FROM CHRIS MCNULTY IN BALLYBOFEY
DONEGAL secured their Division 1 status thanks to a ten-point win over Tyrone in Ballybofey.
Ryan McHugh’s 32nd minute goal and an exhibition of free taking by Michael Murphy saw Donegal pull clear from the Red Hands, whose manager Mickey Harte described the afternoon as ‘as bad a performance as I’ve been involved in’.
Tyrone will now take on Kerry in a final day shoot-out to see who makes the drop to Division 2 along with Derry, relegated after their loss to Dublin on Saturday night.
Murphy gave Donegal the lead after just ten seconds and they never looked back. Donegal skipper Murphy – whose black card in the 60th minute means he misses Sunday’s game against Mayo in Castlebar – has played down the significance of the win.
When next these two cross paths, it’ll be May 17th in the Ulster Championship’s cauldron.
“What is it? It’s March,” the Glenswilly man said.
“That’ll have no bearing on seven weeks’ time. You all know that. Everyone knows that. Seven weeks time is the big one.
“Seventy minutes changes absolutely nothing. Tyrone have been fantastic through it and we’ve been patchy. Seventy minutes won’t change us from no-hopers to world beaters. We clicked a wee bit better in this game, that’s all.”
With Martin McElhinney, Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn and Murphy all excellent, Donegal powered to the win.
“We played with a lot more quality than we have at any stage in the League,” was Rory Gallagher’s observation.
“Maybe the local rivalry with Tyrone brought out the best in us.
“The aim was to stay in Division 1. You want to go into the Championship in good confidence and a positive frame of mind. Division 1 is where the best teams are and it’s great for bringing on new players.”
McHugh’s goal had a little stroke of good fortune about it. McGlynn’s attempted point came off an upright, Hugh McFadden was crowded out of the rebound and McHugh pounced to perfection.
Donegal led by nine at the break, 1-9 to 0-3, and not even the introduction of Sean Cavanagh at the interval could ignite the flames for Tyrone.
Harte is now in his 13th campaign as manager of Tyrone and he pulled no punches afterwards.
“It is a very very disappointing performance and I said to the players afterwards it was as bad a performance as I’ve been involved in with the Tyrone team over all the time that I’ve been involved – at any level and at any age,” Harte said.
Gallagher expects something of a more signifcant challenge in May.
He said: “Tyrone were a bit flat today, but everyone is at different stages in their training and I expect the full force of Tyrone in May.”
Meanwhile, Donegal goalkeeper Paul Durcan is recovering after being involved in a car accident on Saturday. The accident happened between Ballygawley and Aughnacloy as Durcan and his wife, Edel, were making their way back to Donegal.
Gallagher said: “Paul was in a car smash yesterday, but thankfully he’s alright. He was coming up the road and got a bit of a knock.”