By Barry O’Donnell
While Tyrone captain Stephen O’Neill was pleased to claim the scalp of All-Ireland champions Donegal yesterday (Sunday) in the National League, he insisted that the outcome would have no relevance come Championship time.
The two counties are due to meet in the Ulster Championship first round at Ballybofey on May 26th in an eagerly awaited clash.
A second half goal from O’Neill helped the Red Hands lay down an early psychological marker as they eased to a 1-13 to 0-12 Division One victory over the Tir Conaill visitors, who finished the match with just thirteen men.
A bumper crowd of almost 10,000 at Healy Park on Sunday saw these two Ulster heavyweights produce another high-octane, explosive seventy minutes, but O’Neill warned that the intensity levels would be cranked up another notch or two come the Championship.
“ We are delighted to make it three league wins in a row. There was a big crowd with both sets of supporters turning out in good numbers. It made for a great occasion. But the real thing will be in a couple of months times (Championship clash) and that will be an even bigger one. If we lose to Donegal in May then this victory will count for nothing.”
The Clann na nGael ace also joined in the plaudits for man-of the match Niall Morgan, who slotted over three scores from the placed ball and also produced an excellent save to turn aside Michael Murphy’s well struck penalty in first half injury time.
“ It was very important. We were hoping to have a lead going in at half-time so if Niall hadn’t pulled off that save we would be going in a point down. It was a massive boost for us going in at the break.”
Despite maintaining their 100 per cent winning record, O’Neill argued that stiffer tests in the now lay ahead, beginning with the visit of seemingly perennial league champions Cork to Omagh this weekend.
“ You never get an easy game against Cork. They have two long trips north back to back on successive weekends so hopefully that will take its toll on them. But they’ve been league champions for the last three years and have dominated this competition. We expect another tough physical game next Sunday.”