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How Tyrone's hurts helped us make history, explains boss Mickey Harte

Tyrone 2-17 Donegal 1-13

By Declan Bogue

Its' between Ulster neighbours Tyrone and Monaghan for a place in the All-Ireland final against either Galway or Dublin, after the Red Hands blew Donegal's 21-game unbeaten streak here in Ballybofey to smithereens with a huge final last quarter.

It sets up an intriguing sideline battle between two Errigal Ciaran clubmen in Malachy O'Rourke and Mickey Harte. Monaghan have already drew first blood in the first round of the Ulster Championship but that feels like a lifetime ago now.

Harte's men had been listing and showed no signs of gaining their first win here in Championship since 1973 when corner-back Paddy McGrath put the home side four points clear with just 18 minutes of normal time remaining.

From then on, Tyrone ate their opponents alive with 2-7 scored to 0-2 in reply in a game that had a real Old-School Ulster Championship feel with everything on the line.

Two goals and three points of that figure came from the substitutes that completely transformed the pattern of the game. Chief among them were Kieran McGeary, with his willingness to plough through tackles, and the jinking Lee Brennan who was scalding hot and showed off his fine array of dummies in hitting four points, three of them from play.

There was a suspicion that there is another gear or two in the Tyrone engine after their finish against Dublin in Healy Park. They pressured their opponents into coughing up four of the last five kickouts that night, and with the game opening up here the replacements contributed 2-5 in total, Donegal's bench mustering up just a single point.

A surprisingly composed Mickey Harte said afterwards, "It was evident that we weren't going to lie down, it was going to be a battle to the end - and we felt if it was a battle to the end we've been through enough good battles this year to maybe be in a better position to deal with it.

"We've had our hurts, we've had our defeats, we've had our near misses, and we just knew that today we really had to try to make history for ourselves - and I think we've done that."

After McGrath's point, Tyrone put together an irresistible run of form. Referee Joe McQuillan spotted Donegal's Stephen McMenamin holding onto Lee Brennan off the ball and he converted the free. Padraig Hampsey added another a minute later.

Kieran McGeary then took a ball off Tiernan McCann and burrowed past Hugh McFadden to kick an inspirational point and after Michael Murphy choked a '45' attempt to redress the balance for Donegal, another slick Tyrone move ended with the excellent Tiernan McCann squaring to Harry Loughran to bundle home to go two points up.

Loughran has the hang of hitting vital goals, getting one in the All-Ireland Intermediate final to win it for his club Moy back in February, and he rescued Tyrone in the first round of the qualifiers against Meath.

A game that was full of incident appeared to be going to the usual script between these sides for long stretches.

The scoring was nip-tuck for the first half, but there were signs in Connor McAliskey's radar being off that Tyrone needed reinvention.

For all that, they were enjoying a lot of possession from their own long kickout. Which made it inexplicable that goalkeeper Niall Morgan attempted a short kickout to Hampsey just before the break, with Ryan McHugh nipping in to rob the ball, releasing Murphy who rattled the top corner of the net, even after Morgan got a hand to the bullet shot. The sides went in at the break with Donegal on top, 1-6 to 0-6.

Enter Lee Brennan in the 39th minute for the struggling Richard Donnelly. His first point took three minutes to arrive with an adornment of a dummy. A minute later he repeated the dose.

Having struggled for scores in the first half, the Trillick man showed that Donegal could be vulnerable after their resistance on the 45 metre line was softened up.

McGeary followed that up and once the goal went in, Tyrone found the bounce of the ball that had eluded them in the first half was now favouring them.

Eoghan Ban Gallagher pointed in reply but from that kickout Morgan found Harte in space who transferred to Mattie Donnelly to kick his second point.

Morgan even travelled to clip over a free before another cheeky show and go from Brennan freed up enough space to add another point on.

That left four in it with normal time up. The sideline official signified seven additional minutes to be played and in the fifth minute of that, Tyrone full-back Ronan McNamee, a serious injury doubt for this, got far enough up the pitch to nab a score, which brought huge cheers for the man hard on the Donegal border.

A Donegal onslaught never materialised.

They were left with a free kick 15 metres from the Tyrone goal and Murphy never caught it right, it was brought up the free through Harte who kicked a long pass to Rory Brennan and worked through another sub who made an excellent contribution in Conall McCann, leaving Loughran to place - yes, yet another sub Declan McClure - to drill home for the second goal in the last play of the game.

This performance puts Tyrone in different territory. There are no secrets now and the backdoor has sharpened their wits considerably.

Job done. Hoodoos broken. Donegal beaten on their own patch and an All-Ireland semi-final to look forward to seven days later.

And against Monaghan too, who they beat in quarter-finals in 2013 and 2015.


TYRONE: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee 0-1, F Burns; M Donnelly 0-2, C McShane, C Cavanagh 0-1, P Hampsey 0-2; C Meyler, P Harte 0-1f, N Sludden; C McAliskey 0-2f, M Bradley 0-1, R Donnelly

Subs: R Brennan for McKernan (Black card, 5m), L Brennan 0-4, 1f, for R Donnelly (39m), K McGeary 0-1, for Burns (39m), H Loughran 1-0, for McAliskey (48m), C McCann for McShane (53m), D McClure 1-0, for Sludden (68m)

DONEGAL: S Patton; P McGrath 0-1, N McGee, S McMenamin; F McGlynn, E Doherty, EB Gallagher 0-1; M Murphy 1-2, 0-1f, 0-1f '45', H McFadden; R McHugh 0-1, M Langan 0-1, L McLoone; C Thompson 0-1, O MacNiallais 0-2, J Brennan 0-3

Subs: P Brennan for Thompson (49m), N O'Donnell 0-1 for MacNiallais (56m), A Thompson for McGlynn (61m), M McElhinney for Langan (63m), M O'Reilly for McLoone (67m), M McHugh for McGrath (71m)

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

Attendance: 16,282.

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