Tyrone 1-15 South Down 0-11
Tyrone were crowned NHL Division Four champions this afternoon at the end of a superb second-half display at Athletic Grounds, where they came from behind to deny South Down.
The Red Hands secured the only promotion place available, condemning the Mourne men to another season in the basement division.
Tyrone trailed by three points at half-time, but took control in the final quarter, when they outscored their opponents by 1-5 to 0-1, with Cathal McErlean striking the only goal of the game.
Michael Cunningham and Liam Morgan struck early points to give Down a foothold, and with midfielder Paul McAleenan having a big influence, they put the Red Hands under sustained pressure.
Tyrone survived a long spell of Down attacking to hit points through McErlean and Gary Fox.
Paul O’Neill’s long distance free made it 0-5 to 0-2 in favour of South Down in the 15th minute, but scores from McErlean and Peter O’Connor narrowed the gap to a single point.
Tyrone finished the half with a flourish, but some excellent defending from James McGrath and Kieran Courtney protected the lead for the Down men, who went into the break with a 0-9 to 0-6 lead.
Tyrone started the second half with points from Rory O’Neill and McErlean, and it was O’Neill who brought them level in the 46th minute.
The sides were still deadlocked on 0-10 each as the game slipped into its final quarter, but Justin Kelly came off the bench to give the Red Hands the lead for the first time on 55 minutes.
When Aidan Kelly, Justin Kelly and Seamus McLoughney combined to send O’Neill in for a 61st minute goal, Tyrone sensed that victory could be theirs.
They finished in style against a tiring Down side, with Justin Kelly, Conor Grogan and O’Neill floating over stylish points.
Tyrone: J Devlin, R O’Neill, D Maguire, J Patton, S Begley, S Donnelly, M Grogan, T Hughes, A Kelly (0-1), G Fox (0-1), P O’Connor (0-1), C McErlean (0-4, 2f), R O’Neill (1-4), S McLoughney, C Grogan (0-2).
Subs: M O’Gorman for Fox, R Winters for Patton, J Kelly (0-2, 1f) for O’Connor, B Winters for McLoughney, C Gallagher for C Grogan.
South Down: D Kearns, C Teague, J McGrath, P Byrne, A McGuinness, K Courtney, J Brown, P O’Neill (0-2, 1 ’65), P McAleenan (0-1), M Cunningham (0-1), C Beattie, L Morgan (0-7, 6f), M Magee, E McGuinness, A Brown.
Subs: E Treanor for A McGuinness, N Brown for Beattie, D Doherty for Cunningham, J O’Kane for A Brown
Referee: O Elliot (Antrim).