After Donegal beat Cork in Ballyshannon in February, Neil McGee walked up the steps of the Aodh Ruadh clubhouse to speak to journalists. Concluding his duties, he wanted to know one result – how did Tyrone, a league lower, fare against Galway. “Good to know how the neighbours are getting on,” he smiled.
It is a rivalry that never stops. Karl Lacey made that clear two months after Donegal’s 2012 All-Ireland success when he reacted to the 2013 Ulster draw: “The Tyrone lads are already talking about how ‘Donegal aren’t as good as we are’. They have already had this chat about us.”
And yet Rory Gallagher and Mickey Harte tell us ahead of Sunday’s Ulster SFC final meeting there is nothing to see here.
All is sweetness and light, apparently. “I think that is much exaggerated as well,” said Harte last week.
“There are a lot of people speaking with wonderful authority about this vitriol that is supposed to exist between Tyrone and Donegal. They didn’t show us any evidence, they went on rumour and the rumour mill.”
Gallagher echoed his opposite number’s sentiments: “We played each other in 2011, 2012, 2013, massive games and there was very little in it. Last year, when all is said and done, I didn’t think there was much in it. I don’t think it was as bad as people made it out to be.”
Make what you will of the following chronicle of their most animated encounters these last 10 seasons but it’s difficult to agree it is anything but a testy relationship between these counties:
2015 Ulster preliminary round, Ballybofey.
Not only is it their most recent clash but their most heated one too. Both counties were fined €5,000 after a half-time altercation that also saw Tyrone selector Gavin Devlin suspended for eight weeks. Neil Gallagher (two yellows) and Sean Cavanagh (black and yellow) were put off by Joe McQuillan.
Justin McMahon did a detail on Michael Murphy that on several occasions warped the rules but it was Murphy who had the last laugh in winning the game for Donegal. That said, Donegal committed three times as many fouls as Tyrone and the off-the-ball incidents were too numerous to mention. Eleven yellow cards were shown but that was a conservative figure.
2015 Division 1, Ballybofey.
Murphy picked up a tactical black card to incur a one-match ban for cumulative disciplinary transgressions and Martin McElhinney was also shown one as a game easily won by Donegal descended into an unseemly affair in the closing stages.
2013 Ulster preliminary round, Ballybofey.
Prior to the game, Harte had said Tyrone owed Donegal a championship beating but the home side’s intent was obvious when Stephen O’Neill’s attempt to knock McGee off his stride saw the Tyrone star flung to the ground by the Donegal defender’s granite-like shoulder.Joe McMahon was cautioned twice in an ill- tempered encounter characterised by Niall Morgan’s badly judged attempt to stoke the Donegal crowd after kicking over an early free before missing his next five placed kicks and Donegal’s illegitimate encroaching on Morgan as he prepared to strike them.
2013 Division 1, Omagh.
A four-point win for Tyrone was also marked by Murphy and Gallaghers’ sending off for two yellow cards.
2012 Ulster semi-final, Clones.
A gripping encounter, the formations of each team were a mystery for the opening 15 minutes before they eventually settled.
Colm McFadden earned two yellow cards while Martin Penrose was denied what more than likely would have been a match-winning goal by Paul Durcan’s studs.
2011 Ulster semi-final, Clones.
Kevin Hughes was sent to the line just after the hour mark having added a yellow card for making contact with Michael Hegarty’s head to an earlier one having high-tackled Kevin Cassidy.
A typically intense affair with nine yellow cards being brandished,
Hughes’ actions were consistent with Tyrone’s frustrations as Donegal held them to three points for almost 50 minutes.
2011 McKenna Cup, Edendork.
Colm Cavanagh and Gallagher were both dismissed as tempers boiled over in a game that had begun with a minute’s silence for Michaela Harte, daughter of Mickey who was murdered while on honeymoon in Mauritius earlier in the month.
2007 Ulster semi-final, Clones.
A day of infamy for Donegal as they went down by 11 points while seeing both McFadden, for striking Brian Dooher, and Kevin McMenamin (two yellow cards) red carded.
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