Thursday 8 December 2016

True Tyrone grit far too much for limp Monaghan

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Tyrone 0-18 Monaghan 0-14

Published 10/08/2015 | 02:30

Monaghan's Conor McManus forces his way past Ronan McNamee
Monaghan's Conor McManus forces his way past Ronan McNamee
Tyrone's Darren McCurryin eyes up the ball ahead of Ryan Wylie, Monaghan
Kieran Hughes, Monaghan, controls the ball ahead of a number of Tyrone players
Sean Cavanagh, Tyrone, passionately celebrates his side's victory

Qualifier specialists reach semi-final after bad-tempered encounter

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The destination, rather than the journey, is all that matters on the big summer adventure.

Monaghan are Ulster champions but it won’t mean a whole lot to them after falling at the All-Ireland quarter-final fence for a third successive year. It was made all the more miserable that they lost to another Ulster team, which had re-mounted after taking a tumble against Donegal back in mid-May.

But, then, Tyrone are experts at harnessing the qualifiers as a means of getting to Croke Park for the business end of the championship. And, just as they did in 2013, they proved too cute for Monaghan in an interesting contest marred late on by cynicism at its ugliest.

It was always ultra-competitive but once Tyrone made a decisive break after half-time when they increased their lead to five points, Monaghan were essentially chasing a lost cause

They never got closer than three points and, with no real goal threat, were always in Tyrone’s rear-view mirror.

“Any time we got a point in the second half, Tyrone came back and got one of their own,” reflected Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke ruefully.

It meant that Tyrone were in charge of the agenda, a position they really enjoyed. The closest Monaghan came to getting the much-needed goal was in the closing minute when Niall Morgan made a good save. Monaghan’s goal shyness – they have scored only one in their last five championship games – proved a major problem on a day when the  Tyrone backs countered every threat.

Conor McManus, so often Monaghan’s main man, found it very difficult against close-marking Ronan McNamee, who usually had others to help him in a crucial role.

It left McManus and the rest of Monaghan deeply frustrated on a day when the lack of variety in their play was very evident. “We didn’t play as well as we could. We just didn’t have enough people playing well enough to win the game,” added O’Rourke.

Ultimately, that was the essential difference between the teams in a game that certainly won’t be recalled for its purer elements. Three red, two black and 13 yellow cards highlights the tetchy nature of an encounter which reached its darkest point late on as Monaghan tried desperately to break down the Tyrone defence.

Monaghan’s Darren Hughes and Paul Finlay and Tyrone’s Ronan McNamee were all red-carded as Marty Duffy lost patience with the spiteful nature of the exchanges.

In fairness to Hughes, he has solid grounds for seeking that his card be rescinded as he appeared to merely tousle Tiernan McCann’s hair in the 70th minute. The Tyrone No 10 reacted as he had been hit by a world heavyweight champion, falling to the ground with a theatrical flourish. Duffy bought the dummy and dismissed Hughes. Quite how an inter-county footballer like McCann can be happy to get an opponent sent off remains one of the sorrowful mysteries of the game. It did neither McCann not Tyrone any credit.

That was in marked contrast to the rest of their game, which they conducted most efficiently. Inspired by Seán Cavanagh (below), whose leadership was central to everything Tyrone did, they controlled most of the more important elements after falling 0-2 to 0-1 behind in the fourth minute.

Monaghan’s two points came from long-range kicks by Kieran Hughes and Dessie Mone but that ploy didn’t succeed for very long. Tyrone lost centre-back Joe McMahon with an injury after eight minutes but his brother Justin proved a very capable replacement in a defence which coalesced cleverly to close down Monaghan’s scoring threats.

Tyrone led by 0-7 to 0-5 at half-time before embarking on a game-turning phase in the opening six minutes of the second half, during which they kicked three points.

“They were critical scores. It gave us a that bit of a cushion to lean on,” said Mickey Harte.

Once again, he has presided over a qualifier re-launch to earn a place in the semi-finals as the only non-provincial winners. So does the ‘back door’ route suit Tyrone better than the cut-throat Ulster Championship?

“With hindsight, you can say that now but you would have told me that when we were leaving Ballybofey in May (after losing to Donegal). I wanted to go the direct route and win Ulster – there’s no doubt about that.

“But as it happened, it seems we weren’t dealt a bad hand to get our recovery going. We got the chance to move up the gears and that has us where we are now,” said Harte.

Control

The reverse was true for Monaghan, who never managed to establish the degree of control that won them the Ulster title. Dessie Mone and Karl O’ Connell, whose daring runs were so influential in the win over Donegal, didn’t get on the ball nearly as they would have liked.

“We were better in the second half but we always seemed to be chasing the play. Tyrone were able to get up the pitch that bit quicker,” said O’Rourke.

Tyrone’s lead stretched to six points (0-16 to 0-10) after 56 minutes, but Monaghan cut it to four in the 66th minute. Six minutes of stoppage time were called, which extended to nine because of further breaks, and while Monaghan pared the deficit to three, Mattie Donnelly’s breakaway score made it safe for Tyrone, who will play Kerry in the semi-final on August 23.

“It’s always a big challenge against Kerry, no matter what era you’re talking about,” said Harte. Still, it’s one that he and his squad will relish.

Scorers – Tyrone: D McCurry 0-6 (3f, 1 ’45); C McAliskey 0-5 (4f), M Donnelly 0-2, P Harte, S Cavanagh, Joe McMahon, R McNamee,R McNabb 0-1 each. Monaghan: C McManus 0-7 (5f), O Duffy 0-2, D Mone, K Hughes, F Kelly, D Clerkin, P Finlay (f) 0-1 each.

Tyrone – N Morgan 7; A McCrory 7, R McNamee 8, C McCarron 7; R McNabb 7, Joe McMahon, P Harte 8; C Cavanagh 7, M Donnelly 8; T McCann 6, M Bradley 6, C Meyler 5; D McCurry 8, S Cavanagh 9, C McAliskey 8. Subs: Justin McMahon 7 for Joe McMahon (8); C McCann 6 for Meyler (BC, 22); P McNulty 6 for C McCann (46); R O’Neill 6 for McAliskey (58); R Donnelly for Bradley (67); B Tierney for T McCann (76).

Monaghan – R Beggan 6; C Walshe 6, V Corey 6, R Wylie 6; D Mone 6, N McAdam 5, K O’ Connell 6; O Lennon 5, F Kelly 6; K Duffy 5, D Hughes 6, S Gallogly 5; R McAnespie 5, K Hughes 6, C McManus 7. Subs: D Clerkin 6 for Lennon (h-t); O Duffy 7 for McAnespie (h-t); D Wylie 6 for Corey (h-t); D Malone 5 for McAdam (48); P Finlay 5 for Gollogly (52); C McGuinness 5 for K Duffy (60).

Ref – Marty Duffy (Sligo)

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