Two players sent off after only seven minutes might suggest a rather distasteful Ulster Minor Football Championship battle at sun-baked Casement Park yesterday, but nothing could be further from the truth as Tyrone defeated Antrim.
Down referee Gavin Corrigan stunned the crowd when he flashed a red card at Antrim full-back Martin Johnston and Tyrone winger Conan Grogan before the action had really begun.
Nobody in the press box knew what had happened for Corrigan to take such stern action but it appears, in an off-the-ball incident, Johnson and Grogan had exchanged some unpleasantries and a few punches may have been thrown when the play was at the other end of the pitch.
Ronan O’Neill opened the scoring with a Tyrone pointed free-kick in the first minute but it was level at two points each, after five minutes, and level again at four apiece when Gerard Slane screwed over a great Antrim point in the 18th minute.
As the action went into first half injury time, Antrim got a major boost with a sweet goal by Anton Taylor.
He nipped in at the post to steer a dropping ball from sub Declan Lynch into the net and leave the Saffrons 1-5 to 0-7 ahead at the break.
The Red Hand lads stormed into scoring mode on the resumption. They rifled over five unanswered points in 10 minutes after the restart to establish control and lead by 0-12 to 1-5.
Antrim subs Declan Lynch and Aidan McKeown stopped the slippery slope with points, either side of a Tyrone score from John McCullagh, but when midfielder Hugh Og Conlon fisted a dropping ball from McCullagh, into the home net to leave the visitors 1-13 to 1-7 up after 54 minutes it looked game over.
The Saffron boys did put in a fighting finish and had a pile-driver from McKeown not have flashed across the goalmouth instead of into the net it might have been a different story.
However, Tyrone survived at 1-13 to 1-5 to book a June 19 semi-final date with either Donegal or Down.
TYRONE: McReynolds, McGarrity, Clarke, McGeary, Sludden, Donaghy, Deeney, Og Conlon, McNulty, Donnelly, Canavan, Devlin, Grugan, McCullagh, O'Neill. Subs: McGahan (for Donnelly 32), McCullough (for McGeary 58), McCurry (for J McCullough 60).
ANTRIM: Alsop, Straney, Johnston, McCann, Boyd, McGuinness, O'Neill, Tully, Carron, Slane, Johnston, Gallagher, O'Connor, Hasson, Taylor. Subs: Lynch (for O'Connor 27), McKeown (for Hasson 47), P McBride (for McCann 54), Bradley (for Taylor 56).
Referee: G Corrigan (Down).
Antrim manager Liam Bradley may have completed preparations for yesterday’s Championship clash with Tyrone against the backdrop of a cushion of optimism in balmy weather, but by the time referee Pat McEnaney sounded the final whistle a bitingly cold wind of reality had enveloped Casement Park.