Tyrone upset Ulster rivals
Tyrone 0-18 Monaghan 0-14
Tyrone may be a long shot for the All-Ireland title, but this summer's journey has taken them down a familiar path.
The Red Hands weren't supposed to endure well into August. Relegation, followed by early elimination from the provincial championship, painted a bleak picture of their standing.
But last night at Croke Park, Mickey Harte's men delivered yet another defiant message by downing Monaghan for the second time in three years to claim their place in the All-Ireland semi-finals. A performance laced with courage, class and tactical awareness saw them end the Monaghan dream in a tense derby battle.
Corner men Darren McCurry and Connor McAliskey shone once again, claiming a combined total of 11 points, while the Farney men relied too heavily on ace finisher Conor McManus, whose seven scores were not enough to rescue his side.
Many questions have been answered, but many remain as they prepare for a semi-final joust with Kerry.
However, the All-Ireland champions will feel no desire to re-engage with a county that has reigned supreme in their three championship meetings of the modern era, all of which led Tyrone to the steps of the Hogan Stand on unforgettable September Sundays.
Monaghan's bold bid to end a 27-year wait for a place in the last four ended in bitter disappointment as Tyrone battled to a four-point win.
Monaghan guarded possession as a precious commodity, stringing together lots of lateral passes as they waited patiently for the opening, and the opportunity to bring ace attacker McManus into the game.
But it was more often than not a futile approach against a Tyrone team that set up with two banks of defenders, systematically with 14 men facing the ball.
Forcing turnovers and breaking at pace, the Red Hand offensive strategy contrasted with their opponents' more laboured approach, and reaped richer dividends. The losers frequently had no option but to go for the long-range score, and they did so delightfully through Dessie Mone and Fintan Kelly, with Kieran Hughes also hitting the target.
But it was the Red Hands who led from start to finish of the opening half, with Connor McAliskey clipping over a couple of frees and Darren McCurry landing a delicious score from a tight angle, as well as nailing two frees.
Despite losing Joe McMahon to injury as early as the seventh minute, and his Omagh clubmate Conor Meyler to a black card 15 minutes later, Tyrone continued to stick to a rigid defensive approach, coupled with a dynamic offensive strategy, with the excellent Peter Harte a vital link in the operation, and also contributing a point.
Marked closely by Ronan McNamee and shadowed also by Tiernan McCann, McManus took half an hour to pose a danger, and his first real opportunity was finished in spectacular fashion from underneath the Cusack Stand. He also contributed a free late in a dour but fascinating opening period, which ended with Tyrone ahead by 0-7 to 0-5.
Malachy O'Rourke introduced Dick Clerkin, Drew Wylie and Owen Duffy for the second half, but McCurry (2) and McAliskey extended Tyrone's advantage to five within five minutes of the restart.
Monaghan had to start running more directly at the Tyrone defence, and Duffy gave them a more dynamic edge. He broke through to land two excellent scores, with McManus converting two frees.
But unforced and uncustomary errors at the back handed easy scores to their opponents, with McAliskey on target from his fourth placed ball, and Rory Beggan's poor kick-out punished by Seán Cavanagh. McManus posed a constant threat, however, and demonstrated his class with a spectacular score, but they were immediately on the back foot again as his marker, full-back McNamee, surged through for an inspiring point at the other end.
Monaghan finished with 13 men, Darren Hughes (straight red) and Paul Finlay (second yellow), while Tyrone's McNamee also went for a second booking, but his side held on, sealing the win with two Mattie Donnelly scores.
Scorers - Tyrone: D McCurry 0-6 (3f, 1 '45), C McAliskey 0-5 (4f), M Donnelly 0-2, S Cavanagh, P Harte, Joe McMahon, R McNabb, R McNamee 0-1 each; Monaghan: C McManus 0-7 (5f), O Duffy 0-2, K Hughes, F Kelly, D Mone, D Clerkin, P Finlay (f) 0-1 each.
Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McNabb, Joe McMahon, P Harte; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; T McCann, M Bradley, C Meyler; D McCurry, S Cavanagh, C McAliskey. Subs: Justin McMahon for Joe McMahon (7), C McCann for Meyler (BC 22), P McNulty for C McCann (45), R O'Neill for McAliskey (58), R Donnelly for Bradley (67), B Tierney for T McCann (77).
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 (48), P Finlay for Gollogly (51), C McGuinness for K Duffy.
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).
Sunday Indo Sport