TYRONE’S bid for seven McKenna Cup titles in a row was scuppered by Donegal after an entertaining final at Armagh on Saturday night.
Early goals at either end from Harry Loughran and Martin McElhinney set the tone for a thrilling opening quarter with scores coming thick and fast at either end.
Donegal always looked the hungrier, more fluent of the two sides and by the 15th minute had built up a 1-7 to 1-2 advantage, with their lively wing back Daire O’Baoill twice on target.
Kieran McGeary and Cathal McCarron bulldozed up the pitch to good effect for Tyrone as they sought to eat into the deficit and a couple of pointed frees from Ronan O’Neill brought them back into contention, with McCarron also registering.
Defensively Tyrone continued to struggle though, with Donegal piercing through them at will, and at the half-time break the Tir Chonnail led 1-9 to 1-6.
The Red Hands introduced some of their big hitters in the second half, including Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte, and it was a switch which seemed to have the desired effect as Ronan O’Neill scores helped to draw them back level at 1-10 apiece by the 45th minute.
A couple of inspirational points from their talisman Michael Murphy ensured that Donegal eased out in front again and while Tyrone bossed plenty of possession they struggled to penetrate the massed ranks they encountered around the Donegal ’45’.
With Paul Brennan and Murphy (two frees) on the mark, Donegal saw the job out with relative ease, Tyrone losing their captain Mattie Donnelly to a second yellow card in the closing stages.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte believed that the lack of a clinical edge at crucial stages ultimately cost his side dear.
“We put on some senior players and Donegal did the same thing. It was a close encounter and there was times when we could have taken a hold on the game.
“In the first half we created more than decent goal chances and we didn’t get anything out of it.”
“We needed to get those scores and obviously then Donegal pushed ahead in the second half. We got back level with them with points but they just picked off the scores again.
“There’s no-one better in that situation at holding onto a lead than Donegal and they did it very well. We needed a goal and we weren’t going to get a goal in that second half.”
“I thought it was a very good competitive match. It was a good spectacle for the final of the McKenna Cup. Donegal had their designs on winning it and now they have it.”
• Full reaction in Monday’s Tyrone Herald
Posted: 5:04 pm February 18, 2018