By Brendan O'Brien at Healy Park, Omagh
Tyrone 1-16 Monaghan 1-18
Tyrone’s bid for a famous three-in-a-row of Ulster Championships has been scuppered by neighbours Monaghan in a superb quarter-final in front of over 15,000 punters at a sodden but sated Healy Park.
Nip and tuck through much of the day, Monaghan opened up a five-point lead with a late five-point burst before an academic goal from the hosts, recently reduced to 14 men after a straight red card for Peter Harte, tweaked the complexion of the scoreboard.
Monaghan kicked the first point off the throw-in but it was Tyrone who made all the running in an opening period which would end with them leading by five points to two, only two frees awarded and not a single wide. Promising.
It was engaging stuff, full of committed, end-to-end football and Tyrone, in particular, employing the sort of long diagonal balls into – count them – three full-forwards that so many had been demanding for so long.
Not that it was all free-spirited stuff. Both sides were happy to flood back in numbers when duty called and it was clear from early on that the key to prising open defences was movement at pace and with numbers.
Accurate long-range shooting would prove vital, too.
What’s changed, eh?
Monaghan had opened up into the wind and knew that the sum of their ambitions didn’t need to rise much higher than keeping in touch until the interval so they would have been thrilled to keep Tyrone scoreless for a full 22 minutes of the half.
They reassumed parity gradually in that spell with the majority of their scores in the period coming from stationary balls struck by Conor McManus and goalkeeper Rory Beggan whose long-range strikes continue to drop jaws.
Tyrone had recovered enough of themselves to open up another lead, this time by two points, when Monaghan struck the first of the game’s really significant blows with a beautifully crafted team goal in first-half injury-time.
Vinny Corey was the cog in it all, his run in behind the first line of defence allowing him to wreak havoc close in and play a one-two with Darren Hughes that ended with him sliding the ball low into Niall Morgan’s net.
A beaut of a point from Drew Wylie, struck from distance and on the run into the elements, left Malachy O’Rourke’s side 1-7 to 0-8 ahead after 42 minutes of an at times entertaining and always interesting first-half.
Tyrone’s hole was all the deeper given they had lost forward Mark Bradley to injury after just eleven minutes, would return to the field without Cavanagh and see Tiernan McCann taken off midway through the second-half.
Injury scuppered them all.
The ebb and flow continued through the first 25 minutes of the second-half, Tyrone goalkeeper Morgan preventing the concession of another goal by saving a back post effort from Karl O’Connell after 48 minutes.
Monaghan couldn’t shake Tyrone off but Tyrone just couldn’t find an equaliser either. Not until the 65th minute when the excellent Connor McAliskey claimed the county’s third score in a row. Game on. Or not.
Tyrone wouldn’t score again until Michael McKiernan shinned an injury-time ‘45’ into the net. By then Monaghan had made their burst for the line, rattling off five points on the trot against an opponent reduced to 14 men with Peter Harte’s injury-time dismissal.
Scorers for Tyrone: C McAliskey (0-6, 0-3 frees); M McKernan (1-1); L Brennan (0-3 frees); N Sludden (0-2); P Hampsey, P Harte, M Donnelly and C McShane (all 0-1).
Scorers for Monaghan: C McManus (0-6, 0-4 frees); R Beggan (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-2 ‘45’s); V Corey (1-0); J McCarron (0-2, 0-1 free); C Walshe, D Wylie, F Kelly, C McCarthy, R McAnespie and C Walshe (all 0-1).
Tyrone: N Morgan: R McNamee, C McCarron, P Hampsey; T McCann, F Burns, C Meyler; C Cavanagh, C McShane; P Harte, N Sludden, M Donnelly; L Brennan, C McAliskey, M Bradley. Subs: R O’Neill for Bradley (20); D McClure for C Cavanagh (HT); M McKernan for McCarron (39); HP McGeary for McCann (52); K McGeary for Brennan (56); C McCann for O’Neill (61).
Monaghan: R Beggan; R Wylie, D Wylie, K Duffy; D Mone, V Corey, K O’Connell; N Kearns, D Hughes; F Kelly, K Hughes, D Ward; R McAnespie, J McCarron, C McManus. Subs: C McCarthy for Ward (41); O Duffy for McCarron (61); C Walshe for Mone (64).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).