Red Hand stay on course for back-to-back Ulster titles

Tyrone 0-14 Down 0-10

Tyrone 0-14 Down 0-10

Tyrone have yet to hit top form in the 2010 championship, but they’re through to another Ulster SFC final and Mickey Harte is chasing his first back-to-back title triumph.

The provincial champions looked devastating at times, particularly in the final 15 minutes of the second half, when they tore the Mourne men apart with six points on the spin.

But for the most part, this was a containment exercise and a lesson in controlled football, which has become their hallmark.

Down raced into a four-point lead, but there was never any panic in the Tyrone ranks, even when ace attacker Stephen O’Neill was forced out of the game by injury after just 11 minutes.

His replacement, Brian McGuigan, rolled back the years with an imperious display as playmaker, making a massive contribution to his side’s four points success.

Had goalkeeper Pascal McConnell not pulled off two excellent saves, one in the first half from Benny Coulter, and another after the break from Dan Gordon, the outcome might have been different.

Down displayed all the early urgency, sweeping into a 0-6 to 0-2 lead, with Mark Poland, Martin Clarke and Dan Gordon hitting some eye-catching scores.

Following the loss of O’Neill, Sean Cavanagh moved inside and McGuigan adopted a playmaking role.

Brian Dooher swept over two points and Martin Penrose converted a free, but Tyrone trailed by 0-8 to 0-4 on 20 minutes.

Tyrone scored the final six points of the half, with Joe McMahon and Cavanagh both scoring magnificent efforts from distance, and corner back Dermot Carlin also getting in on the act.

At the break, Tyrone led by 0-10 to 0-8 after Poland had missed an easy free, with Clarke also having difficulty in finding his range from placed balls.

Early in the second half, Gordon did break free of Joe McMahon, but with no support, was forced to shoot from a tight angle, and goalkeeper Pascal McConnell saved comfortably.

Coulter, meanwhile, could never get into the game, starved of quality possession and closely watched by Justin McMahon.

As the game became sloppy and untidy, almost 20 minutes elapsed without a score, before Sean Cavanagh and Moy clubmate created the opening for Penrose to hit his first from play.

Clarke did likewise at the other end, and carved the opening for Danny Hughes to get in for a glorious goal chance. His shot was superbly saved by Pascal McConnell, but Paul McComiskey had perhaps a better opportunity from the rebound, but skewed his shot badly wide.

And Penrose drove home the final nail with his fifth score to seal Tyrone’s place in the decider.

Tyrone: P McConnell, M Swift, Justin McMahon, D Carlin (0-1), P Harte, C Gormley, P Jordan, C Cavanagh (0-1), K Hughes, B Dooher (0-2), S Cavanagh (0-3, 2f), Joe McMahon (0-1), M Penrose (0-5, 3f), S O’Neill, O Mulligan (0-1).

Subs: B McGuigan for O’Neill (11), Sean O’Neill for Swift (41), T McGuigan for Harte (63), R Mellon for Dooher (68), C McCullagh for Mulligan (70)

Down: B McVeigh, D Rooney, B McArdle, D Rafferty, K McKernan, J Colgan, C Garvey, A Rodgers (0-2), K King, D Hughes (0-1), M Poland (0-2, 1f), B Coulter, C Maginn, D Gordon (0-1), M Clarke(0-3, 2f).

Subs: P McComiskey (0-1, f) for Poland (h-t), D O’Hagan for Garvey (56), P Fitzpatrick for King (60)

Referee: G O Conamha (Galway)

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