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Tyrone could've taken black card and won game

By Ryan McMenamin

In a funny sort of way I think both sides will be happy with a draw from yesterday's game. From a Tyrone point of view they'll be happy to still be in the Ulster Championship when the game seemed to have slipped from their grasp. Down, on the other hand, would, no doubt, have taken a draw at the break after a poor first-half display.

There was a flat atmosphere in the first half and I think it summed up Down's display when Kevin McKernan, who had a fine game, went down to pick the ball up and only succeeded in putting it out over the side-line. Tyrone bossed the first half and they should have went in at half-time 10 or 11 points up. Tyrone's shooting let them down and on a number of occasions they took the wrong options.

I think that Down perhaps showed Tyrone too much respect and for an Ulster Championship game there was no bite to it in the first half.

Down's full back line kept them in the game in the first half as they kept a close eye on both Kyle Coney and Darren McCurry.

The three changes that James McCartan made at half-time worked wonders. Jerome Johnston's direct running saw him win a penalty and with Niall Morgan being black carded it was a double blow to Tyrone.

His brother Ryan was superb as well and caused Tyrone a lot of problems, although right at the end he perhaps should have ran at goal instead of going into the corner and you have to give Conor Gormley credit for taking the ball of him. He brought a bit of stability to the Tyrone defence when he came on as prior to that they looked to be all over the place.

The major change though was the introduction of my old sparring partner Benny Coulter. He provided a real presence on the field and he was telling the younger lads were to go, when to make the runs and they reacted to that.

I thought it was game over when McCurry scored Tyrone's second goal, but the crucial score of the game then followed when Down came right back and got a goal of their own.

The body language of the Down side wasn't good when McCurry netted, but they got fresh impetus straight away. Although some won't like me saying it, I think that someone should have taken a black card to prevent Down from striking back straight away. If that goal hadn't come the game was over.

Down's second and third goals were got too easy. That is something that has happened to Tyrone during the league as well and they don't seem to have learned from it.

One of the most disappointing things for me was that when Down got in front there was no presence or leadership on the field from Tyrone. Everybody seemed to be looking around and for somebody else to step up to the plate, while in the first half, when they were on top, everybody was looking for the ball.

The equaliser at the end was a massive score from Sean Cavanagh as he showed nerves of steel to convert that free. He nearly always delivers on the big occasion.

It's a bit like 2008 when we got a late equaliser in Omagh, but hopefully the result in Newry will be different this time. In my opinion it is Tyrone who have more work to do before Saturday night's replay. Down will take more positives from yesterday as they'll feel they didn't perform at all in the first half and it is still very much all to play for.

Belfast Telegraph

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