Red faces for Red Hands as Donegal tame Tyrone
Donegal 2-6 Tyrone 0-9: For the first time in 13 years neither Tyrone nor Armagh will take delivery of the provincial senior football crown.
The Orchard County's tame exit from this year's title race at the hands of Derry last weekend has now been followed by the curt dismissal of Mickey Harte's team who were pummelled into submission by a plucky rather than inspired Donegal in an absorbing contest at Clones yesterday.
The disruption to the status quo in Ulster, which has been on the cards, has now morphed into sharp reality and the domestic landscape has been altered dramatically.
And if ever a team reached a decider the hard way then that side is Donegal. Despite their own glaring shortcomings - poor passing, wrong options, lack of invention and unnecessary fouling - they still managed to resurrect sufficient character, courage and finishing power to jettison the Red Hands' cherished ambition of landing three titles on the trot.
Uncertain and insecure for the greater part of the first-half, Donegal's more expansive overall approach after the break allied to defensive resilience and superb marksmanship carried them into an Ulster final meeting with Derry on July 17.
Clearly intimidated by Tyrone's reputation, movement and scoring power in the opening segment, Donegal gradually found their rhythm, permitting their opponents just a solitary score from the 51st minute until the end.
Manager Jim McGuinness will have learned a great deal, though.
And the biggest lesson he will have absorbed is that his team must undertake a considerable amount of work on the training ground if they hope to challenge the footballing superpowers.
Tyrone shot nine wides overall, lost Kevin Hughes to a red card in the 61st minute and were forced to replace some of their most decorated foot soldiers including Joe McMahon, Owen Mulligan, Stephen O'Neill, Brian McGuigan and Brian Dooher.
These grim statistics explain why Donegal are today strongly contemplating a first provincial triumph since 1992.
If their team, as a unit, did not attain a high level of cohesion and consistency, then a cluster of outstanding individual performances compensated for the collective flaws.
Mark McHugh was outstanding both in attack and defence, skipper Michael Murphy revelled in the second-half after an anonymous early spell, Anthony Thompson remained a defensive rock throughout despite a booking, Kevin Cassidy's never-say-die effort saw him make some critical ball-winning tackles and Karl Lacey's industry and hunger rubbed off on those around him.
Tyrone all but claimed ownership of the ball in the first quarter, their stranglehold only fleetingly interrupted when 17-year-old Patrick McBrearty hoisted Donegal's first score in the 14th minute.
Prior to that Mulligan, Sean Cavanagh, Philip Jordan and Dooher were all on target for the Red Hands.
Yet six wides hinted at Tyrone's profligacy and although O'Neill and Cavanagh eased the holders into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead by the 26th minute, wayward passing on occasions unhinged their strategy and tended to leave them exposed.
This was clinically exploited in a blistering ten-minute spell just before the interval when Donegal shook off their inhibitions and launched a series of telling counter-attacks that brought points from Kevin Rafferty, Colm McFadden and the willing Cassidy.
Yet they could have been plunged into deep trouble had the alert Thompson not superbly blocked O'Neill's 33rd minute shot.
As it was, Tyrone held only a modest 0-6 to 0-4 at the break despite their territorial advantage.
But the Red Hands became the authors of their own misfortune after the break. Peter Harte missed two kickable frees, Michael Murphy began to win more ball up front putting Neil McGee under more pressure and suddenly Tyrone were on the back foot.
The Donegal revival gathered further pace in the 55th minute when the McHugh's crossfield pass eventually reached McFadden who hammered home a splendid goal to give his side the lead for the first time at 1-6 to 0-8.
It was an advantage that they were to enhance in considerable style, substitute Dermot Molloy thundering in their second goal in the 72nd minute after the spadework had been done by Murphy.
Tired legs, a midfield that had lost its shape and the fall-out from that depressing litany of wides combined to take a heavy toll on Tyrone's spirit.
No real surprise then that Donegal breasted the tape in some comfort - but they know that bigger challenges lie on the horizon.
Tyrone: P McConnell; M Swift, J McMahon, R McMenamin; D Harte, C Gormley, P Jordan (0-1); K Hughes, S Cavanagh (0-2, 0-1 free); B Dooher (0-1), B McGuigan, P Harte (0-1, free); O Mulligan (0-1), S O'Neill (0-2), M Donnelly. Subs: Justin McMahon for Joe McMahon (49), M Penrose (0-1) for Mulligan (51), K Cassidy for O'Neill (62), T McGuigan for B McGuigan (63), C Cavanagh for Dooher (69). Yellow cards: B McGuigan (42 mins), Hughes (59), P Harte (66). Red card: Hughes (61).
Donegal: P Durcan; K Lacey, N McGee, P McGrath; K Cassidy (0-1), A Thompson, F McGlynn,; R Kavanagh, K Rafferty (0-1); M McElhinney, M McHugh, R Bradley; C McFadden (1-1), M Murphy (0-2, 0-1 free), P McBrearty (0-1). Subs: M Hegarty for McElhinney (23 mins), L McLoone for Bradley (45), D Molloy for McLoone.
Yellow cards: Kavanagh (5 mins), McHugh (37), McLoone (46), Thompson (55), Murphy (65), McGee (72).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).