Tyrone put down serious marker and cruise to back-to-back Ulster titles
Tyrone 2-17 Down 0-15
Tyrone laid down a marker to All-Ireland favourites Dublin and Kerry with a convincing display in a comfortable victory over Down in the Ulster SFC final in Clones.
Down were expected to cause the Red Hands’ defence more problems than Donegal had done but a gulf in class was evident between the teams from an early stage.
Tyrone began the game brightly and built an early 0-04 to 0-01 lead with three of their points coming from half backs Padraig Hampsey (2) and Peter Harte.
Mickey Harte’s men made it extremely difficult for their opponents to create scoring opportunities - they allowed Down to work the ball into their half and then immediately swarmed the man in possession, without fouling, forcing turnovers time and time again.
Points from Sean Cavanagh and Niall Sludden helped the Red Hands into a 0-06 to 0-02 lead after 22 minutes and they seemed to be cruising.
Surprisingly though, Tyrone took their foot off the pedal when in total control. They became uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal as they failed to finish off several opportunities on the counter attack.
Down worked their way back into the game and points from Daragh O’Hanlon and Conor Maginn saw them reduce the gap to a point.
Shortly before half time the Mourne men had a glorious opportunity to take the lead. O’Hanlon was clean through on goal but somehow fired the ball wide.
That miss seemed to wake Tyrone up from their slumber and a fisted point from Mattie Donnelly in first-half stoppage time - Tyrone’s first score in over 15 minutes - saw them take a two-point lead into the break (0-07 to 0-05).
Whatever Mickey Harte said at half time worked a treat as the second half was a non-event. Tyrone dominated from start to finish and the game was over as a contest long before the final whistle.
Tyrone kicked the first seven points of the second half with Mark Bradley and David Mulgrew instrumental in their attacks.
Down took 18 minutes to register a score in the second half and although Caolan Mooney’s effort was immediately followed by Ryan Johnston’s second point of the game it was simply a case of too little, too late.
A goal from Tyrone substitute Ronan O’Neill ended any lingering hopes of a Down comeback and from then on the only question was how much would Tyrone win by.
O’Neill ghosted in behind the defence to grab his second goal with a deft lob as Down supporters headed for the exits.
Down kicked a few late scores to keep the scoreline from becoming embarrassing but Tyrone ran out eight-point winners in the end (2-17 to 0-15) - in truth that margin was the least they deserved after a dominant display when it mattered.
Tyrone: N Morgan, A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron, T McCann, P Hampsey (0-2), P Harte (0-2), C Cavanagh, C McCann, D Mulgrew (0-1), N Sludden (0-1), K McGeary, M Bradley (0-2), S Cavanagh (0-2), M Donnelly (0-2)
Subs: D McClure for K McGeary (BC), D McCurry for S Cavanagh, R O’Neill (2-0) for M Bradley, C Meyler for D Mulgrew, C McShane for C McCann, L Brennan (0-1) for N Sludden
Down: M Cunningham, N McParland, G McGovern, D O’Hagan, D O’Hanlon (0-2), C McGovern, C Mooney (0-2), K McKernan, N Donnelly (0-1), P Turley, C Maginn (0-1), Shay Millar (0-1), J Johnston, C Harrison, R Johnston (0-1)
Subs: J Murphy (0-1) for K McKernan (BC), D O’Hare for J Johnston, A Carr for N Donnelly
Referee: J McQuillan