Ulster Championship Final: Conlon stars for young Red Hands
Monaghan 0-7 1-14 Tyrone
The contrast between winning and losing could scarcely have been greater on a day Tyrone retained their Ulster title in some style.
Many had predicted a hugely competitive game and it just might have been but for two brilliant saves by Tyrone keeper Pascal McConnell at the beginning and end of the first half.
Typically the big Newtownstewart clubman played down his massive contribution.
“It’s a team game and every man plays his part and I’m no different to the rest,” he said.
“Full marks to everyone on the panel and now it’s all systems go for the qualifiers.
“When Tommy Freeman looks back on the first save I made it will probably feel like he should have carried the ball that wee bit closer to goal.
“My job as a keeper is to make myself as big as possible and I can’t take anything for granted with John Devin and Jonny Curran waiting in the wings.
“The whole thing is a bit of a lottery for on another day those shots could just have easily gone into the net. The first half was a bit of a battle but then we got some early scores and that set us up for the rest of the match.”
McConnell is already focusing on the All Ireland quarter-final in a fortnight’s time and added: “Some would say that when you get to the quarter-finals that’s when the real football starts.”
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte was as unflappable as ever as he reflected on another mission accomplished.
“It was a more comprehensive victory than most people would have anticipated,” he said.
“But we prepared well and were always confident in our own ability and perhaps there was a feeling the squad wasn’t getting the credit we were entitled to.
“Monaghan had been free scoring going into this match and it was vital we kept tabs on their attack. We’re fortunate to have a player the quality of Joe McMahon around. He’s the complete package. We were well enough placed at half time before pushing on as the second half progressed.”
Some critics questioned the age profile of some Tyrone players, but Harte hit back: “Some people need to catch themselves on a wee bit. These men don’t have tired legs nor are they ready for retirement. They are all decent footballers who have proved themselves over the past decade and who aren’t finished by any stretch of the imagination.”
Harte also revealed that full forward Stephen O’Neill, who missed the final through injury, has a real battle on h is hands to be fit for the All Ireland quarter final in a fortnight’s time.
“We’re always pleased to win Ulster finals as in years to come you will be judged on what titles you’ve won,” he said. “It’s also important that it gives us a straight route into the quarter-finals and also gives us a fortnight to prepare so it offers many advantages that we wouldn’t have had we lost to Monaghan.”
Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney pulled no punches in assessing his team’s dramatic fall from grace. “It was the worst Monaghan performance in six years,” he said. “We have to live with that until the 2011 championship, but I promise everyone we will bounce back in the qualifiers.
“We owe it to ourselves and to our very loyal supporters. We started well but then we allowed Tyrone to go six or seven points clear and we never recovered.
“We allowed the Tyrone defence to bully us and that set the pattern for the rest of the match. To beat them we had to be at the top of our game and we were a long way off it.”