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Colm Cavanagh in action for Tyrone against Donegal in their Phase 3 All-Ireland SFC Quarter-Final clash at Ballybofey. 
Colm Cavanagh in action for Tyrone against Donegal in their Phase 3 All-Ireland SFC Quarter-Final clash at Ballybofey. 

Terrific Tyrone through to All-Ireland SFC semi-finals

All-Ireland SFC Phase 3 Quarter-Final


By Chris McNulty at Ballybofey

Tyrone turned the tables and flipped Donegal’s summer all at once as a superb fourth quarter booked their place in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Tyrone were four points down and on their way to the exits when corner-back Paddy McGrath knocked over a point for Donegal in the 54th minute.

Thereafter, Tyrone took over.

Substitues Harry Loughran and Declan McClure hit the goals in a famous win for Mickey Harte’s side; a defeat that brings to an end an unbeaten 21-game streak for Donegal in League and Championship games in Ballybofey.

The manner of it will sting long and hard for Tir Chonaill, who led thanks to Michael Murphy’s goal late in the first half, but who were torn asunder by Tyrone in the final 20 minutes.

Tyrone’s bench ended with 2-5 with Donegal managing just one point, via Niall O’Donnell, from their replacements. 

Seven minutes from the end of normal time, Loughran ghosted in to finish at the far post after taking receipt of Tiernan McCann’s pass.

Tyrone had scored three points in a row before that and they added another quickfire treble to move four clear themselves. Donegal had little in the way of answers and they were caught for a second Tyrone major as McClure slotted home in the 47th minute of the second half.

By then, they were already looking forward to a semi-final meeting with Monaghan at Croke Park next Sunday while Donegal were left streaming for the gates and wondering just where it had all gone wrong.

The first half was just entering its additional moments when the earth shook.

Jamie Brennan had put Donegal ahead for the first time only seconds beforehand. Niall Morgan’s attempted short kick out went astray. Ryan McHugh seized upon it and handed to Murphy, off his shoulder.

Murphy didn’t need to think twice and, though Morgan got a hand to the shot, he was powerless to stop a thunderbolt from finding the back of his net.

It was a seismic moment in a seismic game.

The season - and maybe even more - was on the line as these two heavyweights collided in the bear pit of Sean MacCumhaill Park, heaving at its 15,768 capacity.

McCann opened the scoring after just 18 seconds to set the tone for a ferocious afternoon by the Finn.

Mattie Donnelly had Tyrone two up in the 20th minute when his effort inched over with Donegal kept in touch by a pair of Murphy dead-balls. 

Donegal were level when Ryan McHugh rose to the challenge with an excellent point and Ciaran Thompson forced his way through the bodies to restore parity. 

It was two in a minute from Donegal, but Colm Cavanagh’s response was instant as Tyrone hit the front once more.

Brennan had Donegal level with an excellent point and the Tir Chonaill men were in front for the first time as Brennan fisted over in the final minute of the half.

Eoghan Ban Gallagher, who looked set to be ruled out with an elbow injury even beyond this game, was passed fit to start in a Donegal side that showed one change - Neil McGee in for Paul Brennan - to the side that defeated Roscommon two weeks ago.

Tyrone might have had the goal they craved - and needed - but Cathal McShane couldn’t connect with Lee Brennan’s ball across in the 50th minute. 

Brennan scored with his first two touches after coming on for Richard Donnelly and there were eight points and five yellow cards in a helter-skelter third quarter. 

Around those manic minutes, it took a mighty block from Ryan McHugh to prevent sub Loughran from an equalising goal. Donegal marched up the other end and a delightful point from Paddy McGrath, curling in at the last second, opened up a four-point lead. 

Tyrone, as is their wont, were hardly going to go quietly and they were energised when Brennan and Pádraig Hampsey took them back to within two points. 

It was wafer thin when McGeary slammed over and Donegal were in danger of capsizing under the strain when Murphy was wide from a ’45. 

Tyrone were in command and they struck gold through Loughran before McClure added the coup de grace. 

*Scorers for Tyrone: *Lee Brennan (1f) 0-4; Harry Loughran, Declan McClure 1-0 each; Connor McAliksey (2f), Pádraig Hampsey, Mattie Donnelly 0-2 each; Mark Bradley, Tiernan McCann, Peter Harte (1f), Niall Morgan (1f), Colm Cavanagh, Kieran McGeary, Ronan McNamee 0-1 each

*Scorers for Donegal: *Michael Murphy (1f, 1 ’45) 1-2; Jamie Brennan 0-3; Odhrán Mac Niallais 0-2; Ryan McHugh, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Michael Langan, Paddy McGrath, Ciaran Thompson, Niall O’Donnell 0-1 each

*TYRONE: *Niall Morgan; Michael McKernan, Ronan McNamee, Frank Burns; Tiarnan McCann, Cathal McShane, Conor Meyler; Colm Cavanagh, Pádraig Hampsey; Connor McAliksey, Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte; Mark Bradley, Richard Donnelly, Niall Sludden. *Subs: *Rory Brennan for McKernan (black card, 5), Kieran McGeary for Burns (39), Lee Brennan for R.Donnelly (39), Harry Loughran for McAliskey (48), Conall McCann for McShane (53), Declan McClure for Sudden (68).

*DONEGAL: *Shaun Patton; Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Stephen McMenamin; Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Eamonn Doherty, Frank McGlynn, Hugh McFadden, Michael Murphy; Ciaran Thompson, Leo McLoone, Ryan McHugh; Jamie Brennan, Odhrán Mac Niallais, Michael Langan. *Subs: *Paul Brennan for Thompson (49), Niall O’Donnell for Mac Niallais (56), Anthony Thompson for McGlynn (60), Martin McElhinney for Langan (63), Martin O’Reilly for McLoone (67), Mark McHugh for McGrath (70).

*REFEREE: *Joe McQuillan (Cavan).

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