Tyrone lay down a marker as three see red in Croke Park
TYRONE 0-18 MONAGHAN 0-14
NO rugby tackles required. Tyrone breezed into the All-Ireland semi-finals today like it was the mid-noughties all over again.
They’re back - but quite how closely they resemble the great teams of that particular era, we’re not quite sure.
Monaghan, meanwhile, fell flat - again.
Because if once is unfortunate and twice is careless, three times is unforgivable.
Thrice now, Monaghan have arrived in the All-Ireland quarter-finals with hopes most accurately appraised as high. Each time they’ve flopped.
As Ulster Champions in 2013 - when Tyrone mugged them. Last year, when Dublin trashed them.
And yesterday, again kings of their provincial domain, but once more, beaten by Tyrone.
You could set your watch to them.
They haven’t twinkled or sparkled this year but increasingly, since Donegal tanned their hides in May, they’ve become an efficient, do-just-enough-and-no-more, winning machine.
All gnarled and assured through their qualifier exertions, they had this wrapped well before the end, even if a late Conor McManus shot added a little bit of hysteria to a closing passage from which Tyrone sucked all the football and three players were sent off.
And just how Tyrone would it be for them to spoil the Kerry love-in with Sam Maguire?
But that’s for another day - August 23rd to be precise when the warring factions take up arms against one another again.
Today was a sort of coming of age for a team seemingly in transition for half a decade.
The game began and evolved along predictable lines.
Caution is currency in these sort of matches and patience, a virtue.
Tyrone started the better and sewed a little doubt into the Monaghan psyche and then just tipped along, safe in the knowledge that outside of Conor McManus, Monaghan just couldn’t get a shot away.
Turns out, there is only so many times McManus can take on, and beat, three simultaneous man-markers in one season, try though he did.
Tyrone transitioned the ball with more purpose and invention in that first half.
Peter Harte, a master of that very art, ran the first show.
No player is as ghost-like in their ability to travel from their own ‘45 to the opposition’s without impediment and while a point was his scoring tally, his all-round creative influence was untold.
With Conor McAliskey and Darren McCurry accurate from frees, too, Tyrone were good money for their 0-7 to 0-5 at the break, with only McManus showing flashes of his menace.
Tyrone started the more productively in the second-half, too.
Mattie Donnelly set off on a gallop from the throw-in, was blocked down but McCurry tidied up from close-in.
A minute later, Seán Cavanagh again did the spadework and eventually earned a free that McAliskey tapped over.
So it went.
Cavanagh, playing in a more conventional full-forward posting, gave Harte’s men a target and sensing the game slipping away, Monaghan could only push more players forward in an attempt to work more scores.
With 15 minutes left, Tyrone led by five and whilst Owen Duffy popped over a couple of points for Monaghan, they just came that bit easier for Tyrone, who had a semi-final in their sights.
Darren Hughes (straight red), Paul Finlay and Ronan McNamee (second yellows) were all sent off in a fractured closing passage but Tyrone were so much better here it almost felt like their glory days again.
Monaghan, meanwhile, left with the familiar ennui of knowing their Ulster title was tarnished a smidgen by their failure to follow it up.
SCORERS - Tyrone: D McCurry 0-6 (2f, 1 ‘45), C McAliskey 0-5 (4f), M Donnelly 0-2, S Cavanagh, R McNamee, R McNabb, Joe McMahon, P Harte 0-1 each.
Monaghan: C McManus 0-7 (5f), O Duffy 0-2, D Mone, F Kelly, D Clerkin, K Hughes 0-1 each.
TYRONE: N Morgan; R McNamee, C McCarron, R McNabb; T McCann, Joe McMahon, A McCrory; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; M Bradley, P Harte, C Meyler; D McCurry, S Cavanagh, C McAliskey. Subs: Justin McMahon for Joe McMahon (8 inj), C McCann for Meyler (23 black card), P McNulty for McCann (46), R O’Neill for McAliskey (59), R Donnelly for Bradley (68)
MONAGHAN: R Beggan; C Walshe, V Corey, R Wylie; D Mone, N McAdam, K O’Connell; O Lennon, F Kelly; K Duffy, D Hughes, S Gollogly; R McAnespie, K Hughes, C McManus. Subs: D Clerkin for Lennon (h-t), D Wylie for Corey (h-t), O Duffy for McAnespie (h-t), D Malone for McAdam (49), P Finlay for Gollogly (52), C McGuinness for K Duffy (61)
REF: Marty Duffy (Sligo)