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Tyrone's Antrm win was always a red cert

Mickey's men cruise into semi-final as pace too much for deflated Saffrons

Tyrone's Cathal McShane. Pic INPHO/Lorcan Doherty
Tyrone's Cathal McShane. Pic INPHO/Lorcan Doherty
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Three high-octane and hugely competitive matches formed the Ulster Championship itinerary up until last night but the possibility of the competition's status being further enhanced at the Athletic Grounds had disappeared long before half-time.

Tyrone did not so much hit the ground running as burst from the starting blocks at Olympian pace, and by the end of the first quarter the only issue to be resolved was their precise margin of victory.

While the Red Hands strode imperiously into a semi-final against the winners of today's tie between Fermanagh and Donegal, a forlorn Antrim were left to contemplate their mission in the first round of the qualifiers.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte can take considerable satisfaction from the fact that 14 players in all scored, he introduced a raft of substitutes - all of whom made a considerable impact - and his side showed an urgency and hunger that augurs well for their future progress.

With Colm Cavanagh, Richie Donnelly and Frank Burns very much to the fore, Tyrone stamped their imprint on the proceedings from the outset, and by the 20th minute they had built up an 0-8 to 0-2 lead, with Cathal McShane and Donnelly very much to the fore in an early onslaught.

There was worse to come from the Saffrons' perspective when Tiernan McCann surged through to snap up a Peter Harte pass and thunder home a spectacular goal, which propelled his side into a 1-10 to 0-3 lead.

With Antrim restricted to occasional forays, Tyrone pressed forward relentlessly and by half-time were home and dry at 1-16 to 0-6, with Niall Morgan and Niall Sludden joining the more prolific scorers in sending their side into an unassailable lead.

If the first half heaped only ignominy on Antrim, then the second half offered a measure of relief.

It was rookie defender Patrick McCormick who pin-pricked Tyrone's morale when he smacked in a 47th-minute goal before Matthew Fitzpatrick repeated the dose 10 minutes later.

But all the while the heavy artillery that Harte had introduced from his bench - Connor McAliskey, Darren McCurry and Kyle Coney - kept rubbing salt in Antrim's psychological wounds by pilfering points from all angles and distances.

While Lenny Harbinson's side appeared to have regained a modicum of self-respect, they lost it just as quickly when the voracious McAliskey thumped in a 60th-minute goal that propelled his side into a 2-21 to 2-7 lead.

Skipper Declan Lynch, Ryan Murray and Paddy McBride in particular did their best to keep Antrim from sinking, with a late brace of Murray points providing the spur for a resolute finish, but there was never the slightest doubt that Tyrone would claim their semi-final place with considerable comfort.

A raft of defections in the wake of the Allianz League, the fact that at least three substitutes were carrying injuries that prohibited their involvement in the action and Tyrone's searing pace throughout combined to make the game more a test of endurance for Antrim than anything else.

They face a difficult task in trying to rediscover their enthusiasm and energy for the qualifiers, but if the inspiration provided by some of their players is seized upon by others, there is still the possibility that all may not be lost.

Tyrone: N Morgan 0-1 (45); H P McGeary, R McNamee 0-1, R Brennan 0-1; T McCann 1-0, P Hampsey, M Cassidy 0-1; C Cavanagh, B McDonnell; M Donnelly 0-2, N Sludden 0-1, F Burns 0-1; C McShane 0-6 (1f), P Harte 0-1 (f), R Donnelly 0-4. Subs: C Grugan for McDonnell (BC 23), C McAliskey 1-1 for Harte (41), D McCurry 0-1 for McShane (41), K Coney 0-1 for M Donnelly (41), C McCann 0-1 for Sludden (53).

Antrim: P Nugent; P McCormick 1-0, R Johnston, P Gallagher; P McBride 0-2 (2f), D Lynch, N Delargy; C Duffin, S Beatty; J McAuley 0-1, M Fitzpatrick 1-0, K Quinn; R Murray 0-6 (44f), J Smith, O Eastwood. Subs: R McNulty for Smith (h/t), E Walsh for Eastwood (44), R Scott for Quinn (520, M McCarry for Beatty (54), C Mallon for McAuley (63), J Mallon for Walsh (72).

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).

Belfast Telegraph


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