Tyrone bask in glory of sixth McKenna Cup win
Tyrone 4-11 Monaghan 1-10: It was Tyrone's ninth final and sixth McKenna Cup win, at the start of Mickey Harte's 11th season in charge — but you could almost imagine the trophy being tossed onto the team bus without a care.
Next Saturday night's National League opener against Down is the thing, as Harte acknowledged as he summed up the January campaign.
“Five competitive games and if you do your best in the five games and win them all then there's a cup at the end of it and that's nice,” he said.
“That's where we are at, that's that part of the season behind us and we have to look ahead now to a Division One encounter against Down next week which is a whole new ball game.”
They are in good shape for that one. After prodding and finding a way into the lead on 27 minutes, they poured punishment all over a Monaghan side that could not offer up inexperience as a shield against the 10-point margin.
“I think we did work hard,” commented Harte.
“We were under pressure for the first 15, 20 minutes because we had a strong breeze and Monaghan did all the forcing of the game if you like.
“Goals are always crucial — when we got that first one it gave us a bit of momentum, and the second one just before half-time was a lovely time to get a goal.”
Just minutes before the ball was thrown in, Ronan O'Neill's late inclusion as a substitute was announced.
As Tyrone gather all the missing ingredients they need to end Donegal's hold over Ulster, they will be delighted with the spicy flavour the Omagh youngster can add to their attack.
Looking at some of their play in treacherous conditions here though, one wonders where he might find a home for his talents.
Monaghan played it smart to begin with, bringing their wing forwards back and clogging up space. Stephen O'Neill was finding it hard to breathe and impose his game, so selector Gavin Devlin ran on to Peter Harte and switched Tyrone's past and present, with its future.
On the inside, Harte caused havoc. His tackling forced errors, which in turn caused frees that O'Neill floated over, and he added another point on 25 minutes when he arched a shot over the despairing reach of two markers.
Paul Finlay was cruising out of the Monaghan defence two minutes later when he fist-passed to Shane McQuillan — who spilled — and Mark Donnelly pounced to finish to the net.
At the other end, Conor McManus was starved but still caused concern for Tyrone. Conor Clarke was forced into fouls against the attacker which Finlay punished.
O'Neill followed up a Donnelly shot that was parried by Mark Keogh to put Tyrone firmly in control and more misery followed for Monaghan when Ronan McNally was dismissed for an incident with Harte.
An early goal in the second half by Mark Donnelly underlined Tyrone's authority. While they were playing against the wind, they also enjoyed comfort at the back, Joe McMahon acting as the spare man.
Darren Hughes offered some resistance, but ultimately there were too many fires to fight. Tyrone would be winning the match, the only question was by how much.
The game closed out with a late penalty, earned and converted by Peter Harte.
His uncle's thoughts on it?
“I think Van Persie would have been proud of that one,” said Mickey Harte.
TYRONE: N Morgan; A McCrory, C Clarke, B Tierney; R McNamee (0-1), J McMahon, D McBride; P Kane (0-1), S Cavanagh (0-1, 1f); T McCann, P Harte (1-1, 1-0 pen, 1f), Matthew Donnelly; C McAliskey (0-2), S O'Neill (Capt) (1-3, 2f), Mark Donnelly (2-1). Subs: Justin McMahon for Clarke (29m), McKenna for McNamee (52m), Gallagher (0-1) for McCann (53m), Penrose for O'Neill (61m), Tierney for Cavanagh (68m).
MONAGHAN: M Keogh; R McNally, F Kelly, K Duffy; D Mone, D Hughes (0-2, 1x'45', 1f), M McElroy; D Clerkin, O Lennon; Owen Duffy (0-2), P Finlay (0-4, 4f), S McQuillan; K Hughes (1-1), C McManus [Capt] (0-1, 1f), D Malone. Subs: Smith for Malone (9m), Doogan for McQuillan (43m), McAdam for Clerkin (46m), Galligan for McElroy (53m), McArdle for Finlay (58m)
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)