Tipp have two games left in the battle to avoid the drop – a visit to Armagh on Sunday followed by a vital home fixture against Westmeath on April 11. But the Premier County now find themselves in a dangerous position after falling to a third defeat in five matches on Saturday evening.
Donegal can count themselves fortunate to have claimed maximum points from their trip to SempleStadium but John Joe Doherty’s men are now surely clear of the relegation zone and back in the hunt forpromotion.
Tipp were left to rue a tally of 11 wides while Barry Grogan missed a glorious one-on-one goal chance in the 3rd minute which was saved by Paul Durcan.
Donegal netminder Durcan turned villain, however, in the 22nd minute as he came through a ruck of players to collect Stephen Hahessy’s 45 but failed to make contact and the ball ended up in the back of the net.
That goal handed Tipp a first-half lifeline after they had fallen 0-5 to 0-1 behind, with 2009 Young Footballer of the Year Michael Murphy hitting four of Donegal’s scores.
At the break, the visitors led 0-6 to 1-1, but Tipp were back in contention and motoring with real momentum in the early stages of the second-half.
Just a point behind (1-3 to 0-7) Tipp looked to have the game for the taking but Neil Gallagher’s brilliant catch at midfield led to sub Stephen Griffin’s 49th minute goal for Donegal.
It was a crucial score as Michael Murphy added two quick-fire frees to push Donegal 1-9 to 1-3 in front.
Tipp came roaring back again when Robbie Costigan netted in the 57th minute and Grogan added two frees, the last in stoppage time, but Donegal clung on for a one-point win.
Under lights, just 471 spectators were present and that attendance disappointed Evans, who recognises the battle for the hearts and minds of the GAA public in a traditional hurling county.
He admitted: “It’s a hurling county, I’ve said that. Look, Donegal had more support than we had. It’s disappointing. “That’s the negative but we have the players and that’s thepositive. We should have won that game. We showed a bit of inexperience and we had some great chances that we should have put away.”
Doherty revealed that midfielder Rory Kavanagh will return to the squad in two weeks’ time afterreturning home from a spell abroad while Christy Toye is nearing a return to fitness following a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Doherty also stated that the door remains opens for defender Eamonn McGee if he returns home from London.
Scorers for Donegal: M Murphy 0-7 (5f), S Griffin 1-0, C McFadden 0-2 (1f).
Scorers for Tipperary: R Costigan 1-1, S Hahessy 1-0 (45), B Grogan 0-2f, P Austin & B Coen 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY: P Fitzgerald; C McDonald, N Curran, P Codd; C Aylward, R Costigan, C McGrath; G Hannigan, H Coghlan; P Acheson, P Austin, B Mulvihill; S Hahessy, B Coen, B Grogan.
Subs: S Carey for Mulvihill (h/t), J Cagney for Hahessy (49), R O’Dwyer for Austin (63), D Bourke for McGrath (64), A Rockett for Coghlan (67).
DONEGAL: P Durcan; S Boyle, N McGee, K Lacey; M Maguire, A Thompson, K Cassidy; N Gallagher, B Boyle; B Dunnion, C Dunne, D Walsh; C McFadden, M Murphy, A Hanlon.
Subs: F McGlynn for Maguire (h/t), S Griffin for Hanlon (h/t), O Waide for Boyle (44), L McCloone for Dunnion (64).
Referee: M Collins (Cork).