Donegal tripped up by Tipp in Thurles for first League loss

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Three goals – all of them avoidable – saw Donegal crash to a first League defeat of the year as Tipperary claimed their opening win.

Tipperary 3-9 Donegal 0-13

By Chris McNulty at Semple Stadium

Tipperary outscored an out-of-sorts Donegal – who had been three points in front at half-time with Jamie Brennan (pictured) having a penalty saved late in the first period – in the second half 2-5 to 0-3.

Donegal made the afternoon something of an unnecessary ordeal for themselves and paid the ultimate price.

Having allowed midfielder Steven O’Brien cut through them all too easily for Tipp’s opening goal in the second minute, Donegal recovered well – only to allow their hosts right back into it for the last 15 minutes.

Liam McGrath’s free dropped short but, from beneath his own bar, Hugh McFadden turned the ball past his goalkeeper Shaun Patton.

It got even worse when Donegal loosened their hold on the lead. Eoin McHugh put a free into the arms of Kevin O’Halloran and Tipp made hay. O’Halloran fed Liam Casey, who coolly tucked home for the third major.

Casey added a point and Tipp, all of a sudden, were three in front.

Patton denied Conor Sweeney, who found himself in a one-v-one, with Sweeney settling for the point that put things beyond Donegal’s reach.

Donegal led 0-10 to 1-4 at half-time and would have been further ahead only for Tipperary goalkeeper Michael O’Reilly beating away a 32nd minute penalty from Brennan.

After Caolan McGonagle won a ball in from Ciaran Thompson, Hugh McFadden was hauled to the turf. Brennan, though, was denied a chance to open up a five-point lead as O’Reilly got out to his right to save.

Donegal had their sights on a goal seven minutes into the second half. Hugh McFadden and Caolan McGonagle combined to send Ryan McHugh into space. McHugh offloaded to Niall O’Donnell but, at the vital moment, Tipp managed to avert the danger.

Scores were like supporters – scarce on the ground – in the second half and it was the 50th minute before Michael Langan broke the duck after the break.

Langan stroked over a free won by Leo McLoone, sent in for his 99th Donegal appearance, against the home county of his mother, Annette.

Oisin Gallen fisted over to put Donegal three ahead – and it had been the Sean MacCumhaill’s man who opened the scoring in impressive fashion.

On his League debut, Gallen – whose inclusion was one of five changes made to the Donegal side – proved to be quite adept in these surroundings.

There were only 25 seconds on the watch when Gallen won a ‘mark’ to collect a McHugh pass and, from the left-hand side of the 20-metre line, the flame-haired attacker delightfully stroked over.

Patton was restored as goalkeeper, while first League starts of 2019 were given to Stephen McMenamin and Tony McClenaghan, with Jason McGee elevated back into the starting XV.

Tipp rocked Donegal when midfielder O’Brien soared from deep, scurrying into the Tir Chonaill heart, with the visiting rear-guard cut open too easily, and fired past Patton.

Donegal shook their heads clear.

Thompson converted, with the aid of ‘keeper Michael O’Reilly, from the side-line and Langan nailed a long-range effort to level it up.

Niall O’Donnell, in a testing win that howled between the vast swathes of empty terrace, kept his cool to put Donegal in front.

Philip Austin, twice, and Sweeney brought Tipp level on three occasions, but Donegal firmed their grip a little.

Jamie Brenan’s brace of scores and a brilliant Thompson score from a mark put three between them.

As much as Tipperary revived, Donegal unravelled and the break next weekend gives them a chance to regroup before Fermanagh visit Letterkenny in a fortnight.

Donegal: Shaun Patton; Stephen McMenamin, Brendan McCole, Eoghan Bán Gallagher; Caolan Ward, Tony McClenaghan, Ryan McHugh; Hugh McFadden (1-0, og), Jason McGee; Ciaran Thompson (0-4, 3f, 1m), Michael Langan (0-3, 1f), Caolan McGonagle; Niall O’Donnell (0-1), Oisin Gallen (0-3, 1m), Jamie Brennan (0-2). Subs: Leo McLoone for McGee (55), Eoin McHugh for McClenaghan (52), Martin McElhinney for Gallen (65), Paul Brennan for McMenamin (70).

Tipperary: Michael O’Reilly; Alan Campbell, John Meagher, Emmett Moloney; Kevin Fahey, Dáire Brennan, Jimmy Feehan; Steven O’Brien (1-1), Jack Kennedy; Philip Austin (0-2), Liam Casey (1-1), Brian Fox (0-2); Kevin O’Halloran, Conor Sweeney (0-1), Liam McGrath.  Subs: Liam Boland (0-1) for O’Halloran (52), Colm O’Shaughnessy for Feehan (59), Conal Kennedy for J.Kennedy (67), Dan O’Meara for Fox (73), Paddy Codd for Fahey (74). 

Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).

Sports writer from St Johnston, now based in Letterkenny, with ten years' experience covering sport in Donegal. Was a nominee for NUJ Sports Journalist of the Year in 2010. Honoured by the Donegal Boxing Board in 2016 for his coverage on the sport.

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