By Francis Mooney
Donegal 1-13 Tyrone 0-6
Tyrone were plunged into a relegation crisis following a heavy defeat to north-west neighbours Donegal at Ballybofey today.
Ryan McHugh’s first half goal sent Rory Gallagher’s side on their way to a ten points success that steers them clear of the drop zone.
The home side led from start to finish, and there was never any sign of a Red Hand fightback in this dress rehearsal for the Ulster Championship clash of the sides on May 17.
The withdrawal of injured skipper Sean Cavanagh led to Conor Clarke’s first appearance of the season, with Ronan O’Neill also coming into the starting fifteen.
It took Michael Murphy just eight seconds to slot over the game’s opening score, and he followed up with a monster free from 55 metres.
The home side went ahead by 0-4 to 0-1 in the eleventh minute when Martin McElhinney and full back Neil McGee were on target, after Darren McCurry had got Tyrone off the mark with a free.
The Red Hands narrowed the gap with scores from Ronan O’Neill and Connor McAliskey, who squeezed over a free from a tight angle, but McElhinney’s second restored the two points advantage.
Murphy added two more frees, including another 55 metre special as the home side used the gusting wind to advantage, moving 0-7 to 0-3 ahead by the 23rd minute.
Karl Lacey and Neil McGee were always willing to venture forward from the back, while Neil Gallagher was the source of primary possession around the middle for Rory Gallagher’s side.
And they struck for a goal in the 31st minute. Frank McGlynn’s shot came back off a post for Hugh McFadden to gather and send in a shot that was saved by sub goalkeeper Sean Fox, but Ryan McHugh nipped in to finish from close range.
Donegal led by 1-9 to 0-3 at the interval, and that man Murphy thumped a 50 metre free through the posts, despite the breeze gusting in his face, to push his side’s advantage into double figures.
The Red Hands, despite the introduction of skipper Cavanagh, could make no headway, falling further behind to a Ryan McHugh effort
Peter Harte launched a long range effort in the 47th minute, and further narrowed the gap with a 47 metre free.
Donegal almost had a second goal when they countered at pace, but Justin McMahon turned McHugh’s effort round a post.
Murphy, with a six points haul to his credit, had his afternoon brought to an end when he picked up a black card for a challenge on Sean Cavanagh ten minutes from the end, and the excellent McElhinney also picked up a black.
The final 15 minutes produced just one score, a free from Sean Cavanagh, as the game ended in a whimper in front of a crowd of 8,500.
Donegal: M Boyle, E Doherty, N McGee (0-1), E McGee, F McGlynn (0-2), K Lacey, R McHugh, N Gallagher, C Toye, M Reilly, O MacNiallais (0-1), M McElhinney (0-2), P McBrearty (0-1, f), M Murphy (0-6, 5f), H McFadden.
Subs: C McFadden for Gallagher, A Thompson for Murphy (BC), D McLaughlin for McElhinney (BC), M McHugh for R McHugh, G McFadden for N McGee, D Walsh for O’Reilly
Tyrone: N Morgan, A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron, R McNabb, J McMahon, P Harte (0-2, 1f), C Cavanagh, P McNulty, T McCann, M Donnelly, R O’Neill (0-1), D McCurry (0-1, f), C Clarke, C McAliskey (0-1, f).
Subs: S Fox for Morgan, S Cavanagh (0-1, f) for O’Neill, C McCann for McNulty, PJ Lavery for McAliskey, R McKenna for Clarke, P Hughes for C Cavanagh
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).