result: Donegal 0-12 Tyrone 0-10

Welcome to Clones and the Ulster semi-final between Tyrone and Donegal.

If you follow the theory that Cork and Kerry will be there at the tail end of the championship regardless of what happens in Munster – as has been the case for half a decade now – then this is the biggest game of the championship thus far.

The winner here can look at themselves in the mirror and believe they are genuine All Ireland contenders, the loser will have to pick themselves up off the canvas and don’t be so sure they have the ability and belief to come through the back door and go all the way to September.

If Ulster football has been pioneering this decade in terms of tactics, then this is a fascinating battle between a master and apprentice in terms of that aspect of football. Mickey Harte changed the way the game is played back in 2003, Jimmy McGuinness has changed the way we view the game in the course of just two seasons. How Tyrone cope with Donegal’s tactics will be fascinating and how Donegal’s new tactics cope with a better team than they’ve played already will be crucial.

This season McGuinness has evolved the defensive structure and now has a team with a remarkable skill set and endurance. So far, the lateral, ponderous football of 2011 has dissipated and we now have a genuine fast-paced counter-attacking plan. There’s still the massed defence but it will be interesting to see if Leo McLoone and Frank McGlynn can be end-to-end as they were against Cavan and Derry. It’ll also be interesting to see how the master tactician Harte deals with this new brand of football. If he manages to counteract it, it’ll be another remarkable moment in his career.

We’ll see over the next 70 minutes and here are the men that will decide the outcome.
Donegal – P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, F McGlynn; E McGee, K Lacey, A Thompson; R Bradley, N Gallagher; D Walsh, R Kavanagh, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.
Tyrone – P McConnell; A McCrory, Justin McMahon, D Carlin; C McCarron, C Gormley, Sean O’Neill; Joe McMahon, C Cavanagh; R McNabb, M Donnelly, P Harte; M Penrose, Stephen O’Neill, O Mulligan.

Actually word reaches us Justin McMahon, McCarron and McNabb are out for Tyrone, McMenamin and Mattie Donnelly are two of those in.

What was so important for Tyrone in their impressive display over Armagh was the intensity but what was key there – Colm Cavanagh’s breaks from centrefield, Stephen O’Neill and Owen Mulligan finding space for a shovel of points and Martin Penrose sweeping up a little deeper – may not be possible here.

Maybe we are silly to bet against Harte but at the start of the season I said Cork, Mayo, Kildare and Tyrone would be provincial champions and Cork would win it all. I stand by 80 per cent of it but having seen Donegal’s evolved game I don’t think anyone else has the endurance or the system in the north to stop them. Time will tell as we are about to get underway.

Word reaching us that the third replacement on that Tyrone team is Conor Clarke who is in for Justin McMahon at full-back.

We are underway and Donegal play into the wind. David Coldrick of Meath is our referee.

3 minutes,Donegal 0-0 Tyrone 0-0: Early problems for Donegal and if Tyrone changed their full-back by choice, Donegal are changing there’s by necessity. Neil McGee’s hamstring has ended his game already. Declan Walsh is on.

5 minutes,Donegal 0-1 Tyrone 0-0: Tyrone sitting deep meaning Donegal can’t break with numbers and an overlap. Mark McHugh though picks the ball up 40 out and kicks over all the bodies and the bar. He and McBrearty’s evolution will be key for Donegal this season. Good signs there.

6 minutes, Donegal 0-1 Tyrone 0-2: Back come Tyrone with Joe McMahon and Stephen O’Neill. Both using the wind and a surprising lack of intensity in the Donegal defence to their advantage.

8 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Tyrone 0-2: Perhaps it’s nerves at the back but surprisingly attacks on top early as Michael Murphy swings over a free. How his hamstring holds up will be important.

12 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Tyrone 0-2: Frank McGlynn beginning to get forward as expected, he’s having a great season. But Tyrone not backing down in defence as the last couple of Donegal attacks come to little thanks to severe pressure. After openness early, game is now as expected with no room and no pressure-free shots available to either side.

13 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Tyrone 0-3: Finally Mickey Harte’s side craft some space in a very Donegal-esque way. They turn the ball over thanks to their half-back line, break and Mark Donnelly gets in to fist over.

17 minutes, Donegal 0-2 Tyrone 0-3: Keys to beating Donegal are to hold possession and move the ball quick, dragging the numbers in defence wide onto the flanks. It’s exactly what Tyrone do as Joe McMahon gets in on goal and after a Paul Durcan save, Mark Donnelly should goal from the rebound but only gets a 45.  Peter Harte sends it wide with the wind at his back. They can’t miss those chances.

20 minutes, Donegal 0-3 Tyrone 0-3: Keys to beating Tyrone were McHugh and Paddy McBrearty pitching in and helping Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden on the scoring front. The former already scored, now so does the latter ending his side’s barren spell. Massive intensity, the work rate just to get the ball up the pitch is ferocious. Great stuff, if exhausting.

23 minutes, Donegal 0-3 Tyrone 0-3: Peter Harte at half-forward was largely anonymous against Armagh but not here. A moment ago he turned over ball when back in the half-back line and now he wins a free which Martin Penrose sends wide. These misses will hurt as in a game like this an open shot and a score are as rare and as valuable as gold.

Attendance here is 17,730 for the anoraks out there.

26 minutes, Donegal 0-3 Tyrone 0-4: That sums up the evolution of football and the tactics here. Conor Clarke, a late replacement at full-back, kicks a lovely score. Tyrone needed it because they have been on top, even with Owen Mulligan and Stephen O’Neill, who has just been booked, being swamped and bettered close to goal.

News from elsewhere, Wicklow have beaten Waterford after extra-time in the qualifiers. Earlier Antrim survived a scare in London.

30 minutes, Donegal 0-4 Tyrone 0-4: Back here in Clones and another 10-minute scoreless spell for Donegal is ended with a Michael Murphy free. With the wind at their backs in the second half and given the fact Tyrone have been on top and are exerting far more energy to get on top, Donegal will take this.

34 minutes, Donegal 0-5 Tyrone 0-5: Conor Clarke has been excellent. Not only has he controlled an area inhabited by Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy but he’s scored and now his sidestep sets up Sean O’Neill for a score. Back come Donegal though and they win a free off Ryan McMenamin close to goal. Colm McFadden opens his account from the deadball.

Half-time, Donegal 0-5 Tyrone 0-6: Martin Penrose finishes the scoring for the half. Now we can draw breath as that was everything we expected it to be. It was energy-sapping, end-to-end with full-backs scoring, corner-backs play-making and everyone else covering ground at both ends of the field.  It’s largely defensive and hugely tactical but the energy being used out there to just achieve the basics is phenomenal. Tyrone may lead but it’s hard to know who will be the happier. Mickey Harte’s side have been excellent but kicked some frees wide and face the breeze in the second half, but that may not be as important as in more traditional games as the ball is being carried in the hand mostly here. As for Donegal, they need to get more ball quickly into the inside-forward line and hope Tyrone tire because the defence from the Red Hand county has been superb and largely disciplined. We’ll be back after the break and can’t wait because this is top stuff.

Tyrone back out on the field, we’ll be back underway shortly. We still think Donegal will win, they’ve more room to improve and while they’ve shown they can maintain this intensity for 70 minutes, this version of Tyrone haven’t. Yet.

We are back underway. No changes on either side.

37 minutes, Donegal 0-6 Tyrone 0-7: Joe McMahon started this game with a great free – they then changed free-taker three times and kept missing. Now McMahon starts the second half with a good free. They need to leave him on deadball duty, he’s the only one who looks confident standing over one. But back come Donegal, Rory Kavanagh is free and he points.

40 minutes, Donegal 0-7 Tyrone 0-8: Like the first half, things a bit loose at the back early on. Enjoy it forwards, it may not last. Rory Kavanagh is enjoying it, great movement again from him and a point again from him.  Dermot Carlin up for corner-back puts Tyrone back in front. Frantic, great move that from Tyrone, used the full width of the pitch to get Carlin in space.

46 minutes, Donegal 0-8 Tyrone 0-8: And we slip back into the chess-game that surmised the majority of the first half. Skies have opened here as Colm McFadden sells a free to Conor Gormley who buys. Needless tackle from the Tyrone man and McFadden strikes it over.

50 minutes, Donegal 0-9 Tyrone 0-8: There’s the lead for Donegal for the first time since Mark McHugh hit the day’s opener. Ryan Bradley is given the score but the work was done by Colm McFadden. He’s getting into this game more and more and beginning to take on a key role. Ronan McNabb is on for Tyrone, Owen Mulligan is gone. No surprise as Mulligan has been throwing dummies but while it’s beaten the first man, the time taken to execute it has seen him bottled up by others. This game doesn’t suit his style.

54 minutes, Donegal 0-9 Tyrone 0-8: Tyrone finding it harder and harder to get positive yards as this game goes on. It could be tiredness but Donegal have definitely upped the intensity since the first half as well and that along with the showing of McFadden has them ahead.

57 minutes, Donegal 0-9 Tyrone 0-8: Neil Gallagher and David Walsh gone off for Donegal with Martin McElhinney and Martin O’Reilly on as they look to keep up their high-energy, high-pressing game that has held Tyrone scoreless for over 15 minutes now.

61 minutes, Donegal 0-10 Tyrone 0-8: Michael Murphy is fouled, soft enough that and crucial because Donegal now lead by two as he kicks it himself. A two-point lead in a game like this is big. Tyrone have to score next, and soon. We warned that those missed frees by Tyrone in the first half could be crucial. Donegal have been exemplary from deadballs and that’s the difference.

63 minutes, Donegal 0-11 Tyrone 0-8: Karl Lacey scores from a poor kickout from Pascal McConnell, moments after Brian McGuigan comes on. That’s a massive score. Next to impossible to see Tyrone fighting back from this.

64 minutes, Donegal 0-12 Tyrone 0-8: Game over? We’d say yes. Colm McFadden makes it five in a row for his side. He’s been the best forward on the field and that’s his best score. Did all the work himself, collecting deep, getting space and finishing from quite a way out.

67 minutes, Donegal 0-12 Tyrone 0-8: Last throw of the dice as Aidan Cassidy and Niall McKenna come on for Mark Donnelly and Ryan McMenamin. Hard to see it making any difference as time ticks away.

68 minutes, Donegal 0-12 Tyrone 0-8: 28 minutes now since Tyrone have scored and they can’t get an inch of space or a shot off.

70 minutes, Donegal 0-12 Tyrone 0-8: Leo McLoone on for Man of the Match Ryan Bradley.

70+1 minutes, Donegal 0-12 Tyrone 0-9: Colm McFadden is sent off for a second yellow for an off-the-ball incident. Won’t be any suspension though and he will be in an Ulster final, even as Stephen O’Neill puts a goal between them with his side’s first score for 31 minutes. There’ll be three minutes of added time.

Full-time, Donegal 0-12 Tyrone 0-10: Stephen O’Neill does have a half-chance of a goal but the ball is stripped from him before he can shoot. And Martin Penrose sells a brilliant dummy and his shot from 21 is brilliantly saved by the leg of Paul Durcan. More intent in the last minute from Tyrone than the whole game. And Conor Gormley accidentally puts a 45 over the bar when he meant to drop it short. That was the last chance.

Gaelic football: here’s all your news, teams and verdicts ahead of the qualifiers

Kildare v Meath – Leinster SFC semi-final match guide

Exclusive Six
Nations Analysis

Get Murray Kinsella’s exclusive analysis of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign this spring

Become a Member

Your Voice
Readers Comments