Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA Tyrone

How Tyrone held their nerve to see off Monaghan and set up All-Ireland final

Tyrone 1-13 Monaghan 0-15

Joy and pain: Tyrone's Michael McKernan celebrates his side's first goal in front of Kieran Hughes
Joy and pain: Tyrone's Michael McKernan celebrates his side's first goal in front of Kieran Hughes
Cathal McShane roars with delight after setting up an All-Ireland final against champions Dublin
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone made it back to a first All-Ireland final in a decade by clinging on against Monaghan, to set up a final against a team who are relentless in their hunt for the tag of 'greatest ever,' in Dublin.

There's a lot to unpack in that game but the odd thing is that Tyrone, while the better side for the majority of the game, still required a huge slice of luck and some favourable refereeing decisions to be in front when the final whistle went.

Take the game's only goal, which was always going to be decisive in the context of this. It came from a quick sideline -the sideline should have been for Monaghan.

It was played to Peter Harte who for the first time in the game was free of Fintan Kelly's shackles. He transferred on to Tiernan McCann and while Darren Hughes dived full-length to block the shot, it squirted out to Niall Sludden who hammered it to the net.

Or the time that Ronan McNamee was given a yellow, rather than a black card for pulling Conor McCarthy down when Monaghan were in the ascendency. McCarthy wanted to go on and had space to do so, but Nolan did not allow the advantage.

There are other examples. But ultimately Tyrone deserved it too. They dropped five shots short in the first half. They were 0-4 to 0-1 up after four minutes. Monaghan only got their noses in front for three minutes before the lead was ruthlessly wiped out.

And, they had the players that could execute the skills under the greatest of pressure. In the final minute of the game, Monaghan substitute Jack McCarron was making a better angle for himself to level the game. Colm Cavanagh timed his lunge perfectly and knocked the ball from the Currin man's grasp.

Inches. Something Mickey Harte alluded to when he said, "It is a fine line especially in a game like that where it is so close. One or two little things and it is a different outcome and it is Malachy O'Rourke who is sitting here and Monaghan preparing for an All-Ireland final.

"That is just it. But I think the experience we had for the last number of years has to add some value to that. Otherwise it is a wasted experience.

"So I think the longing was within these players to be in a final and try and rectify the situation we left our county with last year."

Harte's comments take into consideration their conservatism that cost them against Mayo in the 2016 quarter-final, and the 12-point hammering from Dublin in last year's semi-final.

They get a glorious chance to rectify that on September 2, when the world will be expecting a handsome Dublin win.

But Harte can still produce tactical innovations. All year long, Padraig Hamspey has played out the field. Nobody expected him to do a man-to-man job on the best forward in Ireland in Conor McManus, and precious few might have predicted keeping him scoreless from play from the second minute.

"Yeah, he is a very good player. We have known that for a while. He is so adaptable," said Harte of the Coalisland man.

"He can go various places and put out various fires and we are very confident in handing him any task at all. It is good to have a player like that in your team but there's many players with lots of abilities going forward or in a defensive job of man marking job and you need that."

You have to have a huge dollop of sympathy for Monaghan. There are no more honest a group of players and no more likeable management team.

But blood and guts will only take you so far. When it comes to the final analysis of their season, something will haunt them; they were caught by really, really late goals to lose the Ulster semi-final to Fermanagh and lost the opportunity to beat Kerry for the first time in Championship.

And although there was time to get back into it here, it was a late goal when another team's reflexes were that little bit sharper.

Monaghan left themselves a job of work to trim back Tyrone's lead and had achieved it by half-time, both having amassed 0-8 each.

The three goal chances in that period all fell to Monaghan. On 15 minutes Ryan McAnespie fizzed a pass to McManus who had a brief glimpse of goal but Tyrone clogged up the area instantly.

A Colin Walshe shot came off the upright to Vinny Corey and his shot was saved by Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan. The rebound fell to Fintan Kelly and his shot was blocked down by Matthew Donnelly in a display of Tyrone desperation to make it to the big day.

They might have been in for a goal when a McManus pass across field beat Richie Donnelly and if Walshe had have held his ground, he was through on goal.

Three consecutive McManus frees brought Monaghan from two in arrears and into the lead, but they were flattened by the Tyrone goal.

The introduction of Kieran Hughes added some unpredictability to the Monaghan attack and he ran straight at Rory Brennan to muscle past and high-kick a point over while being pulled back.

But a wild attempt from Hughes on 68 minutes was followed by another by Jack McCarron a minute later.

Tyrone rode their luck all the way to the finish line. But now, their season goes into another stratosphere.

Dublin. September 2. Marching behind the Artane Boys' Band on All-Ireland final day. It's a fact of life for Dublin players whereas only Colm Cavanagh from the playing roster in Tyrone has experienced it.

Last year, Dublin schooled Tyrone with a 12-point lashing. Mickey Harte will not consider it for a second.

"I don't think you can read that much into it. We didn't read a 12-point defeat into that match last year.

"However, lot of people did and a lot of people reminded us of it for the last 12 months," he stated.

"But we didn't feel we were 12 points a worse team than Dublin with that result."

The madness starts here. Anyone buying or selling a ticket?

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph