A BARNSTORMING finale from a red hot Tyrone has catapulted them to within one game of a Sam Maguire showdown in September.
The Red Hands booked their place in the All-Ireland semi-final with an impressive 2-17 to 1-13 win over Donegal at Ballybofey. It was their first at the venue in the championship for 45 years and sparked jubilant celebrations at the final whistle.
Goal specialist, Harry Loughran, got the vital first goal to put them 1-13 to 1-11 ahead entering the final minutes. Then, Declan McClure made certain by grabbing the second to climax a famous victory.
But this was overall an outstanding team performance. Colm Cavanagh led by example, while Mark Bradley, Peter Harte, team captain, Mattie Donnelly and Kieran McGeary also excelled as a number of substitutions proved absolutely crucial.
For all that, though, things were looking decidedly dicey for Tyrone at times. After a good start, during which they led by 0-4 to 0-2 thanks to points from Tiarnan McCann, Mark Bradley, Connor McAliskey and Mattie Donnelly, the home team took control.
By half-time, they were firmly on top. Michael Murphy’s wonderfully struck goal left them enjoying a 1-6 to 0-6 interval lead and they continued to hold the upper hand on the resumption as well.
Points from Jamie Brennan, Odhran MacNiallias and Paddy McGrath helped them into what looked like a commanding 1-10 to 0-9 lead at one stage. Urgent action was being demanded from Tyrone and it was produced in bucketfuls.
The final quarter saw them really make their mark. Lee Brennan, Padraig Hampsey and Kieran McGeary all scored to leave just the minimum between the teams, 1-11 to 0-13, for the home side.
Then came the crucial first Tyrone goal. A strong run from Tiarnan McCann culminated in him playing the ball to Harry Loughran who fired home from close range to leave them 1-13 to 1-11 ahead.
It was a score which sparked great celebrations and provided the impetus for Tyrone to press ahead. Matthew Donnelly extended the lead to two, before Niall Morgan and Lee Brennan left them 1-16 to 1-12 ahead.
Nothing except a disaster was going to deny them then, but they were in no mood to relinquish control. Instead, Ronan McNamee forged forward to score, as Declan McClure’s goal right at the end completed a memorable win.