Sports

Tyrone through to Ulster final

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tyrone through to Ulster final thumbnailTyrone captain Sean Cavanagh charges through the Donegal defence.

TYRONE manager Mickey Harte combined the old and the new as a new style of play unfolded at St Tiernach's Park in Clones, where Tyrone hit spectacular form to crush Donegal 1-21 to 1-12 in the semi-final of the Ulster Senior Football Championship on Sunday.

They raided in waves, with numbers in support, after overturning possession with tenacious and accurately timed tackling, and the scores flowed for the Red Hands.

"A lot of things that people are saying are not in our game any more, lots of fast break play, lots of play in open spaces," said Harte.

"Of course there were defensive set-ups too and times when it was very clustered or clogged, but I think it had a bit of everything. It had a bit of the old, a bit of the new, and what might be to come."

Colm Cavanagh was one of many stars in the Tyrone team, laying on another masterclass in playing the sweeper role to perfection.

"Colm has had many good games. Today, he would probably be renowned for doing the things people expect him to do. Really, his out and out defensive work, but his fielding around the field, his sheer hard work.

"It's good to see that people will remember him for that play as well, not just this man who puts out fires in defence."

Now the focus turns to the Ulster final against either Monaghan or Down, who meet in the second semi-final this weekend.

"We like coming here, we like winning matches here. At the same time, the bottom line is we have played two Championship matches in Ulster, there was no cups handed out any of those two days.

"If we at the end of the Ulster final don't have the cup in our hands, then this will be a very different result. It will only be a good result if we have the cup in four weeks' time."

Harte said he had been anticipating a performance of this quality from his side for some time.

"Absolutely. I am the eternal optimist anyway. I have been seeing that coming for this last year and a half.

"I knew that some day we would deliver the kind of performance that we are capable of. And of course conditions were fine for us today. We do like the dry sod and hot days in Clones."

But he still sees room for improvement as the Red Hands target a major challenge for the All-Ireland this summer.

"I wouldn't call it perfect, I think it was impressive, at times, but at other times we made plenty of errors that we need to tidy up on.

"We gave them a bit of a run in the middle of the second half, when they closed the gap with a goal and created a few more goal chances - if some of those had gone in, or their first half goal chance, the complexion of the game could have been so, so different.

"It's easy to sit now and look at the scoreboard and think we had an easy day out - no we hadn't. We actually worked very hard for 45-55 minutes and that made the last 15 or 20 not as tense as it might otherwise have been.

"We worked ourselves into that position to be able to see out the game comfortably but if you reflect on the video evidence there's still plenty of things we could tidy up on."

Harte, a critic of the 'mark' when it was introduced this season, admitted it worked in his side's favour on this occasion.

"Yeah well, needs must, if you like. Donegal were pushing up on our kick-outs and they have been doing that for some time now.

"If they push up and the short, getaway kick is not on, then you don't really have much option but to play it long. We are not short on people in the middle of the field who can handle the ball. Yes, if somebody else has a way of doing things that sends us in another direction, then so be it."

Meanwhile, Donegal manager Rory Gallagher said his team simply can't afford to defend in the manner they did against the Red Hands.

Tyrone walked through the Tir Chonail rearguard with alarming ease to pick off the scores that sent them bounding into a second successive Ulster football final.

It was just too easy, as they dismantled attacks and tore through their opponents with ease at St Tiernach's Park.

Donegal supporters were streaming out the exit gates with more than 20 minutes to play, and their manager was offering no excuses.

"We are very disappointed to be beaten in the manner that we were. We were well and truly beaten," he conceded.

"For the first 15/20 minutes it was nip and tuck, but Tyrone clicked into gear. I thought we were careless in possession, we kept giving the ball away and they hit us on the counter.

"I thought we defended too deep and we invited Tyrone on too much and we paid the penalty in the 10 minutes before half time.

"If you got a goal at that stage, even having played quite poorly coming up to half-time it would have meant a reasonable gap, but Tyrone will feel that they should have had a goal as well.

"Overall we can't afford to defend like that. We sat off Tyrone players coming through and we just allowed them to dictate."

Tyrone reeled off seven points in the last 12 minutes of the first half to ease seven ahead, leaving Donegal with a serious job of work.

And it became an impossible task when Tiernan McCann slalomed through for a goal three minutes after the restart.

"It wasn't a good position to be; there was a bit of a slight breeze and we had it but  again our defending was very poor for Tiernan McCann's goal. The game petered out after that. We showed a lack of fight as well which was disappointing."

Gallagher was at a loss to explain away that absence of anger and response from a team that has become renowned for its ability to survive and succeed in the harshest of environments.

"It is hard to tell. We were not that na´ve to think that we would land into Ulster and play the Tyrone's of this world and hit the ground running. It is a big step-up from league and we are aware of that. We have a very young team, it does not make it any easier today but it is something we have to learn from."

Six Donegal players started a championship game against Tyrone for the first time, but only two of those - Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Micheal Carroll - were on the pitch at the final whistle.

And the problems were evident early on, with the experienced Karl Lacey was introduced after just half an hour.

"At that stage the game was slipping away from us and we wanted Karl to tighten us up and get us into half-time, but it did not really work. It was not really down to Karl but as a collective we were leaving too many gaps and allowing Tyrone too many shots."

"We kind of got a bit of a free ride to be honest since the Kerry game. Our performance levels were good. We were always a wee bit cautious because it is not easy.  There were seven players starting their

first championship game and we got to accrue experience.

"We didn't want to accrue experience like today. We have to face it. That is the ultimate test of any team. Very few teams just arrive on the scene and get success instantly. We have to knuckle down now. It is unfortunate but that's the way it is."

"We  are well aware that of the team that played in 2012 there were only three or four starting today. We know what we are about. It doesn't disguise that today was a very disappointing display.

"We can't hide away from that. We showed a lack of cohesion, a lack of energy, a lack of discipline on the field and not following through on what we asked to do but we have to learn from it."

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