Tyrone 2-17; Down 0-15: Tyrone demolished Down’s challenge with a second half power-play to retain their Ulster SFC title at Clones, writes Francis Mooney.
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The attacking dynamic was a stark contrast to a dull opening 35 minutes which saw both sides defend in numbers.
But once the Red Hands threw off the shackles, they were able to cut therough the Mourne rearguard, and Ronan O’Neill came off the bench to shoot two second half goals which sealed the Anglo-Celt Cup and a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Both sides set up defensively, with Tyrone retreating with 14 men inside their own ’45 as they set about neutralising a Mourne attack that had taken down Monaghan in the semi-final.
By the 13th minute, the holders were ahead by 0-4 to 0-1, with centre back Padraig Hampsey firing over a couple of scores from distance and Mattie Donnelly squeezing one over from a tight angle.
Shay Millar got the challengers off the mark, and Ryan Johnston landed a sublime long range effort.
But the patient approach of the Tyrone men paid off as they added further scores through Niall Sludden and Sean Cavanagh.
They were 0-6 to 0-2 ahead by the 22nd minute, but having repeatedly run into banks of defenders, Down started to stretch their opponents along the flanks, with the pace of Ryan Johnston causing problems as he set up a score for Conor Maginn.
With Niall Donnelly and Darragh O’Hanlon (free) also hitting the target, the deficit was now down to a single point, and the Mourne supporters in the huge crowd were finding their voices.
And Down continued to perform with a spirit of adventure, and could hve had a goal late on in the half. Darren o’Hagan’s shot came off the post, and the ball was recycled by Jerome Johnston to O’Hanlon, who smashed his shot just wide.
The relieved Red Hands countered for Donnelly to punch over his second for a 0-7 to 0-5 interval lead
The Red Hands hit the opening seven points of the second half. They pushed on with scores from David Mulgrew and Sean Cavanagh, before Mark Bradley tagged on another for a double scores led 0-10 to 0-5, with just three minutes of the second half played.
Down suffered a massive blow when the experienced Kevin McKernan received a black card on 41 minutes.
The Red Hands hit seven points on the spin as the Down challenge faded, moving into a 0-14 to 0-5 led by the 53rd minute.
It took Down 18 minutes to score their first point of the second half, Caolan Money finishing off a nmove involving Maginn and Joe Murphy.
But with substitute Declan McClure making a big impact at midfield, the Red Hands continued to dominate.
Ronan O’Neill came off the bench to hit the net with his fist touch, and he lobbed goalkeeper Michael Cunningham for his second goal six minutes from the end.
A late flurry of scores from Darragh O’Hanlon and Caolan Mooney were never going to save the Mourne dream.