Ulster SFC: Donegal stun Tyrone 1-16 to 0-15 in provincial semi-final

Ryan McHugh shows his anger with Tiernan McCann after the Tyrone man appeared to put his fingers in the face of Donegal man Stephen McMenamin and also stamp on the defender
Donegal were furious with Tiernan McCann over his involvement in a controversial incident

Donegal returned to the Ulster SFC final with an emphatic 1-16 to 0-15 win over Tyrone at Kingspan Breffni Park.

Declan Bonner's holders firmly established themselves as favourites to retain their Ulster title with a stylish display of attacking football.

Jamie Brennan's early goal laid the platform during a wild opening spell that also saw Tyrone's Peter Harte black carded.

The Ulster champions will face either Cavan or Armagh in the 23 June final.

Tyrone must attempt to plot a course through the qualifiers and it will be interesting to see if Mickey Harte continues to leave spaces in his defence after they were exposed by Donegal during the opening half.

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BBC pundits and Mickey Harte react to Tiernan McCann incident

Brennan's early combination

A frenetic start saw both teams share six scores in the opening six minutes but it was Brennan that struck the biggest blow with his early goal.

The Donnelly brothers had kicked two of the opening three points as Tyrone took an early lead before Eoghan Ban Gallagher's storming run in the eighth minute was finished off by him popping a pass into the path of Brennan, who confidently found the back of the net.

The wing-forward added another point within seconds in a 1-1 combination as the first signs of Tyrone's kickout concerns began to surface.

Tyrone attempted to respond with a three-pointer of their own but Neil McGee made a superb diving block to deny Peter Harte.

The Tyrone forward's next involvement was his last as he thundered into a clumsy challenge on Ryan McHugh and was promptly shown a black card.

The game was ten minutes old and Tyrone were reeling.

Donegal's Eoghan Ban Gallagher challenges Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh
Eoghan Ban Gallagher starred for Donegal but Colm Cavanagh was substituted at half-time by Mickey Harte

Tyrone gameplan unravels

Donegal were doing a fine job on pressing Niall Morgan's kickouts - the Red Hands goalkeeper failed to find one of his own team-mates with his first six restarts - and not even an injury to midfielder Jason McGee could hamper the Donegal press.

At the other end, McShane threatened sporadically but the in-form forward was being well marshalled by the combination of Neil McGee and Stephen McMenamin.

Both goalkeepers were called into action as the defences loosened with Brennan forcing a fine save from Morgan while Donegal's Shaun Patton denied Brian Kennedy after a barrelling run.

A trademark burst by Leo McLoone earned Donegal another free and convinced Mickey Harte to revert to more traditional tactics as Colm Cavanagh was sent back to act as a sweeper.

Man of the match Patton produced another big stop from a marauding Richie Donnelly but it was Donegal who finished the half on the front foot with a superb catch-and-turn score by Michael Murphy to secure a seven-point interval advantage.

In contrast to Tyrone's kickout difficulties, Patton set up several Donegal attacks including the move which led to Brennan's crucial goal.

Scrappy second half

McShane and Kieran McGeary kicked the opening points of the second half as Donegal were content to sit deeper and soak up the pressure.

A challenge by Tiernan McCann on Stephen McMenamin, which resulted in the Donegal defender losing his gumshield, was typical of a scrappy second half that occasionally threatened to boil over.

Ciaran Thompson missed another goal chance for the champions as it took Donegal 13 minutes to register a second-half score - a Murphy free.

Tyrone however were struggling to create chances until the introduction of Darren McCurry gave them an extra target in attack and also afforded greater freedom to McShane as they grimly refused to fall away.

The Red Hands kept chipping at Donegal's lead and when Michael Cassidy's powerful shot scraped just over the bar in stoppage time the gap was back down to three points for the first time since the 27th minute.

Donegal's big players fashioned the perfect response when it was needed most.

Murphy took a towering catch in midfield, Ryan McHugh and McBrearty cut into the Tyrone defence before McMenamin appeared in front of the posts to fist over the insurance point and settle a deserved win.

Tyrone: N Morgan (0-2f); P Hampsey, R McNamee, M McKernan; T McCann, B McDonnell, B Kennedy; C Cavanagh, R Donnelly (0-2); M Donnelly (capt) (0-1), K McGeary (0-2), F Burns; C McShane (0-4, 3f), P Harte, L Rafferty.

Subs: R Brennan for L Rafferty, M Cassidy for F Burns, A McCrory for T McCann, D McCurry (0-3, 1f) for B McDonnell, N Sludden for C Cavanagh, C McAliskey for P Harte bc.

Donegal: S Patton; P McGrath, N McGee, S McMenamin (0-1); R McHugh (0-1), N O'Donnell, E Gallagher; H McFadden (0-1), J McGee; E McHugh (0-1), L McLoone, J Brennan (1-3); P McBrearty (0-3, 1f), M Murphy (capt) (0-5, 3f), M Langan (0-1).

Subs: F McGlynn for L McLoone, D O Baoill for E McHugh, C Thompson for J McGee, E Doherty, P Brennan for J Brennan, O Gallen for N O'Donnell