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Harte's men leave Donegal staring at relegation

Tyrone 2-13 Donegal 1-10

By Declan Bogue

As tempting as it might have been for Mickey Harte to appear smug in the face of the criticism he has taken for his part in Tyrone failings this season, the message hardly ever deviates, and he was back on familiar ground after his side showed the greater experience to edge out a weakened Donegal side in Omagh.

"You can't beat workrate. Whatever else you do, or whatever other skillsets you have, if skill isn't accompanied by work, then it doesn't really work," he explained.

"We had boys who were prepared to work hard. It took a while to settle in I suppose, to the flow of the game, and to get them to play the way we actually wanted them to play.

"But when they got to grips with that, and understood what we were looking from them, a couple of fast breaks in the first half were just breath-taking.

"And I think that's a nice way to play football, if you can hold out, turn people over, and break at breakneck speed, then to me, that's a very interesting and entertaining game."

Forcing turnovers and the rare skill of blocking down opposing players, along with some instinctive play won Tyrone this game, and the scoring of two goals either side of half-time were borne out of each of those two valued qualities.

The first came on the stroke of half-time when Niall Sludden blocked down Michael Murphy and propelled himself forward at lightning speed to receive a pass from Padraig McNulty before slotting a shot to the corner of Shaun Patton's net.

Donegal were living dangerously at this point, Patton having hauled Sludden down a few minutes earlier to concede a penalty that Peter Harte fluffed, but miraculously escaped a black card.

At the start of the second half, Mark Bradley took it upon himself to provide the inspiration. He played a one-two with Cathal McShane before sending Leo McLoone down the street with a fine dummy and rolling the shot between Patton's legs.

Donegal managed to get back in the game with an Odhran MacNiallais goal, but missed the input of Division One top scorer, Patrick McBrearty who was replaced prior to throw-in.

Asked about the injury that kept McBrearty out, Donegal manager Declan Bonner remained coy, stating, "He's picked up an injury that he needs a scan on. We'll see what the story is on it." Requested to specify what the injury is, he replied, "You can talk to the medical team about that," and pressed further on whether it is potentially a long-term effect, he answered, "I can't really comment on it. He wasn't available tonight," adding that, "I'm not so sure," if he would be available in the crucial relegation battle against Monaghan in Clones next Sunday.

However, it is thought that McBrearty has been suffering with a knee injury since the Dublin game.

Harte acknowledged, "Of course Paddy McBrearty is a crack forward, and he takes some watching, and not to have him on the field was obviously a real bonus to us.

"But we can't be responsible for that. We have to take what was on the field tonight and beat them, and that took a bit of doing as well, so I'm really happy with the fact that we beat the team that Donegal put out there tonight, because they put out a team against us a couple of weeks ago in the McKenna Cup final and we couldn't beat them."

Tyrone are now just one win away from almost certain safety, with a trip to face Mayo in Castlebar up next, while Donegal's situation looks a lot more grave, ahead of their trip to face Monaghan in Clones next Sunday.

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