Late goal sinks Monaghan as Tyrone survive nervy finish to set up All-Ireland final clash with Dublin
Tyrone 1-13 Monaghan 0-15
Tyrone ended Monaghan's fairytale championship run to reach their first All-Ireland final in a decade after a dramatic finish in Croke Park this afternoon.
Beaten in their last four semi-final appearances, Mickey Harte's side finally got in right as they reasserted their Croke Park Park dominance over Monaghan – they also beat them at HQ in the quarter-final in 2013 and 2015.
Their one point victory sets them up for a September 2 showdown against Dublin, a repeat of the 1995 All-Ireland decider. Dublin won last year's semi-final against the Ulster side in a canter but their Super 8 clash in Omagh was much tighter.
It was a bitterly disappointing day for Monaghan and their thousands of fans and just to rub salt into their wounds, their minor team was beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final by Kerry as well.
They led for just three minutes after the hour mark but a Tyrone goal in the 64th minute from Niall Sludden – who was their top scorer from play with a 1-2 contribution – proved the key score. Monaghan were unlucky, however, not to bring the game to extra time.
Late points from Kieran Hughes and Drew Wylie left the minimum between the sides and Hughes appeared to be fouled as goalkeeper Rory Beggan drove a high ball towards the Tyrone goal. Initially the referee appeared to signal for a free but then waved play on. So Monaghan's 88 year wait for a win in an All-Ireland semi-final continues.
As expected, Tyrone's chief man-marker Padraig Hampsey switched to mark Monaghan's key marksman Conor McManus as Tyrone hit the ground running with Colm Cavanagh kicking a point after 25 seconds. Later he saved a point at the other end when he fielded a huge free from McManus under his own crossbar.
Monaghan looked strangely lethargic and nervous in the early exchanges and Tyrone punished them by winning three turn-overs in the first five minutes, all of which led to points – and indeed, Frank Burns could have easily scored a goal.
Gradually Monaghan settled; inevitably it was McManus who sparked the revival even though he opted not to take the first scoreable free they were awarded in the tenth minute. But they recycled the ball and eventually Conor McCarthy hit their second point.
By the 20th minute it was back to a one point game and Monaghan had created but squandered the game's best goal-scoring opportunity up to that point.
Rory Beggan's re-start had sent Ryan McAnespie flying along the Cusack Park side and he linked up with McManus who momentarily had clear sight on goal but he was quickly closed down and the chance was lost.
The key difference between the sides was their transition game – once Tyrone secured the ball in their own half they moved swiftly and directly with the player in possession always having a runner on his shoulder.
By contrast, Monaghan's movement of the ball was more lateral and laboured and the player in possession was often left in isolation which inevitably led to turn-overs.
Still, Monaghan hung in and were unlucky not to hit a three-pointer in the 23rd minute after a shot form Colin Walsh rebounded off the upright into the hands of Vinny Corey, whose shot was blocked, as was Fintan Kelly's effort for a point.
But Tyrone's wayward finishing - they five wides and dropped three shots short - and thanks primarily to the excellence of Conor McCarthy and a mini-meltdown in Tyrone's kick out strategy, saw Monaghan finish the half with the last two points and the sides finished level at 0-8 each at the break.
Monaghan missed a chance to take the lead for the first time soon after the interval when Rory Beggan was wide with a long range free and Ryan McAnespie missed another opportunity soon afterwards. Then in their second meaningful attack in the half, Connor McAliskey kicked his third point of the game for Tyrone.
The corner-forward pointed a free soon afterwards after a foul on Mattie Donnelly to make it a two point game but a beautiful strike from a Beggan free brought it back to a one score game in 44th minute.
Two key refereeing decisions went against Monaghan in the next passage of play culminating in Lee Brennan pointing a free. Tyrone full back Ronan McNamee was fortunate to receive a yellow rather than a black card after a foul on Conor McCarthy and to compound Monaghan's misery, McManus missed the subsequent free.
Even though there were only two points between the sides the game still lacked urgency and there was a worrying lack of directness about Monaghan when they had possession. They seemed terrified to lose possession.
Still, it was back to a one point match in the 54th minute when McManus pointed a free after Hampsey had pushed him over. Remarkably after 23 minutes of the second half there had been only one point from play.
But Monaghan's substitute Kieran Hughes broke the drought in the 58th minute with the equalising point after Conor McCarthy had done brilliantly to intercept a Tyrone pass deep in his own half. Then, finally in the 61st minute Monaghan finally took the lead when substitute Hughes was fouled; Tyrone protested too much and the free was moved forward and McManus pointed.
But Monaghan's joy was short-lived. After a disputed sideline which went Tyrone's way there was a break in play during which Tyrone introduced two substitutes. When play resumed Tyrone worked the ball through the phases and though Darren Hughes blocked a goal-bound shot from Tiernan McCann, the ball broke broke kindly to Niall Sludden who drove it to the roof of the Monaghan net.
The game finally opened up with McManus pointing a free but two points from Peter Harte – one from a free – looked to have made Tyrone safe as Man of the Match Colm Cavanagh was outstanding.
But Monaghan never gave up and points from influential substitute Kieran Hughes and Drew Wylie brought Monaghan back from the brink again. Indeed, they looked set to get a close-in free at the death for an off the ball foul on Kieran Hughes, which referee Anthony Nolan appeared to signal initially before waving play on and Tyrone survived.
The official attendance was 46,696.
Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKiernan, R McNamee, K McGeary; T McCann (0-1), F Burns (0-1), P Harte (0-2,1f); C Cavanagh (0-1), P Hampsey; M Donnelly, N Sludden (1-2), C McShane (0-1); L Brennan (0-1, 1f), R Donnelly, C McAliskey (0-4, 2f). Subs: H Loughran for Burns ht; M Bradley for L Brennan 48m; R Brennan for McNamee 50m, C McCann for R Donnelly 57m; D McClure for McShane; R O'Neill for McAliskey both 62m
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-1, 1f); K Duffy, D Wylie (0-1) R Wylie; C Walshe, V Corey, K O'Connell; N Kearns, D Hughes; R McAnespie, S Carey, C McCarthy (0-3); D Malone, F Kelly (0-1), C McManus (0-7, 6f). Subs: D Mone for Malone 45m, K Hughes (0-2) for Carey 50m, J McCarron for Corey 68m
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)