It had not quite been ordained as an opportunity to leap into sporting immortality but yesterday’s Ulster senior football championship decider in front of 34,634 fans at Clones had been labelled as D-Day for Monaghan.
And in a tedious, fractious, colourless contest this is precisely how it turned out — except the D in their case stood for Disaster.
For if Tyrone were perceived to be rather muted, indeed withdrawn, in their build-up then the emphatic manner in which Mickey Harte’s side did their talking out on the immaculate St Tiernach’s Park surface not only bore the hallmark of eloquence but provided substantial evidence that a bigger prize than this back-to-back Ulster titles coup could well be within their gambit.
The warning signs were posted in the first-half for Monaghan, who were handicapped from the outset by the withdrawal of injured skipper Vinny Corey.
And then chilling reality prevailed after the break when the Farney men discovered that the glue which binds the Red Hands is clearly of industrial strength.
Out-manoeuvred at midfield, reduced to essays in fumbling terror at the back and embarrassingly forced to go for an incredible 41 minutes without landing a solitary score Monaghan were clearly not so much out of their depth as on the wrong planet.
Yet the Red Hands nonetheless owed a massive debt to agile custodian Pascal McConnell. In the 3rd and 34th minutes he pulled off magnificent saves from the Freeman brothers Tommy and Damien which ultimately proved significant in determining the course that the game took. Had one or either gone in the narrative may well have been different.
But with the normally free-scoring Tommy well shackled, Conor McManus and Paul Finlay almost anonymous and John Paul Mone stretchered from the pitch in the second-half with a serious knee injury Monaghan’s plight was savagely compounded.
Tyrone’s 0-7 to 0-4 interval lead looked slightly tenuous given that McConnell’s reflexes had thwarted Monaghan’s quest for a confidence-booster but there was absolutely no doubt about their rampant authority after the break.
Their all-too-familiar team ethic had been underlined when Tommy McGuigan, Conor Gormley, Brian Dooher, Philip Jordan, Kevin Hughes, Sean Cavanagh and Davy Harte shared in that admittedly modest first-half points haul, but after Martin Penrose and Joe McMahon joined Cavanagh in sweeping over three further points on the re-start Monaghan’s already feeble challenge evaporated altogether.
Just as they had done against Down in the semi-final, Tyrone effectively strangled Monaghan’s efforts to recover from their own careless slippages.
And as beleaguered manager Seamus McEnaney sought desperately for a formula to ease the pain by emptying his bench — to
no avail, let it be said — Colm Cavanagh totally lacerated the Farney county’s last vestiges of resistance when he swept in the only goal in the 65th minute after taking a clever pass from his Moy club colleague Philip Jordan, a real Red Hands hero yesterday.
And far from exercising a modicum of clemency, the Red Hands hit the title wannabes with a clinical four-point blast in the last seven minutes with Penrose, Harte and Sean Cavanagh all on target again and clearly giving the lie to any suggestion that father time has not been kind to their team’s senior citizens.
And Monaghan? They just curled up and died on a day on which their pride disintegrated, their character dissolved and a marked absence of real fighting spirit proved the hardest blow of all for their huge army of enthusiastic fans to absorb.
TYRONE: P McConnell; C McCarron, Justin McMahon, R McMenamin; D Harte (0-2), C Gormley (0-1), P Jordan (0-1); C Cavanagh (1-0), K Hughes (0-1); B Dooher (0-1), S Cavanagh (0-3), Joe McMahon (0-1); M Penrose (0-2, frees), T McGuigan (0-1), O Mulligan. Subs: C McCullagh for Mulligan (63 mins), P Harte for McGuigan (63), D Carlin for McCarron (64), B McGuigan for Dooher (68), Sean O’Neill for D Harte (70). Yellow card: Penrose (57 mins).
MONAGHAN: D Hughes; D McArdle, J P Mone, C Walshe; D Freeman, V Corey, G McQuaid; D Clerkin (0-1), E Lennon; S Gollogly, P Finlay (0-1), K Hughes; R Woods (0-1), C McManus (0-2, both frees), T Freeman (0-1). Subs: H McElroy for J P Mone (45 mins), C Hanratty for Gollogly (45), D Mone (0-1) for Finlay (54), M McElroy for K Hughes (63), N McAdam for McQuaid (69). Yellow cards: D Freeman (20 mins), E Lennon (34), Walsh (67).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).