Monaghan stun Tyrone in comeback thriller
MONAGHAN 4-10 TYRONE 2-14
It would be difficult indeed to script a more enthralling sporting narrative than that which unfolded in this gripping Ulster Minor football championship final at Clones yesterday.
On their knees more than once during the course of the game and seemingly set to succumb to Tyrone's superior pace and flair, Monaghan somehow dragged themselves up from the canvas to chisel out the most dramatic of victories.
In doing so they ended a 68-year title famine and provided the county with its most significant boost for a long, long time.
Courage, character and sheer will-power epitomised Monaghan's display and sustained the side when they were clearly swimming against the tide for segments of the contest.
In a team of heroes, full-forward Feargal McMahon was a shining beacon, scoring 2-6 and leading the line with poise and authority particularly in the second-half.
Yet it was Tyrone who were much sharper for the greater part of the first-half, their speed and penetration discomfiting the Monaghan defence time and again.
By the 17th minute they had built up an emphatic 0-7 to 0-1 lead with Lee Brennan (3), Conor McKenna, David Mulgrew, Ronan Nugent and Daire Gallagher all on target.
Ryan McAnespie's 12th minute point for Monaghan reflected just what the team's efforts deserved at that stage but a 19th minute goal from McMahon injected new life into the side. And although Brennan and McKenna tacked on further Tyrone points, substitute Barry McGinn underpinned Monaghan's recovery when he drilled in their second goal in the 28th minute which trimmed Tyrone's lead to two points at 0-9 to 2-1.
But the Red Hands finished the half strongly. When the ball was flashed across the Monaghan goal, McKenna jabbed out his fist to pocket a fine goal that sent his side in with a more comfortable 1-9 to 2-1 advantage. And that advantage was accentuated ten minutes into the second-half when skipper Ruairi McGlone swept home a spectacular second goal to thrust his side into a commanding 2-10 to 2-4 lead.
But even when they went 2-14 to 2-6 in front at the start of the third quarter, Tyrone looked vulnerable and when substitute Barry McGinn pirated a third Monaghan goal the gap was closed to four points at 2-14 to 3-8.
And in the most dramatic of finishes, during which McGlone incurred a red card, McMahon stepped onto a front-stage role, guiding over his sixth point before smacking in a penalty two minutes from the end that sent his side into the history-books in a match that signalled an important chapter in the history of the Minor championship.
Monaghan: C Forde; S Treanor, K Loughran, C Martin; A Kieran, A Curran, M Murnaghan; N Loughman, D McAllister; D Ward, R McAnespie (0-1), A Treanor; C McCarthy (0-1); F McMahon (2-6, 1-0 pen, 0-5f), M O'Dowd. Subs: B McGinn (2-0) for O'Dowd (22 mins), D Meegan (0-2) for Loughman (Half-time), D Gleeson for A Treanor (40), P McArdle for S Treanor (60).
Tyrone: S Fox; C Byrne, R Quinn;, C McCann; S Hamill, C Morris, P MGirr; R Nugent (0-1), F Burns (0-1), D Mulgrew (0-1), C McKenna (1-3), D Gallagher (0-1); L Brennan (0-6, 0-3 f), R McGlone (1-0), S McGrath (0-1). Subs: M Lynn for Gallagher (42 mins), R McHugh for Nugent (45), C O'Donnell for McGrath (47), E McElroy for Quinn (52), S Fox for Byrne (54).
Referee: Brendan Rice (Down).