Tyrone survive in referee storm
From one Monaghan man under fire in Meath recently, there was a Meath man under fire from Monaghan last night.
Eight days after being showered with praise for an impeccable refereeing display in Armagh, Royals ref Cormac Reilly found himself in the thick of controversy after doling out 14 yellow cards in Omagh yesterday, nine of them before half-time.
Monaghan were particularly aggrieved. Their captain Dick Clerkin was sent off for a second-yellow card just before the interval and centre-back Dessie Mone was hit with a straight red for a high tackle in the dying minutes.
The Clerkin incident was undoubtedly a game-changer because Monaghan's inexperienced young side had thrown down a brave gauntlet to the defending Ulster champions and their numerical disadvantage certainly haunted them in the latter stages when the game was still within their grasp.
Monaghan boss Eamonn McEneaney was insistent that Clerkin's second yellow was undeserved but remained diplomatic throughout the post-mortems.
But Monaghan wing-back Darren Hughes -- who replied to a missed Tyrone penalty with a brilliant one of his own in the second half to put Monaghan right back in the game -- went a lot further.
"Kevin Hughes went round the neck of Donal Morgan and only gets a yellow, yet straight after, Dessie (Mone) gets a red for the same thing?" he said of two late incidents. The referee has a lot to answer for, we felt we were playing against him the whole day," he added before making a particularly startling allegation.
"I'll not repeat what he said to me in the first half, the referee shouldn't be saying that!" Hughes claimed, querying why Joe McQuillan (the original appointee) was taken off the game.
Filthy weather throughout created an ice-rink to exacerbate some 50-50 tackles and the players weren't blameless themselves; some were far too eager at times to indulge in unnecessary hand-bagging.
But without immediate video replay most of the poor 11,000 crowd left Omagh still in deep debate.
Clerkin's dismissal came within two minutes of Reilly having booked all four midfielders in a two-minute spell, and Monaghan felt the ref pulled the trigger prematurely while trying to stamp his authority on a game that threatened to spiral out of control, but he had warned Clerkin even before the throw-in for some pre-match tussling with Sean Cavanagh.
"I definitely saw what happened, Dick checked his (Sean Cavanagh's) run maybe, but that was about the height of it," said McEneaney who felt it was "a very harsh sending off".
"I wouldn't like to make a comment on the referee, that's not for me to do, but I thought the conditions (weather) were very harsh and that maybe allowances could have been made," he added.
The rain wept down throughout, destroying the rhythm of a game between two sides who met in last year's Ulster final when Tyrone had won by 10 points.
With a revamped team including six debutants, Monaghan weren't given a hope against Tyrone's grizzled veterans (seven of their starters were 30+) but they defied expectations.
Led brilliantly up front by Conor McManus and Paul Finlay's free-taking, they quickly went 0-4 to 0-2 up but after two close shaves, Tyrone finally goaled, Brian McGuigan finishing brilliantly after 19 minutes, to grab the lead.
Mickey Harte quickly curbed the McManus threat by replacing Cathal McCarron with Dermot Carlin but the Clontibret forward continued to win vital frees virtually every time he touched the ball.
As yellow cards and frees destroyed the game's momentum, Cavanagh led Tyrone calmly through the storm, vindicating Harte's decision to re-site him in midfield, and they went in 1-7 to 0-6 and a man up at half-time.
When their only debutant, Mark Donnelly, showed his pace again to win a penalty soon after restart they looked destined to pull away easily.
But, surprisingly, Martin Penrose, not Stephen O'Neill, stepped up to the spot-kick and blasted it wide.
And 10 minutes later, when Ryan McMenamin fouled McManus to give Monaghan a spot kick, Darren Hughes dispatched it expertly to leave just two points between them.
From then on it was a classic dogfight, brightened only by occasional flashes of brilliance from the champions, particularly two terrific angled points from Stephen O'Neill and a steadying one from impressive substitute Owen Mulligan.
Much has been made of Tyrone's ageing profile and certainly Brian Dooher (35) didn't have a good day on his first start this season.
With an extra man for over half the game Tyrone should have done better but Philip Jordan (31), Conor Gormley (30), Brian McGuigan (31), O'Neill (30) and Cavanagh (28) didn't disappoint and provided the experience to hold out. "A lot of other people seem to be preoccupied with their age but I certainly am not," Harte stressed.
"The age they have arrived at, and the football they have played, means they are the type of players you need to win championship matches."
Scorers -- Tyrone: B McGuigan 1-1, S Cavanagh 0-4 (2f), Stephen O'Neill 0-3, P Harte (1f, 1 '45), M Penrose (2f) 0-2 each, O Mulligan 0-1. Monaghan: C McManus 0-6 (5f), D Mone 1-1 (1-0 pen), P Finlay 0-4 (3f).
Tyrone -- P McConnell 7; M Swift 6, C McCarron 5, R McMenamin 6; D Harte 6, C Gormley 8, P Jordan 7; A Cassidy 7, S Cavanagh 8; B Dooher (capt) 5, B McGuigan 7, P Harte 6; M Penrose 6, M Donnelly 7, S O'Neill 7. Subs: D Carlin 7 for McCarron (17), C Cavanagh 5 for P Harte (44), Sean O'Neill 6 for Carlin (52), O Mulligan 7 for Penrose (56), K Hughes 5 for Cassidy (65).
Monaghan -- M Keogh 6; K Duffy 5, C Galligan 5, C Walshe 7; D Hughes 8, D Mone 6, O Duffy 6; O Lennon 7, D Clerkin (capt) 6; S Gollogly 5, M Downey 5, N McAdam 6; D McKenna 5, P Finlay 7, C McManus 8. Subs: J Turley 6 for Gollogly (26), C McGuinness 7 for McKenna (h-t), D Morgan 6 for Galligan (48), D Malone 5 for Turley (56), B O'Brien 6 for Duffy (65).
Ref -- C Reilly (Meath).