The old saying about the spoils of victory going to the winner can be applied to Sunday’s Ulster semi final defeat. It seems that Jim Mc Guinness is not only an outstanding coach but a tactical genius whose every switch and move was planned and carried out with the precision of a surgeon. Well maybe that is a slight exaggeration but some pundits, journalists and observers have hailed Donegal’s victory as something it wasn’t.
Let’s be clear I am not being critical of Donegal and their win. In fact after sixteen years of the Armagh/Tyrone duopoly it is good to see a fresh faces competing to lift the title. While welcoming and even praising Donegal for their win I feel it is worth mentioning that there were a couple of key incidents that turned the game in their favour..
The loss of fullback Joe Mc Mahon was a massive blow to Tyrone. When forced to leave the field as a result of injury the big Omagh man was well on his way to being man of the match. He was outstanding at full back and along with Conor Gormley and Martin Swift had nullified completely the threat from the much vaunted Donegal full forward line. Up until he left the field Donegal had only scored five points and had offered very little in terms of attacking threat.
Midfielder Kevin Hughes received an extremely harsh second yellow card leaving Tyrone a man down on a humid day in the last quarter of an energy sapping game. I have always admired Michael Hegarty but his reaction to the Hub’s tackle was more akin to premiership soccer feigning than a hardened inter county veteran on the cusp of an Ulster final appearance. Mind you the linesman’s interpretation of the incident did not cover him in glory either. Hub’s loss was a serious physical and psychological blow to the Red Hand lads.
Both these incidences gave Donegal huge hope as they sought to salvage something from the game but they were still reliant on slips by Tyrone to eventually win the match. Martin Penrose and Marty Swift’s lapses in concentration allowed Donegal to poach two goals and in so doing Tyrone lost out on the chance of three Ulster titles in a row. Donegal will now go forward to meet, and hopefully beat, Derry. That should please Ian Mc Crea !!!!!!!!, but they know they are fortunate to have won a game that Tyrone have only themselves to blame for losing.
Interestingly, even though they are far from being a great side, should Donegal win the provincial title they will look back at the semi final defeat of Tyrone as the day that really kick started their championship campaign and who knows where it could lead them. If they are honest with themselves they will however wonder, in spite of what the journalists say, just how they managed to do it.