Tyrone win over Down silences critics, says Mickey Harte
Down 0-12 Tyrone 3-11
Well there you have it. After a week spent absorbing some sneering criticism, Tyrone came out and delivered an eight-point win over Down in Newry in Championship football. When was a win of that type ever sniffed at?
"We were berated last week a bit for supposedly not being very good," commented victorious manager Mickey Harte on the pitch afterwards.
"At times we could have won the game last week as comfortably as we did tonight. But we didn't put it away at the times that mattered.
"There was probably a bit of unfair criticism towards the team last week, because there were mistakes there too tonight, but we kept going, we kept fighting to the end and we kept out the goals. That's obviously what got us across the line."
The original fixture took a while to warm up to the required temperature for the Championship but a massive call in the first minute ensured excitement here.
Conor Maginn bored in towards goal and was fouled by Peter Harte. Referee Cormac Reilly blew for the free before checking his alignment on the pitch and possibly to his own astonishment, awarded Down the penalty.
Niall Morgan revealed that he had spent a bit of time researching Aidan Carr's spot kicks, and played a bit of brinksmanship in giving him a bit of space towards the right. Carr blasted down the middle and Morgan kept it out.
From then on, it was as if Tyrone realised they were in the middle of a Championship as they opened up a gap with dead ball efforts from Darren McCurry and the huge boot of Morgan.
Down put a scoring spurt together of four consecutive points to leave only two in it at the break, the highlight a glowing movement between Dan Gordon, Mark Poland, Conor Laverty with Donal O'Hare applying the finish.
However, while goals caused consternation among the Tyrone defence six days earlier, they were used as weapons here.
Two of them came from the boot of Ciaran McGinley and his finishing illustrated the gulf between the sides.
We waited for the Down bounce and the appearance of Benny Coulter and Ambrose Rogers, but by the time they got on, the game was gone.
McGinley had found the net in the first half when Colm Cavanagh dished off a break to brother Sean and the ball broke kindly for McGinley to slot home on the volley.
His second though killed Down's momentum. Substitute Stephen O'Neill fed Darren McCurry who drew two defenders, passing over their heads to McGinley, who blasted into the net.
"I had my fair share of wides last week and I was disappointed," said the Errigal Ciaran clubman afterwards.
"If I had scored even half of them last week, we wouldn't have been here this week.
"Thankfully I got into good positions and the ball fell lovely for me both times. I was really happy with both finishes."
While Tyrone enjoyed a slice of fortune with a Jerome Johnston shot hitting the post and Carr's fluffed penalty, they also smacked the crossbar from Sean Cavanagh and the post by Peter Harte.
It was Harte who finished the game in the 52nd minute. Niall McKenna took a Ronan McNabb pass and despite going the long way around Dan McCartan, left him for dead as he headed for goal.
By the time he got there, McNabb had continued his run and McKenna lofted it across the face of the goal, but Kevin McKernan was adjudged to foul McNabb for the second penalty of the game.
Brendan McVeigh got a hand on Harte's penalty, but it was too well-struck.
It represented a nice end to the week for Mickey Harte, who was taken to task late in the week by GAA President Liam O'Neill over comments he made on David Coldrick's refereeing performance in the drawn game.
He didn't exactly shy away from the issue afterwards, adding a measured response: "I always do my best to put a reasoned argument about the things I believe in – if he doesn't notice that then that's not an issue for me, maybe one for him. It probably wasn't the right thing for him to say.
"To personalise something like that, I don't think it's the right thing for the President to do. It's not for me to comment or judge him," added Harte.
The political issues will melt away eventually. In the meantime, they have a meeting with Ulster champions Monaghan in Clones next month.