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‘The longer the game went on, the more confident I felt’ – Jim McGuinness hails Donegal players after edging out Tyrone


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This is McGuinness’ difficult second album. Having quite literally changed the game last time around, what could he do this time?

So far, he is finding the answers.

Here, his side unpicked a stubborn and smart Tyrone. There was none of the shock and awe of a few weeks ago when they dismantled Derry, but for Donegal there were different qualities required. They pulled themselves level on seven separate occasions in the first 70 minutes, including the last score of normal time to force additional periods.

And at the end, they held their nerve and shape to keep Tyrone scoreless in the second half of extra-time and return to the Ulster final.

“Tyrone were brilliant in terms of gameplan, asking all the right questions, not allowing us to get into a flow,” McGuinness reflected.

“They had the threat of the goalkeeper coming out and over the top, so it was very pleasing from our point of view that we found a way to win it. I think from the half-time period onwards, we kind of grew into the game a lot better, we kept the ball a lot better, we found those moments a lot better, our decision-making was much better, and we can still improve certainly.

“I felt the longer the game went on, the more confident I felt that we could get over the line, even though it was one of those games that ended up just being a cliffhanger all the way. Just absolutely delighted.”

Last weekend, Tyrone joint manager Brian Dooher accepted his side had lots to find on the basis of their performance against Cavan. And in the first half they played with purpose. With Mattie Donnelly controlling the tempo, they picked their moments and kicked the last three points of the half to go in 0-8 to 0-5 up.

Donegal looked frustrated at times and had kicked six first-half wides and dropped another three efforts short. But the game followed a similar pattern throughout normal time. Tyrone would open up a small lead and Donegal would peg them back.

Darragh Canavan’s fourth point from a mark had Tyrone one up with four minutes to play. And when Alan Clarke broke up a Donegal move that looked like it might lead to a goal, Dooher’s men were within touching distance. But on 72 minutes, Donegal worked another chance. Aaron Doherty’s goal bound effort was blocked but defender Brendan McCole, more known for his man-marking abilities, picked up the loose ball and pointed to force extra time (0-14 each). No one in the 14,714 strong crowd was leaving.

Jeaic MacCeallbhuí got the first point of extra time to give Donegal the lead for the first time since the fifth minute. The superb Donnelly and Michael McKernan responded before Paddy McBrearty – who didn’t start the previous week against Derry and who’d been brought back on here after being withdrawn in normal time – equalised from a free. And Shane O’Donnell gave Donegal a one-point half-time lead

There would be just one score in the second half of extra-time, McBrearty kicking the insurance point as Tyrone, playing their second period of extra-time in seven days, faded.

“I couldn’t ask any more of them,” said Dooher. “They did everything that was expected, (we) just ran out of juice a wee bit at the end up and it’s no shame after two weeks in a row, the bodies are probably a wee bit sore and it was a bit too much at the end up.

​“We still had chances and some we didn’t take, and we probably didn’t create enough in last half … but I can’t fault the boys for effort they gave everything and you know what? If I get that every day you can’t ask for more. That’s all we expect, that’s all we want, and I’d say Tyrone supporters are the same.”

Tyrone head for the All-Ireland series. And by that time they may be able to call on the likes of Peter Harte and Conor Meyler again. Donegal have their eyes on Armagh in Clones on Sunday week. McGuinness back in an Ulster final.

“It feels great, it feels absolutely amazing, it’s the pinnacle for people in this part of the country – to go and play in an Ulster final, it’s a very special day. Clones will always be a very special occasion for everybody who has that opportunity, so we are delighted with that.”

As the young supporters pointed out, Jimmy’s winning matches.​

SCORERS – Donegal: O Gallen 0-3 (3f); D Ó Baoill, J McGee, N O’Donnell, P McBrearty (1f) C Thompson (1f) 0-2 each; B McCole, C Gonagle, P Mogan, S O’Donnell, J MacCeallbhui 0-1 each. Tyrone: D Canavan 0-4 (1f, 1m); N Morgan 0-3 (3f); M McKernan, D McCurry (2f), C Daly 0-2 each; S O’Donnell, C McShane, M Donnelly 0-1 each.

Donegal: G Mulreany 7; M Curran 7, B McCole 7, C Moore 7; R McHugh 7, C McGonagle 8, P Mogan 7; J McGee 8, M Langan 7; S O’Donnell 7, C Thompson 7, D Ó Baoill 7; P McBrearty 7, O Gallen 7, N O’Donnell 7. Subs: A Doherty 7 for McBrearty (h-t), J Brennan 7 for O Baoill (49), J MacCeallbhui 7 for Curran (70+3), P McBrearty for Doherty, D O Baoill for Brennan (both ahead of extra time), A Doherty for Gallen (80), J Brennan for N O’Donnell (87)

Tyrone: N Morgan 8; C Devlin 7, P Hampsey 8, M McKernan 8; S O’Donnell 6, M Donnelly 8, N Devlin 6; B Kennedy 6, C Kilpatrick 6; C Daly 7, K McGeary 6, M O’Neill 6; D McCurry 6, D Canavan 8, C McShane 6. Subs: A Clarke 7 for C Devlin (41), C Cush 6 for McGeary (63), R Canavan 6 for O’Neill (76), A Donaghy 6 for McShane, C Donnelly for Kilpatrick (both 87).

Ref: B Cawley (Kildare)

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