Donegal 4-12 Tyrone 1-05
By Chris McNulty in Convoy
DONEGAL are back in the Ulster Vocational Schools final after wiping the floor with Tyrone at Pairc Naomh Mhuire, Convoy on Thursday.
Donegal have won the last three Ulster titles – and Seosamh Mac Ceallabhuí’s team returned to the decider in style thanks to a rampant second-half display that gunned down the Red Hands.
Having had the wind in the opening period, Donegal led by five points, 1-5 to 1-0, but against the breeze Donegal clocked up an impressive tally, with Jamie Brennan and Conor Doherty on fire. Donegal scored 3-7 to Tyrone’s 0-5 in part two – with Brennan netting a brace and the excellent Doherty bagging another goal to add to David McCarron’s earlier opener.
Brennan and Doherty were excellent throughout in what was a dominant Donegal performance, Bundoran’s dual-star Brennan proving to be a real handful and Kilcar starlet Doherty a livewire that Tyrone just couldn’t handle.
With Caolan McGonagle, Christian Bonner and Darren Curran also contributing handsomely to the win, Donegal head into the final with confidence high, with the bench also showing its strength.
Naomh Conaill’s Ethan O’Donnell produced flashes of his worth having been introduced in the first-half, while Buncrana’s Darach O’Connor, who was recently called into the Donegal senior panel, was one of the more notable absentees, though he is listed on the panel.
With Donegal ahead by five, they extinguished Tyrone’s comeback hopes within ten minutes of the re-start.
Brennan and Doherty (2) extended the lead before Doherty found the net, sliding home from close range after Caolan McGonagle burst through from midfield only to have a shot saved by Conor Donnelly in the Tyrone goal.
Two of the more refined Vocational Schools football establishments in Tyrone – St Ciarán’s, Ballygawley and Holy Trinity, Cookstown – have switched to play colleges football, depriving the O’Neill county of some of the better players of this age, and it was a considerably ‘understrength’ side fielded by the visitors.
That said, Donegal were pretty impressive in the second-half, once they abandoned the tactic of kicking long and began to play a retention game.
Twice in the space of three minutes, Bundoran’s dual star Brennan found the back of the net.
First up, in the 47th minute, Brennan finished from close range after Christian Bonner’s ball in was flicked on by Ethan O’Donnell.
And, O’Donnell was the instigator of Donegal’s fourth goal. After he cut a swathe up the left-hand side by Darren Curran, O’Donnell jinked across the byline to feed Brennan to score.
In between times, Brennan knocked over a point and Donegal were whistling by this stage.
To their credit, Tyrone kept up the fight with Sean Loughran, Caolan Devlin and Maurice McCloughan on target, but the hosts were never in danger of being caught – and O’Donnell, Doherty and John Campbell hit late scores to secure the win.
The end scoreline might have been even more concerning for Tyrone with ‘keeper Donnelly saving superbly to deny O’Donnell what seemed a certain goal during that period where Donegal were pressing the feet on the gas.
Donegal laid down their charge from the off. After McGonagle pointed from a ‘45, the opening goal arrived when McCarron blasted to the net after Brennan won a kick-out and burst through the Tyrone rearguard. His shot was saved, but McCarron wouldn’t be denied.
Tyrone were handed a lifeline when Declan McNulty sold a dummy, after initially being given too much wriggle room, before he fired to the net in some style from 20 metres.
That was as good as it got for Tyrone, as Donegal cranked up the heat and eventually won with quite a degree of comfort.
They face the winners of next week’s semi-final between Monaghan and Cavan.
DONEGAL: Paddy Byrne; John McDyre, Kevin McGettigan, Dillon Kennedy; Lee O’Brien, Tony McClenaghan, Darren Curran; Dylan Ward, Caolan McGonagle (0-1, 1 ‘45); Conor Doherty (1-4), John Campbell (0-1, 1f), Christian Bonner; David McCarron (1-1), Micheál Langan, Jamie Brennan (2-4, 2f). Subs: Ethan O’Donnell (0-1) for Langan (22 mins), Liam Ryan for Curran (52 mins), Patrick Gillespie for Bonner (58 mins), Cormac Muldoon for O’Brien (58 mins), Michael Ayton for Brennan (58 mins).
TYRONE: Conor Donnelly; Domhnaill Deeney, Keelan Reid, Cahir McGover; Shane Dodds, Shane Leonard, Maurice McCloughan (0-1); Sean Loughran (0-1), Joe McCosker; Sonnie McDonagh (0-1), Ronan McGee, Jude Campbell; Marc Henry, Shea O’Neill, Declan McNulty (1-1, 1f). Subs: Conor Loughran for Campbell (54 mins), Caolan Devlin (0-1) for Deeney (54 mins), Keelan Reid for McGee (54 mins), Cillian Doherty for Henry (58 mins).
REFEREE: Dermot Love (Fermanagh)