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Red Hands are showing no fear in quest for holy grail

By John Campbell

Published 10/08/2015

Joy: Tyrone’s Mattie Donnelly celebrates after the final whistle
Joy: Tyrone’s Mattie Donnelly celebrates after the final whistle

Victory can sometimes be accompanied by a bittersweet flavour. Tyrone will know what I mean, assuming they have an acquaintance with social media in particular.

But at the end of the day, from the Red Hands' perspective, an All-Ireland semi-final confrontation with a Kerry side whose stock has dramatically soared following their demolition job on Kildare will far outweigh any distaste that hurdling Malachy O'Rourke's side may have engendered.

A ration of cynicism merged with a measure of play-acting and the gains from a couple of debatable frees may have taken the shine off what was a clinical, efficient performance by Mickey Harte's resilient battlers, yet five successive victories and the fact that they will carry absolutely no baggage into Headquarters on Sunday week will serve to spook the Kingdom.

Indeed, the squad's body language and that of their manager in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's gruelling, often tedious, conflict clearly indicated that the reigning All-Ireland champions will do well to look to their laurels.

A rigid defensive mechanism overseen by eighth-minute substitute Justin McMahon and the impressive Ronan McNabb, a ferocious work-rate espoused by midfield duo Mattie Donnelly and Colm Cavanagh and a helping of smart finishing from Darren McCurry and Connor McAliskey in particular always ensured that Tyrone were able to keep Monaghan at arm's length.

And with Peter Harte a creative midfield catalyst, Sean Cavanagh deploying his experience and craft perhaps rather more robustly than usual and Mark Bradley gaining in maturity, the O'Neill County have acquired a spring in their step that could yet take them into unimagined territory.

For now, manager Harte will seek to bring even greater intensity, fluency and control to the table for a semi-final clash that is haute cuisine box-office.

Monaghan's Ulster title coup was gained when they out-foxed Donegal but against Tyrone they themselves came up short tactically.

Their laboured, mostly lateral, passing reaped little reward, the fact that Conor McManus and Kieran Hughes were not so much marked as imprisoned in open play by an unforgiving defence and that they all but conceded the vital middle third of the park did not so much make life difficult for O'Rourke's men, but virtually impossible.

Nonetheless they were still in touch at the interval (0-7 to 0-5), McManus on a wafer-thin diet of possession having landed three points (two frees) in response to an earlier McCurry-McAliskey assault on the scoreboard.

But it was in a telling five-minute spell on the resumption that the match was won and lost.

McCurry (2) and McAliskey whipped over three points that not only provided greater daylight but injected Tyrone with fresh confidence.

In an increasingly fractious environment, Monaghan did well to hold their nerve to benefit from two superb Owen Duffy points and another from McManus before disintegrating into chaos.

But with five minutes of normal time remaining, Monaghan's raw energy saw them on their opponents' shoulders at 0-16 to 0-12 before the roof caved in.

Darren Hughes was shown a red card for what television footage subsequently proved was nothing more than a flick at Tiarnan's McCann's hair, the latter's crumpled form conveying the impression of serious physical damage.

And when the seasoned Paul Finlay allowed frustration to get the better of him in a touchline spat, a second red card saw the last rites administered to his team.

It was perhaps appropriate that the great-hearted Mattie Donnelly steered over Tyrone's last point in what seemed like an interminable period of injury-time.

But by then Monaghan had already been brought to their knees, the loss of Ronan McNamee nothing more than a mild inconvenience for a Tyrone side that proved streetwise and well-organised.

We are all familiar with the context in which the word 'cute' is employed in terms of Kerry football. Tyrone's challenge now will be to match or indeed surpass that.

Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee (0-1), C McCarron; R McNabb (0-1), Joe McMahon (0-1), P Harte (0-1); C Cavanagh, M Donnelly (0-2); T McCann, M Bradley, C Meyler; D McCurry (0-6, 3f, 1'45), S Cavanagh (0-1), C McAliskey (0-5, 4f). Subs: Justin McMahon for Joe McMahon (8 mins), C McCann for C Meyler (22), P McNulty for McCann (45), R O'Neill for McAliskey (58), R Donnelly for Bradley (66), B Tierney for T McCann (71). Black Card: Meyler (22).Yellow cards: S Cavanagh (34), T McCann (41), Morgan (57), McNamee (66), Harte (78). Red Card: McNamee (71).

Monaghan: R Beggan; V Corey, C Walshe, D Mone (0-1); R Wylie, N McAdam, K O'Connell; F Kelly (0-1), O Lennon; D Hughes (0-1), S Gollogly, R McAnespie; C McManus (0-7, 5f), K Hughes, K Duffy. Subs: D Clerkin (0-1) for Lennon, D Wylie for Corey, O Duffy (0-2) for McAnespie (all half-time), D Malone for McAdam (48), P Finlay (0-1f) for Gollogly (51), C McGuinness for K Duffy (60). Yellow cards: McADam (40), K Hughes (44), D Wylie (61). Red Cards: D Hughes (70), Finlay (74).

Referee: Martin Duffy (Sligo).

Goals00

Points1814

Wides76

Frees awarded1919

Yellow cards63

Black cards10

Red cards12

tyrone0-18

MONAGHAN0-14

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