Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan back to his best
Published 06/01/2014 | 01:31
Mickey Harte hailed his understrength Tyrone side after a strong second half display saw them defeat Donegal in Letterkenny.
Returning goalkeeper Niall Morgan was the hero for Tyrone. Having saved a Michael Murphy penalty in the first half, Morgan – who missed Tyrone's run to the All-Ireland semi-final last year because of a knee injury –scored three points in a second half dominated by the Red Hands.
Murphy netted a superb goal, after previously being denied by Morgan, to give Donegal a three-point lead at the break, but it was Tyrone who were on top in part two.
"We could not be but happy," Harte (pictured) said.
"I know people will say it is only January and it is only the McKenna Cup but I would rather be winning no matter what time of the year it is.
"We probably did not expect to come out of the game with a win but we hoped to be very close but as the game progressed our players saw that we had a chance of winning the game and they seized the chance."
The sides were level at three apiece when Morgan was adjudged to have fouled Donegal debutant Darach O'Connor in the 22nd minute, but the Edendork man denied Donegal captain Murphy with a superb save low to his right, a repeat from their League meeting in Omagh last spring. Nine minutes later, Murphy punished a lax piece of play by Aidan McCrory when he lashed a blistering effort into the top corner.
At that stage, the smart money would have been hedged on the home side kicking on after the re-start, but it was Tyrone who emerged the brighter.
Paddy McNiece and Ronan O'Neill kept Tyrone in touch and they drew level when McNiece pointed a free in the 43rd minute.
Donegal were briefly ahead when Murphy tapped over, but that 52nd minute score was his side's last.
Paul Durcan magnificently saved from Mattie Donnelly, but soon after McNiece equalised again.
With Morgan hitting two frees and sub Peter Hughes getting in on the act Tyrone – the holders – pressed on to claim the win on a day when there was just one black card.
Donegal's Rory Kavanagh was black-carded for impeding a forward run by Tiarnan McCann in the 58th minute.
Donegal's Martin O'Reilly suffered concussion after taking a blow to the head during the second half and remained in Letterkenny Hospital overnight for further observation.
Murphy looked fortunate to avoid a red card after appearing to strike Shay McGuigan, with referee Barry Cassidy instead handing the home captain a yellow card.
Donegal had a strong feel to their line-up yesterday with eight of their All-Ireland winning team starting, but Jim McGuinness wasn't particularly troubled by the defeat.
The Donegal boss said: "When we did get going we got a bit of fluency.
"It was fits and starts but you expect that for the time of year. It's part and parcel of January 5th.
"We fatigued badly towards the end in the second half but we've a bit of work done there in the last three or four weeks so it was a chance to get some game time.
"There's a difference in the level of fitness and the level of match-fitness. That's what they got today and that's that they will get next week."
DONEGAL: P Durcan; F McGlynn, E McGee (0-1), E Doherty; A Thompson, L McLoone, Declan Walsh; R Kavanagh, O MacNiallais; G McFadden, M O'Reilly, D Molloy; D O'Connor, M Murphy (1-4, 1f), C McFadden (0-2, 1f). Subs: T McKinley for O'Reilly (57), A McFadden for Kavanagh (58).
TYRONE: N Morgan (0-3, 2f, 1 '45); A McCrory, C Clarke, B Tierney; C McGinley, D McBride, T McCann (0-1); P Kane, C Grugan; N McKenna, S McGuigan (0-1), E McKenna; P McNeice (0-4, 2f), M Donnelly, R O'Neill (0-3, 1f). Subs: P Hughes (0-1) for Kane (h/t), K Gallagher for McKenna (h/t), Ronan McNamee for McBride (50).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).