Tyrone 0-11 Monaghan 1-05
Scarcely had the final whistle sounded in this Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup decider at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh than Tyrone boss Mickey Harte was switching his focus to the upcoming Allianz League.
His team duly captured the scalp of an experimental Monaghan side in landing the early-season trophy for the 12th time under his command but making an impact in the much more demanding league environment tops Harte's shopping list right now.
"We have been able to mix and match and experiment in the McKenna Cup but the league is a big step up because we are in there in Division One with seven of the top teams in the country and the pressure will be on from the outset," insisted Harte (right).
"We know for sure that the league is a different level altogether and now that we are without people like Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane you have to try and ensure that other players are ready to step up to the mark."
In this respect, Ronan O'Neill and Darren McCurry have provided compelling evidence that they are ready to assume the mantle of score-getters in the Red Hands' attack.
O'Neill's four-point haul proved invaluable in the McKenna Cup final win while McCurry's explosive three-point burst when he was introduced from the bench complemented the seven points he registered in the semi-final victory over Down.
His salvo on Saturday night came just prior to the break as part of an unanswered five-point burst by his side which propelled them into a 0-8 to 0-3 interval lead before Monaghan dug their heels in more firmly after the break, inspired by Shane Carey and Conor McCarthy, with Barry McBennett's injury-time goal embellishing the final scoreline from an Oriel perspective.
Harte will now be demanding more from his side, beginning with what he hopes will be a home league win against Meath on Sunday.
"Your initial ambition in the league is obviously to ensure that you survive in the top bracket but after that you want to see if you can get to the final," insisted Harte. "We will be endeavouring to achieve this goal. It may be out of our reach, I don't know, but we will see. This is the best division in which to be playing your football because it helps to raise the standards of individual players and the team as a unit."
If O'Neill and McCurry provide Harte with a generous ration of optimism going forward, then the many-sided talents which Frank Burns has been unleashing since the start of the month suggest that he could prove a ready-made replacement for McShane.
But while Harte (above) prefers to keep his selection cards close to his chest at the moment, there is no doubt that players such as Burns and indeed others because of their versatility offer him selection options that could prove the basis for further progress.
"When you look at Frank Burns you see someone who can play in any position on the team from the full-back line to corner forward and that is certainly particularly welcome in the current situation in which we find ourselves," declared Harte. "You see, too, a young player like Conor Quinn coming into the defence and doing very well. He is only 20 but he is a very capable defender and we have other guys in there who can play big parts along the way.
"The fact of the matter is that there are no easy games in Division One and we know that it is going to be tough."
Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney has been forced to ship a heavy blow in advance of the league after experienced defender Colin Walshe hobbled off in the fourth minute to be replaced by Kieran Duffy.
"You are going to pick up injuries in games like this and that's something that you have to accept. I thought my boys were very resilient on this occasion because they did not allow Tyrone to get too far ahead of them. I suppose you could say that Barry McBennett's goal was something in the nature of a consolation score but I thought the lads deserved it because of their overall work rate and the honesty," said McEnaney.
His team now meet Galway in their league opener next week-end but another meeting with Tyrone is on the agenda in Division One.
Tyrone: N Morgan; C Quinn, R McNamee, H P McGeary; M Cassidy, M O'Neill 0-1, T McCann; C Cavanagh, C Grugan; C Meyler, D Mulgrew, K McGeary 0-1; R O'Neill 0-4 (1f), F Burns 0-1, D Kerr 0-1. Subs: D McCurry 0-3 for Mulgrew (24), B McDonnell for Cavanagh (half-time), N Sludden for M O'Neill (53), N Kelly for McNamee (56), Yellow cards: Cavanagh (30), Grugan (36), McCurry (40), Burns (58).
Monaghan: C Forde; C Walshe, D Wylie, C Boyle; S Carey 0-2 (1f), R Wylie, P Keenan; N Kearns, B McBennett 1-0; M P Ward, R McAllister, D Ward; C McCarthy 0-3, K McEnaney, P Donnelly. Subs: K Duffy for Walshe (4), D Malone for Donnelly (half-time), K O'Connell for Boyle (45), R McAnespie for O'Dowd (52), K Hughes for McEnaney (65),
Yellow cards: Duffy (40), Malone (43).
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down).