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Red Hands reach for high five

Tyrone 1-13 - Fermanagh 0-9

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone eased past neighbours Fermanagh in this Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup semi-final in Clones after the loss of Eoin Donnelly to a second yellow card on 42 minutes was ruthlessly exploited by Mickey Harte's men.

The Ernesiders were matching Tyrone, now just one win away from their fifth McKenna Cup in a row, until that point after marching into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after six minutes.

Sean Quigley opened up the scoring with two frees before a Donnelly crossfield ball made it to the big Roslea man who showed all his composure and craft to glide it over to complete a trio of points.

Harte quickly got Colm Cavanagh to reprise last year's role as a sweeper, cutting out the opportunity to get early ball to Quigley.

With Fermanagh setting up a defensive cordon, an inexperienced Tyrone team found them belligerent opponents. After the first 15 minutes they had already chalked up six wides, pushed up by the errant freetaking of Darren McCurry and Connor McAliskey.

Kieran McGeary landed Tyrone's first score from play in the 19th minute, his long-range effort beating the blanket defence.

Two entertaining schmozzles broke out. In the first instance Eoin Donnelly picked up his first yellow for a bout of all-in against Tyrone youngster Jonathan Munroe.

Shortly after, Paddy McGovern and Darren McCurry also got it on to the tune of two yellow cards.

With a half-time free count of 17 for Tyrone as opposed to four for Fermanagh, there was frustration in the Erne camp.

Manager Pete McGrath said: "That was a recurring trend. I can point to a number of incidents in the first-half when we had men fouled and the referee ignored it.

"Then, for seemingly little at other times, he was giving frees to Tyrone."

With 13 changes from the team that beat Queen's in midweek, Harte admitted to a disjointed nature in the Red Hands' first-half display.

"It's not easy to make that number of changes and expect them to gel," he said. "It took us a while to find our feet and get that bit of cohesion that Fermanagh had at that time.

"At the same time, I was happy to go in at four-all at half-time. I thought that was a good enough position because we would be getting the breeze.

"Our players had 35 minutes to see what wasn't working and they had time to change the script a bit."

With McAliskey finding his range from the dead ball, and another free from Mark Bradley, Tyrone levelled up Ciaran Flaherty's point to leave it 0-4 each at half-time.

The second-half was only seven minutes old when the pivotal moment came, but not before it was noted how Harte introduced two All-Stars in Mattie Donnelly and Sean Cavanagh, along with an All-Star nominee in Ronan McNamee at half-time.

A Fermanagh kick out was broken in the middle of the pitch and Mattie Donnelly collected. His cousin Eoin extended his arm to stop him, but Mattie's duck meant it made contact with his head. A second yellow duly arrived.

Without Donnelly's fielding ability - he was the standout player until his dismissal - Fermanagh struggled, especially from their own kickouts, Tyrone winning five of the next six restarts.

Richie Donnelly, Sean Cavanagh and McCurry all chipped in with points from play before a goal arrived in the 50th minute.

Richie Donnelly managed to nip the ball to Sean Cavanagh ahead and while Cavanagh's shot dropped across the face of the goal, Fermanagh keeper Chris Snow could not gather.

The loose ball was volleyed to the net by McAliskey to leave it 1-9 to 0-5.

A minute later, Snow made up for his mishap when Richie Donnelly came through and unleashed a bullet that the Ederney man was equal to. Quigley helped dress up the scoreboard a little for Fermanagh, but once they lost a man, they were outclassed.

The final act of note was a petulant kick from Rory Brennan (pictured) on Ciaran Flaherty after the Erne forward stopped the Trillick man from taking a return pass, earning a straight red.

Tyrone now meet Derry in Saturday's final at the Athletic Grounds with a fifth straight title in sight.

FERMANAGH: C Snow; M Jones, A Breen, P McGovern; D McCusker, J McMahon, C Cullen; E Donnelly, C Jones 0-1; B Mulrone, C Flaherty 0-1, P McCusker; R Corrigan, S Quigley 0-6, 4f, 1x45, T Corrigan. Subs: N Cassidy for R Corrigan (52m), P Cadden for McGovern (53m), D Teague and E McManus 0-1 for P McCusker and T Corrigan (58m), R Hanna for D McCusker (65m). Yellow: Mulrone (18), Donnelly (22, 42), McGovern (24), Flaherty (67). Red: E Donnelly (42)

TYRONE: M O'Neill; J Munroe, P Hampsey, C McCarron; N Sludden, R Brennan, K McGeary 0-1; R Donnelly 0-1, C Cavanagh; D Mulgrew, C McCann, C Meyler; D McCurry 0-2, C McAliskey 1-3, 2f, 1x45, M Bradley 0-3f. Subs: M Donnelly, S Cavanagh 0-1, R McNamee for Munroe, McCann and Mulgrew (h-time), P McNulty for Meyler (43m), B Tierney for K McGeary (49m), R O'Neill 0-2, 1f, for McAliskey (53m). Yellow: Munroe (22), McCurry (24), Hampsey (38), M Donnelly (63). Red: R Brennan (67)

Referee: Ronan Barry (Down)

Attendance: 5,619


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