GAA Football

Donegal are in the top bracket says Tyrone skipper Sean Cavanagh

Donegal's Michael Murphy with Sean Cavanagh of Tyrone during their NFL match at Ballybofey on Saturday night. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

SEAN Cavanagh says that Donegal have to be included in any discussion about the top bracket of teams after their impressive dismissal of his Tyrone side on Saturday night.

Conventional wisdom has generally placed Tyrone in the top four over the last two seasons alongside Dublin, Mayo and Kerry.

Donegal had slipped out of the reckoning for major silverware as their 2012 All-Ireland winning team began to disappear off the scene, and many expected them to be among the relegation candidates in Division One this season.

But they have confounded those expectations by taking seven points from their opening five games, including a draw with Dublin and the weekend’s 0-12 to 0-6 win over the Red Hands.

Cavanagh, who lifted the Anglo Celt Cup last summer after helping Tyrone snatch a late win over Rory Gallagher’s side in Clones, says that on current form Donegal have fought their way back into the discussion.

“You have to include them, the fact that the Dubs came here and struggled for long periods as well.

“They were better than us here tonight. If you’re going on current form, you’ve got to put them ahead of ourselves. Hopefully we’ll fix it over a bit of time.”

Tyrone’s strength of character was offered a test at half-time as they trailed in by five points amid monsoon conditions in Ballybofey.

But despite an early score from Cavanagh just ten seconds after the restart, no shape of a comeback materialised and they would score just once more in a fractious second half.

It had been 2005 since Tyrone had won a League game in Ballybofey and their last defeat in the competition had come back almost two years ago at the same venue, when Donegal won by 1-13 to 0-6 to help condemn their rivals to relegation.

“There’s something about this place, every time I seem to come to it, it seems to be windy and raining and difficult to get points out of,” said the Moy man before he was informed that their last National League win at the ground was in 2005.

“There is that parochial element to it that Donegal seem to thrive on. You have to hold your hands up, they were a much superior outfit than we were tonight.

“It’s going to give us something to think about, because we probably thought we were further on than we showed tonight. We have to go to the well again.

“We train in Garvaghey, we’re used to wind and rain quite often. Guys were just making uncharacteristic errors, the ball was hitting the ground, it was slipping and sliding, handling wasn’t good.

“It was just very disjointed all round, particularly in that first half, we just couldn’t get to the pace of the game. It’s head-scratching stuff because we train very hard every night.

”There’s probably a few lads around the last couple of years that haven’t experienced too many days like this and dogfights like this. We failed tonight, we failed miserably.

“It’s going to come around somewhere along the line again this year, and maybe tonight will help build a bit of character and fight. If we don’t, we’re maybe not as far along as we think we are.”

Their hopes of salvaging something from the game weren’t helped by the stop-start nature of proceedings after the interval.

The fact that referee David Coldrick ended up adding on nine minutes at the end of a game that was without a serious injury was indicative of how broken play was during the second half.

“It’s tough with all the off-the-ball stuff, it probably suited Donegal more than ourselves,” said Cavanagh.

“The more we tried to get the game moving, the more the off-the-ball stuff happened.

“That’s going to happen, that’s part and parcel of the game. Donegal had a much stronger first half than we did and it was always going to be difficult to try and get back into the game barring a goal. It just didn’t happen for us.”

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