BY CHRIS MCNULTY IN OMAGH
IN the course of a four-minute media briefing at the end of Sunday’s four-point defeat to Tyrone in Omagh, it was clear where Jim McGuinness’s intentions lay.
The Donegal manager made reference to the phrases ‘Championship’, ‘summer’ or ‘May 26th’ eight times. It is then when judgement shall be passed, for it won’t come from something of a strange outing at Healy Park on Sunday.
Donegal went down by four (1-13 to 0-12), but will be fairly content with their lot.
The game was effectively won in the ashes of the first half when Michael Murphy, the Donegal captain, saw Man of the Match Niall Morgan, the Tyrone goalkeeper, dive out to his right to save a penalty.
That kick would have sent Donegal into the interval a point ahead. As it was, they were not only two points down, but a man down as Murphy slid in to Justin McMahon, an action that earned him a second yellow card.
“It’s hard to say that a game turned on one incident, but in this instance it might have done,” was McGuinness’s assessment.
“We had an opportunity to go into the half-time break a point up, but we ended up going in two points down and minus Michael Murphy – that’s not the best outcome to a penalty opportunity. That was a big, big turning point.”
McGuinness admitted that he hadn’t viewed the incident again, but he refused to be critical of the match referee, Joe McQuillan, who also sent Neil Gallagher off in the 68th minute and who brandished a staggering 12 yellows in total.
His frustration was clear, though.
McGuinness said: “I don’t normally go into the referees and I’m not going to go into it today either.
“There are a lot of situations there today that you could talk about, but what’s the point? It doesn’t get you anywhere and it’s for other people to make a call. It’s not for me to comment on.”
McGuinness was able to name 13 of his All-Ireland team from the off, with Frank McGlynn and Paddy McGrath back from injury.
Stephen O’Neill scored the Tyrone goal in the 40th minute, but Donegal made a game of it, with Wherity, Colm McFadden and Leo McLoone all having sniffs of goal in the second half, but with Morgan on form in goal Tyrone held strong.
“It’s important to beat them because we have lost three important games to them anyway, in the league here a few years ago, and we lost in the Championship in semi-finals,” said the Tyrone manager, Mickey Harte.
“If you keep losing to some team you can get inferiority complex and that wouldn’t be good for anybody.”
Jim McGuinness shrugged his shoulders and will move onto a home game against Kerry in Ballybofey this Sunday looking to get the two points that will go a little towards their achieving of the modest goal of retaining Division 1 status.
He said: “It’s not the biggest hit that we’re going to take. It’s a game and the circumstances unfolded the way they did and the game went away from us.
“Tyrone were sharp and you’d know looking at them that they have a little bit more work done than us. Our hand passing was very sloppy as was our decision making. Tyrone picked us off well for the goal so we have to get up to that level yet. Whenever we do, we’ll see how the thing unravels.”
It will unravel in the Championship, in the summer and first on May 26th.