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Monaghan push Red Hands towards trap door

Monaghan 0-15 Tyrone 0-14

By Declan Bogue

This is not a time for panic, insists Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, after his side fell to their fourth defeat in the last four games to neighbours Monaghan, leaving them in a perilous position in Division One of the Allianz League.

With Donegal, Mayo and Kerry all to face the Red Hands, they are running out of games to rescue themselves. But nobody needs an appraisal within their set-up of what they need to do, starting this coming Saturday when Donegal come to Omagh.

"Every game is important as there is a target of a certain number of points that every team need, and they would suggest you need at least six to be safe," stated Harte after this loss.

"We are four off that at the minute. It's not a good place we are in at the minute, but it is still in our own hands to affect that. Every game has a knockout status from here on in."

It took a while for Tyrone to get to the tempo of this game, Monaghan's Fintan Kelly helping himself to three points from play in the first six minutes at the atmospheric St Mary's Park in Castleblayney.

As much as they may deny it, there are serious issues with the Tyrone attack. Once again their inside forward line contributed little in the way of scores from play and they continue to tinker, leaving Niall Sludden inside for spells. Six points from play across 77 minutes is an ugly stat.

Harte will maintain their confidence is not being affected.

"I don't think it is an issue," he said.

"I think it's just one of these phases teams go through and maybe we have gone through it for too long, of creating lots of chances and just not finishing the chances.

"I'm not saying we are going to finish them all, just saying we need to finish a better percentage of them.

"For a number of games, crucial games over the last number of years, we didn't manage to do that. It is something we need to think about and see if we can create something that is going to bring us to a better place."

After Monaghan opened brightly, Tyrone's offensive play was desperately timid until they began running at the Farney defence, drawing frees and getting in behind.

With the help of Lee Brennan from the dead ball they took an unlikely one point lead - 0-7 to 0-6 at half-time.

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke had left Conor McManus on the bench from the start, but when he came on for the 43rd minute they were transformed.

The Clontibret man underlined the claims made on his behalf to be considered the finest footballer in the country with two pointed frees - one underneath the stand an incredible bit of skill and a long-range effort - making the difference in the crucial third quarter.

Another amazing asset Monaghan have is the place-kicking of goalkeeper Rory Beggan. He let fly with three efforts that flew straight over and put clear light between the sides.

Tyrone cobbled together a late rally in search of the points and narrowed the gap to a single point with another couple of Brennan frees. But in the final play of the game, Peter Harte's clutch effort fell into the grateful hands of Beggan.

The two points virtually guarantee top flight football for Monaghan for the fifth consecutive season in 2019, but manager Malachy O'Rourke insists they are committed to the process.

"I said that right from the start, it's not a case of looking for any single figure of points or anything else. We are just targeting every single game and seeing if we can improve our performances.

"We have done that, we feel our performances have been fairly consistent, even the Mayo game as well, even though we didn't win anything.

"And we feel we have improved on each day on different aspects, that's what we are committed to do."

He also had warm words for the contribution of his bench that steered them home, Karl O'Connell and Owen Duffy adding to the scoring contribution of McManus as they killed Tyrone off.

"Conor played his first match on Sunday and he was sore during the week. We didn't want to just overload him at this stage and thought it might be better to have him coming in fresh," stated the Fermanagh native.

"Again, Karl has played a lot of football and he was tired as well."

Two teams heading in different directions ahead of their Championship meeting in May.

Belfast Telegraph

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