Bank of Ireland Dr. McKenna Cup Final
Donegal 1-16 Tyrone 1-12
Donegal ended Tyrone’s six-year domination of the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup in a fast-paced, entertaining final in the Athletic Grounds.
With a big league game to come between these north-west rivals in two weeks time, there was an element of shadow-boxing about this one as both sides fielded inexperienced line-ups.
Yet there was a good deal of ambition shown by both sides in a surprisingly open game as both managers unleashed the heavy artillery in the second half.
Paddy McBrearty wasn’t in the Donegal squad, but Neil McGee made his first appearance of the year and Michael Murphy also came on, scoring 0-3.
Peter Harte, Niall Sludden and Mattie Donnelly – who was sent off late on after picking up two yellow cards – entered the fray for Tyrone, who only scored two points in the final 29 minutes.
Daire O Baoill struck the first point after 30 seconds and on two occasions early on, Tyrone drew level through Conall McCann and Kieran McGeary before Harry Loughran’s sidefoot finish from close range put Tyrone in front for the only time, at 1-2 to 0-4, after seven minutes.
Donegal were playing with a lot of exuberance and with Ciaran Thompson giving Aidan McCrory the runaround, they had plenty of scoring opportunities.
Thompson’s quick ball into Martin McElhinney resulted in a Donegal goal after 10 minutes, the latter’s deft left-foot finish putting them 1-4 to 1-2 ahead.
They briefly stretched the lead to five, through Odhran MacNiallais, Marty Reilly (free) and Paul Brennan, but Tyrone were better in the second quarter and stayed in touch.
Darren McCurry and Ronan O’Neill started to get their hands on the ball and Cathal McCarron bounced forward for a lovely left-footed point to reduce the deficit to a very manageable 1-9 to 1-6 at the break.
The fun didn’t last long once the big hitters arrived in the second half and the game slowed down into a more attritional, dogged affair.
Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Niall Sludden and Cathal McShane came on for Tyrone and the holders outscored Donegal by four points to one in the opening 10 minutes after the restart, Ronan O’Neill with three of them.
Yet every time Tyrone drew level, Donegal responded. Niall O’Donnell, one of their new forwards, kicked 0-3 from play as the game came back to life after a subdued third quarter.
Donegal lost by 12 points to Tyrone in last year’s championship and while most of these young players weren’t involved, they played with an intent that 2018 will be different.
Murphy came on for the last half an hour and almost immediately scored his first point of 2018, going around Paudie Hampsey to dispatch a skyscraper between the posts.
Keen to get some game-time into rusty legs before next week’s relegation battle with Kildare, Bonner brought Neil McGee on for his first appearance of the year in the 70th minute at start of five minutes’ stoppage time.
Paul Brennan and Murphy added late points to lift the first piece of silverware under Declan Bonner’s reign.
Scorers for Donegal: M McElhinney 1-1, N O’Donnell 0-3, M Murphy 0-3 (2f), M Reilly 0-2 (1f), D O Baoill, P Brennan 0-2 each, F McGlynn, O MacNiallais, C Thompson 0-1 each
Scorers for Tyrone: R O’Neill 0-6 (5f), H Loughran 1-1, C McCarron, K McGeary, C McCann, D McClure, D McCurry 0-1 each
DONEGAL: S Patton; S McMenamin, C Morrison, F McGlynn; E Doherty, P Brennan, D O Baoill; O MacNiallais, H McFadden; C Thompson, M McElhinney, M McHugh; C McGonigle, S McBrearty, M Reilly. Subs: N O’Donnell for McBrearty (25), M Murphy for McElhinney (42), N Mullins for Reilly (46), C Ward for McGlynn (53), B McCole for McGonigle (63), N McGee for Doherty (70)
TYRONE: M O’Neill; A McCrory, C McCarron, B Burns; M Cassidy, R McNabb, K McGeary; R McNamee, B McDonnell; D McClure, H Loughran, C McCann; D McCurry, R McHugh, R O’Neill. Subs: C McShane for Cassidy (41), M Donnelly for McClure (41), P Harte for McGeary (42), HP McGeary for McCrory (50), C Meyler for McDonnell (54), N Sludden for Loughran (60)
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)