Paddy Hunter @O’Donnell Park
Nicky Rackard cup holders Tyrone turned in a quality all round performance to beat Ulster neighbours Donegal in Saturdays first round encounter at rain lashed Letterkenny. After two previous meetings in the league play-off that eventually saw a Donegal win, on this occasion Mattie Lennon’s side looked fresher, hungrier and were good value for their four point win.
Captain Damien Casey top scored again hitting 1-7 of his sides tally, while it was Tyrone who adapted to the wet conditions better with Casey’s first half goal putting his side in control, there were only brief glimpses of the power and purpose of Donegal evident in the two league games and it was the visitors who impressed with midfield dominance, defensive stability and a constant scoring threat.
The midfield pairing of Justin and Aidan Kelly turned in a great display, the half back line were secure Padraig McHugh, Dermott Begley and Tiernan Morgan worked hard, the threat of the Donegal fowrad unit was nullified by McNally, O Goman and Martin Grogan while there was always a big scoring threat at the other end, Conor and Sean Og Grogan, Gilmore who went close with a goal chance, Mark Winters, the battling Chris Cross and their leader Damien Casey.
The skipper’s goal came at the midway point of the half, penned in by three defenders he somehow found the net, both teams traded points but it was a one point advantage for Tyrone at the break.
Tyrone started the second half well, Conor Grogan and Casey added points before the impressive Justin Kelly drilled over two glorious points, both from the half way line to leave five points between the sides. Ray Durack’s side responded with two Henderson points and Matthewson went close after his stinging long range shot was tapped down and cleared by John Devlin, Boyle also pressed for a goal from long range but on that occasion referee Elliott spotted a foul on the Tyrone custodian.
Casey landed two further points to open a four point gap that was never to be closed, perhaps his and Tyrone’s day underscored by the fact that Tyrone skipper was the last line of defence when Sean Mc Veigh went for a long range effort at the death.
Tyrone: Damian Casey 1-7, Conor Grogan 0-2, Justin Kelly 0-2, Sean Og Grogan 0-1
TYRONE: John Devlin, Conor McNally, Mike O’Gorman, Martin Grogan,, Padraig McHugh, Dermot Begley, Tiernan Morgan, Justin Kelly, Damien Casey, Chris Cross, Conor Grogan, Sean Og Grogan, Gerald Gilmore.
Subs: Mattie Mulgrew For Gilmore