The word all last week was that Tyrone might have been happier playing this one in Clones.
St Tiernach’s Park is a home from home for many an Ulster footballer, regardless of allegiance. There was even some mirth during half-time of the minor game when Mickey Harte’s players walked the field as if to acclimatise themselves to the turf.
Rory Beggan had already gotten his bearings.
Rumours abounded prior to the game that the Monaghan goalkeeper had paid a visit to Healy Park on Friday to practise his kicking. A renowned long-range dead ball specialist, he landed four from as many attempts yesterday.
Harte was quizzed on the hospitality shown to the Scotstown man after this two-point defeat but he was indifferent to the suggestion the gates maybe should have stayed shut earlier in the week.
“No, I think that’s fair enough. It doesn’t matter what day he does it and what day he practises it. It’s the day of the game that matters. He is doing this for a good while now, he is doing it in various grounds around the country and I have no issue with that at all.
“It’s a credit to the capacity he has that he can hit those long frees consistently. It’s a serious weapon to have in their team because there’s four points that you might normally expect to get one of them, if you are lucky, especially the distance you are kicking them from.
“I don’t think anybody else has a player that they would be sure enough to get four of those kicks. That’s a real bonus to Monaghan and then you add in Conor McManus, he can hit quality scores as well.”
Beggan’s accuracy with the boot was just one aspect to a superb game of football and one that gave a lie to treatises on the demise of football in Ulster in general. That it wasn’t screened live on TV was unfortunate in the circumstances.
“It’s a pity that is the case but I don’t legislate for that level of people who decide the presentation of our games. Maybe they can reflect on that and they should really pick games that would be of a high quality and go with them.”
It’s not something that will occupy his thoughts in the days and weeks to come. If Harte harbours regrets after this they will be centred on the injury issues that afflicted his side in the run-up and on the day itself.
Colm Cavanagh, Tiernan McCann, and Lee Brennan all started but not one of them finished. With Mark Bradley felled early on by an ankle injury, it left Tyrone with considerably less wiggle room for tactical switches as the game wore on.
“It was a close encounter and, up to 65 minutes, we didn’t know who was going to win the game. It was very much like the league game, it was toing and froing, and one team would have the upper-hand and then the other team would get it.
“Obviously the crucial period of the game was before half-time when we were two up and suddenly we were two down. That meant we had a battle on our hands in the second-half considering we were going to play against the breeze.”
Harte queried the decision by referee David Coldrick to show Peter Harte a straight red for a tackle on Ryan Wylie in injury-time.
He deemed it to be an attempt at playing the ball but, though he swapped thoughts with the official after, there will be no appeal.
The focus now is the qualifiers and making those Super 8s.
“We wanted to be in the last eight for sure, but we wanted to be there with a cup as well. Our challenge now is to get into the last eight and that is a harder and more unpredictable journey because you don’t know who you are going to meet and where you are going to meet them.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved