McGrath cameo steals show for Red Hands
TYRONE 1-12, Down 0-10
Supersub Stephen McGrath came off the bench to put the final nail in Down's coffin in a cracking contest at Kingspan Breffni Park.
McGrath's 58th-minute goal sealed the deal for Tyrone after half-time leaders and match favourites Down ran out of steam on the home stretch.
With a contrary wind and a greasy sward, the early exchanges were pock-marked with a raft of spillages and a slew of hit-and-hope efforts at goal.
The elements remained troublesome, but gradually nerves were brought under control and the players began to express themselves enough to pepper the contest with scores.
The Down full-forward line stamped their mark on the first half by contributing all of their team's scores in that period, with Cory Quinn particularly potent.
A brace from play by Quinn proved pivotal in drawing Down level at 0-3 apiece at the end of the first quarter after Tyrone had sprung into an early lead against the strong breeze.
Tyrone laboured to get back into the driving seat and while Down led by the odd point in 11 at half-time, that was as good as it got for the Mourne county lads.
Four points without reply by the O'Neill county between the 37th and 40th minutes served to turn the game on its head, with Lee Brennan's brace inspirational.
Peter McGrath's charges were valiant in their efforts to stymie Tyrone's momentum and a classy point by Conor McGrady and a Quinn free (48) kept Tyrone honest.
Crucially Down would only score one more point from there to the finish as the likes of Padraig McGirr, Shea Hamill and Frank Burns set up a ring of steel in front of the leaders' goal.
Tyrone, in contrast, finished with a flourish and their greater division of labour up front manifested itself in timely fashion when subs Che O'Donnell and McGrath combined to put the issue to bed.
Scorers – Tyrone: D Gallagher 0-4 (3fs), S McGrath 1-1, L Brennan 0-3, R McGlone, P McGirr, D Mulgrew, R McHugh 0-1 each. Down: C Quinn 0-5 (3fs), C Doyle 0-3 (2fs), C McGrady 0-2.
Tyrone – S Fox; C Byrne, R Quinn, C McCann; S Hamill, C Morris, P McGirr; R Nugent, F Burns; D Mulgrew, C McKenna, D Gallagher; L Brennan, R McGlone, M Lynn. Subs: C O'Donnell for M Lynn (36), S McGrath for D Gallagher (48), R McHugh for R Nugent (54), T Donnelly for D Mulgrew (57), C McShane for L Brennan (59).
Down – R Malone; R Magee, K Colgan, A Fegan; D McKeever, D McCarthy, T McInerney; T Grimley, A McClements; P Havern, S McGonigle, D McAleenan; C Doyle, C McGrady, C Quinn. Subs: S Dobbin for P Haven (44); P O'Hagan for C McGrady (51).
Ref – N Mooney (Cavan)