By Barry McEneaney
Donegal manager Jim McGuinness, who cited Michael Murphy’s missed penalty and his subsequent dismissal as pivotal game-changers in his side’s loss to Tyrone on Sunday, has already turned his attention to the two side's Ulster Championship clash in May.
Tyrone, who will meet Donegal on 26 May, recorded a 1-13 to 0-12 victory over the All-Ireland champions in the Allianz League Division 1 encounter in Omagh.
The visitors finished the game with just 13 players after Neil Gallagher got his marching orders for incurring a second booking three minutes from the end.
However, the Donegal supremo pointed to events just before half-time as the crucial period in the match.
“The big turning point was the penalty that we missed and then Michael Murphy getting sent off as a result of the tackle after the penalty,” McGuinness told RTÉ Sport.
“The game probably swung in terms of momentum for Tyrone at that stage. They were a man up and they used the ball very well and we had lost our captain, so it was a big moment in the game.”
A number of Donegal’s star men were returning from injury and McGuinness believes their lack of match practice may have compromised his side’s chances.
“We had four players that were out for a number of weeks that have come back in that have been a bit off it in terms of intensity and fitness,” he said.
When questioned on his priorities for his side this season, McGuinness was forthright in his response.
“It all about Tyrone in May - it has to be. If we’re relegated, were relegated. We want to stay in the division, but for us our preparations will be building towards that game.”