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Tyrone dish out a harsh lesson

Tyrone 2-23 Donegal 0-06

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone thought their task for the evening was to out-score Fermanagh, who were playing in Enniskillen, but instead they topped Group C helped by Cavan's inexplicable collapse against University of Ulster, Jordanstown.

Now, Mickey Harte's men will face their neighbours Fermanagh on Sunday in Clones, the other semi-final featuring Monaghan and Derry in the Athletic Grounds. The delay in Owenbeg, along with the confusion over scoring margins, meant the pairings took a while to emerge.

"We needed the scores and we needed as many as we could get," said Harte afterwards.

"The fact that we went out and did that, we are very pleased about that. We had to stay ahead of Fermanagh."

Turkey-shoots such as this, along with the results last weekend with Armagh and the Red Hands handing out heavy defeats to college teams, don't do the Dr McKenna Cup any favours.

When the Club Players' Association talk about the inter-county game swamping the calendar, they can start their argument here with this game played in Healy Park. The sheer appetite to watch county football in Tyrone, however, was illustrated by the crowd of 2,345.

Prior to the competition beginning, Donegal manager Rory Gallagher had decided to withdraw his senior players, instead allowing Declan Bonner's Under-21s to take their place. His intention was to shield his panel from heavy pitches and phony wars and he took a watching brief and allowed the youngsters to see what it takes to play at this level. It was a cruel lesson.

With Tyrone naming a very strong side for January, a scoreline of this type was inevitable.

Cahir McCullagh opened with a point and despite Donegal creating a massed defence, it became apparent that Tyrone's established players have none of the previous problems they came up against when encountering the blanket.

The more Donegal flooded back, the more Tyrone pushed up, especially on the visitors' kick-out, making it an uncomfortable evening for goalkeeper Danny Rodgers from Dungloe.

The first goal arrived in the 13th minute. A high press on the kickout was capitalised on when the Red Hands gained possession.

A piercing run through the heart of the defence by Peter Harte was followed by a swift handpass inside to Ronan McHugh, from Aghyaran hard on the Donegal border, and he turned and slotted low past Rodgers.

Donegal might have had a goal themselves just prior to that when Jason McGee made an unlikely rampage towards goal, only for the ball to be knocked out of his grasp by Red Hands defender Padraig Hampsey. Michael Langan followed up the loose ball to grab his second point of the evening.

Four outstanding points in the first half came from the boot of Darren McCurry, two in particular from all of 50 yards out as Tyrone decided it was easier to kick accurately over a massed defence rather than trying to break defensive lines or pick intricate passes.

The rout continued in the second half with Peter Harte (below with McGee) in particularly greedy form for scores. The second goal game in stoppage time when a long ball sent in by Ronan McNabb found McCullagh, who flicked into the corner of the net.

Tyrone: N Morgan; P Hampsey, Justin McMahon, C McCarron; P Harte 0-5, 2f, T McCann, J Munroe 0-1; M Donnelly, P McNulty; D McClure, R O'Neill 0-5 4f, N McKenna 0-1; D McCurry 0-6, C McCullagh 1-1, R McHugh 1-2

Subs: C Cavanagh for Donnelly (51), R McNabb for Harte (54), L Brennan for McCurry (66)

Donegal: D Rodgers; D Monagle, S McMenamin, EB Gallagher; C Gibbons, N Friel, C Bonner; M Langan 0-3, T McCleneghan; M Carroll 0-1, G McBride, D ÓBaoill; E O'Donnell, J McGee 0-1, C Doherty

Subs: J Brennan 0-1, for McBride, D Gallagher for O'Donnell (half-time), C Kelly for Friel (45), G McFadden for Gibbons (54), C Diver for Bonner (56), A Neely for Doherty (66)

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