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Tyrone withstand Monaghan comeback at Croke Park to claim Anglo-Celt Cup by slimmest of margins

Tyrone 0-16 Monaghan 0-15

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Tyrone celebrate after winning the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final at Croke Park. ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Tyrone celebrate after winning the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final at Croke Park. ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Tyrone celebrate after winning the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final at Croke Park. ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

After a four-year hiatus, Tyrone are back at the summit in Ulster, their first provincial title since 2017 achieved by the narrowest possible margin in Croke Park.

It proved another agonising outcome for Monaghan, expanding a portfolio already containing Croke Park defeats in two All-Ireland quarter-finals and one semi-final to Tyrone since 2013.

Their disappointment is set against a more tragic backdrop, the loss of county under-20 captain Brendan Og O Dufaigh two weeks ago.

On Friday night their under-20s lost the Ulster final to Down after extra time, having recently buried their captain. Before this match there was a minute’s silence in his memory and the Tyrone captain Padraig Hampsey, during the cup presentation, acknowledged the difficult time Monaghan football people have endured in recent weeks.

Tyrone’s win wasn’t as a result of their best performance of the season but it was a significant result in the post-Mickey Harte era, a huge feat for the new management team headed by Fergal Logan and Brian Dooher. They had to win without Frank Burns and Rory Brennan, who both started against Donegal in the semi finals. Neither was included in the squad, with Mark Bradley and Conor McKenna promoted to the starting team. Tiernan McCann, who came off the bench and scored three points against Donegal, was also a late panel withdrawal, along with Richard Donnelly.

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Despite those losses, Tyrone endured. In the Ulster semi finals Monaghan scored four first half goals against Armagh in a madly open and free-spirited game that would have been frowned on by those who swear by the scriptures of scrupulous defending. Monaghan could have done just one goal against Tyrone but it never looked like coming. They fell away badly in the second quarter and trailed by five points at half time, then managed to get back level in the second half with a vast improvement. Tyrone found another surge, to open a three-point gap with eight minutes of normal time left, 0-15 to 0-12, but they had a nervous finish when scores from Conor Boyle and Kieran Duffy left the lead threadbare.

In the three minutes of additional time they had the ball and played out time drawing on all their experience, but Monaghan looked spent at that stage, unable to summon the energy to win back the ball. Having spent enormous effort getting back into the game, achieved by outscoring Tyrone 0-6 to 0-1 in the 15 minutes after half time, their intensity lapsed. Cathal McShane came on ten minutes after half time and scored a crucial score in the 51st minute, sending Tyrone in at the second water break leading 0-13 to 0-12.

They sat on that lead until the 60th minute when the imperturbable Peter Harte kicked a score which put some daylight between the teams. Darren McCurry’s point two minutes later stretched it to three but after the second Monaghan push, Tyrone were grateful to see McCurry make a fine catch for an advanced mark which he converted in the 66th minute, Monaghan having got back to within a point at that stage.

McCurry finished up with five points, including two frees and two from play, continuing his good form this season, while Mattie Donnelly did his best work in the first half and scored three points, one of those after he sold Boyle an audacious dummy in the 26th minute to put Tyrone 0-9 to 0-6 ahead. After half time he was less effective and guilty of some poor shooting, including one free from close range which came off a post.

Monaghan looked in serious bother at half time, having scored just five points and conceding 11. But in the space of 15 minutes after the interval they managed to level the match, the equalising score coming from Jack McCarron after he called an advanced dark when Conor McManus picked him out with a perfect pass.

The tone was set by a point after 30 seconds of the restart by Conor McCarthy, with Monaghan making a double substitution at the interval, taking off a low-key Darren Hughes and Karl O’Connell and replacing them with Colin Walshe and Niall Kearns. The changes worked well and the team’s demeanour changed - as it needed to. From being hesitant and pedestrian, they went at Tyrone and started to pick off scores and the Farney crowd found its voice.

Belief started to flow through the team and by the second water break, they were after enjoying almost all the momentum though trailing by a point, 0-12 to 0-13, Tyrone finally managing to respond through McShane after his introduction.

Tyrone’s best football came in the second quarter. A perfectly flighted point from just inside the 45m line by Kieran McGeary gave them a 0-6 to 0-4 lead by the first water break after a relatively tentative opening by both teams. The teams were level on three occasions early on in the match, with McCarron scoring two points and McManus one, the 33-year-old Clontibret forward also setting up a delightful score for McCarron shortly before McGeary’s point.

But from there to the half-time break Tyrone took charge, outscoring Monaghan 0-5 to 0-2. McGeary was exceptional defensively and offensively, making a couple of inspirational turnovers including one to pluck the ball from an advancing O’Connell late in the first half.

After the four goals and high scoring exploits against Armagh in the semi-finals, it was a desperately toothless second quarter from Monaghan, with McManus, watched by Hampsey, drifting out of the game as Tyrone started to dominate possession.

Rory Beggan kicked the first score after the water break from a free but Monaghan only raised one more flag from there to the interval. A score from Michael McKernan in the 23rd minute was followed by a brilliant left footed effort from the in-form McCurry who added one with his right later in the half.

Donnelly was causing panic near the Monaghan goal and Tyrone’s finishing and conversion rate was much superior, Monaghan hitting a string of poor wides. In the run up to half time Mark Bradley hit his second point from play and McCurry closed the scoring, leaving Tyrone 0-11 to 0-6 in front.

Tyrone now face Kerry in the All-Ireland semi finals.

Scorers:

Tyrone: D McCurry 0-5 (2 fs, 1 m), M Donnelly 0-3 (1 f), M Bradley 0-2, M McKernan, N Sludden, P Hampsey, K McGeary, C McShane, P Harte 0-1 each.

Monaghan: C McManus 0-4 (3 fs), J McCarron 0-3 (1m), C McCarthy, R Beggan (2fs) 0-2 each, K Lavelle, C Walsh (m), C Boyle, K Duffy 0-1 each.

Teams –

Tyrone – N Morgan; P Hamsey, R McNamee, M McKernan; M O’Neill, K McGeary, P Harte; B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick; M Sludden, M Bradley, C Meyler; D McCurry, M Donnelly, C McKenna.

Subs: N Kelly for O’Neill (inj 18 mins); C McShane for Kennedy (46); D Canavan for Kilpatrick (54); R O’Neill for Bradley (65).

Monaghan – R Beggan; K Duffy, C Boyle, R Wylie; K O’Connell, D Ward, R McAnespie; D Hughes, K Lavelle; M Bannigan, A Mulligan, S O’Hanlon; C McCarthy, J McCarron, C McManus.

Subs: S Carey for Mulligan (31 mins), C Walshe for O’Connell & N Kearns for D Hughes (both ht); K Hughes for O’Hanlon (54); A Woods for McCarthy (62).

Referee: D Gough (Meath).


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