Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Uladh

Ulster SFC Semi Final: Donegal overcome Tyrone to reach decider

April 29th, 2024

Ulster SFC Semi-Final

Donegal 0-18 Tyrone 0-16 AET


Donegal are back in an Ulster SFC final for the first time since 2020 after edging out Tyrone in an extra-time thriller at Celtic Park.

This was a memorable contest that enthralled a crowd of 14,714 from start to finish, and a Donegal side that chased the game for long spells came strong in the vital closing stages, hitting decisive late scores through Paddy McBrearty and Shane O’Donnell.

With Jason McGee laying on a towering midfield display, they withstood all the Red Hands could throw at them, and won an immense battle of wits to earn a title showdown with Armagh at Clones on May 12.

Donegal suffered a pre-match blow in the loss of goalkeeper Shaun Patton, ruled out by injury. Gavin Mulreany stepped in as replacement, while Tyrone made three late changes to their starting line-up, with Conn Kilpatrick, Cathal McShane and Mickey O’Neill coming in.

Tyrone’s strategy of conceding the opposition kick-out allowed Donegal to build from deep, but they lacked the penetration to break down a well organised defensive formation.

And the Red Hands flooded the opposition half with bodies on the counter to cancel out Niall O’Donnell’s early score

They were in front by the 10th minute, Darren McCurry and Darragh Canavan on target from frees.

With Mattie Donnelly and Michael McKernan constantly probing from deep, the Red Hands had Donegal pinned back in their own half for sustained spells.

Their heavy press prevented dynamic wing backs Ryan McHugh and Peadar Mogan from making their trademark offensive runs.

But Oisin Gallen and Daire O Baoill kept them very much in touch, and Ciaran Thompson steered over a brilliant score despite the pressure of two defenders. Their finishing was less than efficient otherwise, and a rash of wides curtailed their efforts.

The Red Hands eased two points clear through Seanie O’Donnell and Ciaran Daly, who sliced over a delightful effort from wide on the right, after being picked out by goalkeeper Niall Morgan’s searching pass.

The ‘keeper also hit the target from a free, and his restarts were excellent. When he varied to go long, Brian Kennedy fetched on the opposition 45 metre lien to send Cathal McShane in for the sore that sent Tyrone in with a 0-8 to 0-5 interval lead.

Donegal came out for the second half a transformed side, with midfielder Jason McGee charging through to pick off a couple of points in the opening five minutes.

Energy levels were significantly risen as they blunted Tyrone’s press, and a superb move involving Caolan McGonagle, Mark Curran and Peadar Mogan ended with O’Donnell popping over a delightful score.

Curran and McHugh were hurting the Red Hands with their overlapping runs, while centre back McGonagle pressed through the middle, and now Donegal were looking more like the side that had shocked defending provincial champions Derry at the same venue eight days earlier.

Daire O’Baoill broke tackles to bring the sides level in the 48th minute, and a Tyrone attack starved of possession was growing increasingly frustrated.

Nevertheless Morgan kept their noses in front with a couple of long range scores, and Ciaran Daly restored the two points advantage.

A turnover provided a further momentum shifter as Canavan hoisted a long range point, and the gains earned by Donegal had been wiped out in the space of two minutes.

However, a gripping contest was deadlocked again by the 55th minute as Gallen tapped over a free.

Michael Langan and McGee now edged the midfield battle over Brian Kennedy and Conn Kilpatrick, but Morgan was still able to launch attacks with his precision restarts, creating scores for McKernan and Canavan.

But deep into stoppage time, an intense spell of pressure finally gave Donegal what they so desperately needed, an equaliser from full back Brendan McCole to tie it up at 0-14 each, turning the rebound over the bar after Morgan had saved from Aaron Doherty.

In to extra-time, and Jeaic McKelvey fisted Donegal for the first time since the ninth minute, but the drama continued as their opponents wrested back the lead through McKernan.

They were level for the ninth time before Niall O’Donnell surged through to punch over the lead point, sending Donegal in at the break with a 0-17 to 0-16 advantage.

Scorers for Donegal: O Gallen 0-3 (3f), N O’Donnell, C Thompson, J McGee, D O Baoill, P McBrearty (1f) 0-2 each, P Mogan, C McGonagle, B McCole, J McKelvey, S O’Donnell 0-1 each.

Scorers for Tyrone: D Canavan 0-4 (1f, 1m), N Morgan 0-3 (3f), D McCurry (2f), C Daly, M McKernan 0-2 each, C McShane, S O’Donnell, M Donnelly 0-1 each.

Donegal: G Mulreany; M Curran, B McCole, C Moore; R McHugh, C McGonagle, P Mogan; J Magee, M Langan; S O’Donnell, C Thompson, D O Baoill; P McBrearty, O Gallen, N O’Donnell.

Subs: A Doherty for McBrearty (HT), J Brennan for O Baoill (49), J McKelvey for Curran (74), McBrearty for Doherty (71), O Baoill for Moore (71), Doherty for Gallen (81).

Tyrone: N Morgan; C Devlin, P Hampsey, M McKernan; S O’Donnell, M Donnelly, N Devlin; B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick; C Daly, K McGeary, M O’Neill; D McCurry, D Canavan, C McShane.

Subs: A Clarke for C Devlin (40), B Cullen for McGeary (62), R Canavan for O’Neill (75), A Donaghy for McShane (87), C Donnelly for Kilpatrick (88).

Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).

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