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We must step it up for Ulster final, says Bonner


Don deal: Donegal’s Jamie Brennan celebrates scoring for Donegal
Don deal: Donegal’s Jamie Brennan celebrates scoring for Donegal
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Donegal manager Declan Bonner delivered a tactical masterclass to keep their Anglo-Celt defence on track and become the first side through to the Ulster final, mixing an intoxicating blend of rapid-fire offensive kickpassing with superb drift defence.

It once again directs Tyrone to the back door, from where they launched an impressive recovery last year to eventually reach the All-Ireland final, but they surely have their woes as they go about picking up the pieces.

Head of that list is wing-back Tiernan McCann. He may be injured anyway as he had to go off with what looked like a hamstring problem, but he could be suspended when the powers that be review an incident caught on camera when his hand made contact with Donegal defender Stephen McMenamin, before his boot also landed on the St Eunan's man's head in the 43rd minute.

Asked about it afterwards, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte replied: "I wasn't looking through the lens of a TV, as you might well imagine. I was standing on the sideline as I always do. If something happens a distance away from me, I cannot see every detail that goes on.

"You obviously had a better view of that than I did, because I know nothing about it."

Bonner also didn't pick up on it in real time, saying: "I only heard about it afterwards. I didn't actually see it at the time. Stephen is made of stern stuff but, if that was the case, it's not acceptable."

The story of this game was how Donegal got almost everything right, while Tyrone didn't help their cause.

Cautioned by the Red Hands' success with the long ball over the spring, Bonner deployed man-mountain Hugh McFadden as a sweeper and he got his hand to almost everything. Cathal McShane and attacking partner Mattie Donnelly, who was looked after by McMenamin, were peripheral figures.

Jamie Brennan continued his form by hitting a brilliant 1-3 in the first half, the goal arriving as early as the fourth minute when, from one of Shaun Patton's excellent kickouts, Eoghan Ban Gallagher spotted the man from Bundoran who kept his head for a cool finish.

Within the next four minutes he had another two points on the board and by the break you sensed the game was over for Tyrone, 0-5 to 1-9 behind.

"I thought in the first half we played really, really well. In the second half we were a bit sloppy at times but overall it was a pleasing performance," said Bonner.

"Tyrone last year came from the back door to the All-Ireland final and they are one of the top teams in the country."

Donegal were exciting in attack but when occasion demanded, they got everyone back and at times it was like being transported to some of the battles in 2011, 2012 and 2013 with the central shooting channel swarmed with men in green and gold as they squeezed a Tyrone side running out of ideas.

"It's the way the game has gone," reasoned Bonner.

"Any of the top teams, that's the way they try to play. I don't know what it was like for the neutral but from the sideline it looked to be a high-tempo game. A lot of quality at times. We've got to step up and improve, I don't know how many wides we kicked but it was a good number."

Tactically, Tyrone were so one-dimensional but even at that the decisions made felt odd. For instance, they gave a first start in a competitive game to Liam Rafferty. Being handed a role tailing Ryan McHugh was some responsibility.

They got the scoreline back at the end, but the game was in garbage time.

Tyrone boss Harte felt aggrieved after the decision by referee David Gough to award Peter Harte a black card. He said: "There were a few key incidents in the first half that changed the script of the game, one of them being the sending off of Peter Harte for this magnificent black card which, for me, didn't fit any of the criteria necessary.

"I always thought black was for a deliberate pull down, a trip by hand or foot or obstruction of a player after the ball is played. To me, it was a mistimed tackle and it had a crucial impact on the outcome of the game.

"After the early goal for Donegal, those two things together left us in a very bad place."

Donegal are off to the Ulster final for the eighth time in nine years. Tyrone are for the back door.

TYRONE: N Morgan 0-2, 1x'45', 1f; P Hampsey, R McNamee, M McKernan; T McCann, B McDonnell, K McGeary 0-2; C Cavanagh, R Donnelly 0-2; L Rafferty, B Kennedy, F Burns; C McShane 0-4, 3f, P Harte, M Donnelly

Subs: C McAliskey for Harte (12m - Black card), R Brennan for Rafferty, N Sludden for Cavanagh (Both HT), D McCurry 0-3, 1f, for McDonnell (41m), M Cassidy for Burns (52m), A McCrory for McCann (56m)

Yellow cards: Burns (47m), McGeary, R Donnelly (69m), Kennedy (73m)

Black cards: Harte (12m)

Red cards: 0

DONEGAL: S Patton; P McGrath, N McGee, S McMenamin 0-1; R McHugh 0-1, N O'Donnell, EB Gallagher; H McFadden 0-1, J McGee; E McHugh 0-1, L McLoone, J Brennan 1-3; P McBrearty 0-3, 1f, M Murphy 0-5, 2f, 1 x '45', M Langan 0-1

Subs: C Thompson for McGee (16m), D ÓBaoill for E McHugh (40m), F McGlynn for McLoone (48m), O Gallen for O'Donnell (54m), P Brennan for J Brennan (65m)

Yellow cards: N O'Donnell (51m)

Black cards: 0

Red cards: 0

Referee: David Gough (Meath)

Attendance: 13,579



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