Down 0-12 Tyrone 3-11
Ciaran McGinley’s classy double strike helped Tyrone make it through at the second attempt as they scored a convincing Ulster SFC preliminary round victory over Down at Pairc Esler.
On a damp evening in the Marshes, a crowd of 14,410 watched a sequel that may have lacked the fireworks of last weekend’s drawn game at Healy Park, but confirmed the view that the Red Hands must be taken seriously as genuine contenders this year.
With a handful of experienced stars, such as Stephen O’Neill, Conor Gormley and Justin McMahon back in harness, they patched up a leaky defence and displayed enough attacking menace to force the Mourne men into submission.
Down will point to the fact that they missed a penalty and hit a post, but Tyrone were also twice denied by the woodwork, and fully deserved their passage to a quarter-final clash with provincial champions Monagan at Clones on June 15.
Down were awarded a penalty after just 25 seconds when Peter Harte brought down Conor Maginn as he went for goal.
But Aidan Carr drove his kick straight at Niall Morgan, who saved with comfort.
Buoyed by the let-off, Tyrone began to win breaking ball around midfield, taking the game to their hosts with the wind in their backs.
Morgan displayed his offensive qualities with a couple of long-range points from placed balls, and Darren McCurry and Ronan O’Neill were also on target.
Harte had a chance to make amends for his penalty concession, but rather than go for goal, he blazed the ball over the bar to open out a three-point lead.
Donal O’Hare converted a couple of frees, but the Mourne men suffered a blow in the 23rd minute when Ciaran McGinley got in for a goal.
He failed to control Sean Cavanagh’s pass, but the ball fell kindly at his feet for a soccer-style finish past Brendan McVeigh.
Trailing by six points, the Mourne men need to turn the game around, and they did so in impressive fashion with the last four points of the half.
O’Hare, Maginn and Conor Laverty all hit the target, before Dan Gordon, a surprise call-up following a two-year absence, cut the deficit to two points.
Tyrone led by 1-6 to 0-7 at the break, and McGinley’s second goal just 40 seconds into the second half had them firmly back in control.
Stephen O’Neill, into the game as a half-time substitute along with Conor Gormley, fed Darren McCurry, whose pass picked out McGinley in space on the right, and he gave McVeigh no chance with a bullet-like finish to the top corner of the net.
Ronan McNabb denied Gordon a goal with a superb tackle as Down desperately tried once again to trim back a six points deficit, but Tyrone also came close when Cavanagh smacked a shot against the crossbar.
Benny Coulter came off the bench to lift the home side with an inspirational point, and O’Hare clipped over another free.
But Down were rocked back on their heels by a third Tyrone goal, the fourth penalty of this two-game sequence.
Ronan McNabb was tugged back by Kevin McKernan as he reached for Niall McKenna’s cross, and Harte drilled home the kick.
Mattie Donnelly’s point gave them a nine-point cushion, and Down’s challenge was finally ended.
Both sides struck the woodwork, Jerome Johnston and Harte denied goals by a post, and while O’Hare brought his tally to six with a couple of frees, there was to be no denying the Red Hands.
Down: B McVeigh, D McCartan, B McArdle, R Boyle, D Rooney, A Carr, C Garvey (0-1), D Gordon (0-1), J Johnston, C Maginn (0-1), M Poland, K McKernan, D O’Hare (0-6, 4f), N Madine, C Laverty (0-2).
Subs: B Coulter (0-1) for Carr (44), R Johnston for Madine (47), A Rogers for J Johnston (59), D Turley for Gordon (63)
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-3, 2f, 1 ’45), A McCrory, J McMahon, R McNamee, R McNabb, M Donnelly (0-1), P Harte (1-1, 1-0 pen), C Cavanagh, C Clarke, E McKenna, S Cavanagh, C McGinley (2-1), D McCurry (0-2, 2f), R O’Neill (0-1), K Coney.
Subs: S O’Neill for McKenna (h-t), C Gormley for McNamee (h-t), N McKenna (0-1)for Coney (50), M Penrose for McCurry (63), C McAliskey (0-1) for R O’Neill (67), D McBride for Donnelly (68).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).