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Malachy O'Rourke applauds composure as old guard deliver big for Monaghan

Ulster SFC quarter-final: Monaghan 1-18 Tyrone 1-16

Matthew Donnelly gets the better of Niall Kearns during the Ulster SFC match at Healy Park. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Matthew Donnelly gets the better of Niall Kearns during the Ulster SFC match at Healy Park. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

A young man's game certainly but there's life in the old dogs too.

When it came to it, Monaghan produced the unblinking performance that was required to see off Tyrone in Omagh but those longer in the tooth served a reminder of their seemingly timeless value to this Monaghan cause.

Vincent Corey, at 35, produced the game's biggest play when he was involved three times in Monaghan's goal. Conor McManus (30) has had bigger games for the county but three points in injury time, including two out of the top drawer, were a reminder that class finds a way when the game is on the line.

Dessie Mone's (33) story was similar. He has been more influential but he's likely never kicked a better point than the score he registered from a seemingly impossible angle near the end line in the second half. They were all big moments on a day when fine margins were always going to carry the day.

And in the end, Monaghan had more of those big moments and at the right time. On 65 minutes the teams looked set for a grandstand finish. Conor McAliskey, one of Tyrone's best performers on the day, tipped over a free to level things up. It was Tyrone's third point on the bounce and the momentum looked to have swung firmly in their favour.

However, Monaghan took over from that juncture. McManus booted over a beautiful free from under the stand. Captain Colin Walshe, who was just on as a sub, steered over another effort with his left foot before McManus hit two more, the second of which was a thing of rare beauty from near the touchline on the wrong side for a right-footed kicker.

Frank Burns of Tyrone in action against Conor McManus of Monaghan. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Frank Burns of Tyrone in action against Conor McManus of Monaghan. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Scrambled

They'd score their fifth unanswered point to put the tin hat on it. It was a power surge that had come out of nowhere given how well matched the teams had been to that point.

Tyrone's race was already run when Peter Harte was shown a straight red by referee David Coldrick after a clash with Ryan Wylie. They snaffled a late goal when Michael McKernan scrambled a loose ball to the net but it was to no avail. Tyrone's hopes of a first three in a row in Ulster had already gone up in smoke.

And afterwards Malachy O'Rourke was full of praise for his side as they kept their head with the game on the line late on.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

"That's the way championship matches go and teams can get on top of you," he reflected.

"It is easy for us on the sideline and in the stand but boys just have to dig in there and realise that that's the way things go. Just be strong, have good communication there. You get the ball, make sure you are composed on it and you don't give it away because Tyrone are very dangerous on the counter-attack when you are out of position.

"There was a lot of things that we had to factor into it. They did well for a lot of the game."

Tyrone had settled better early in the game and had sped to a 0-5 to 0-2 lead after 10 minutes with their most advanced players - McAliskey, Lee Brennan and Mark Bradley - giving Monaghan plenty to ponder.

Monaghan felt their way into it and were level on 23 minutes but when Mattie Donnelly steered over a point in first half injury time to put his side 0-7 to 0-5 up, they looked destined to go in ahead at the break.

But Monaghan, through Corey, grabbed a goal. The Clontibret man played a one-two with McManus and repeated the trick with Kieran Hughes before coolly finishing past Niall Morgan. Drew Wylie landed another point and suddenly Monaghan took a 1-7 to 0-8 lead in at the break, something Mickey Harte identified as crucial.

"It was a close encounter and up to 65 minutes we did not know who was going to win the game. It was very much like the league game, it was to-ing and fro-ing, and one team would have the upper-hand and then the other team would get it.

"Obviously the crucial period of the game was before half-time when we were two up and suddenly we were two down. That meant that we had a battle on our hands in the second half considering that we were going to play against the breeze."

That breeze was no issue to Rory Beggan who added two 45s to the pair of first half frees he kicked to bring his tally to 0-4. His kick outs were also excellent as he made a massive contribution to Monaghan's cause. But O'Rourke's eyes were already fixed on a date with his native Fermanagh.

"It's a great boost for us that any time we get a free and the ball is set down anywhere from the 45 out, you're thinking this is a really good chance for us. There's not many teams can say that. Rory is a top class kicker but again he works really hard.

"Look, I'm going to qualify all of this by saying it's the first round of the championship. The last couple of years, we've got to semi-finals and been put out. We'll enjoy today but all it does is get us into the next round. We'll keep the head down and wait for two weeks' time."

SCORERS - Monaghan: C McManus 0-6 (4f), V Corey 1-0, R Beggan 0-4 (2f, 2 '45), J McCarron 0-2 (1f), C McCarthy, D Mone, R McAnespie, F Kelly, D Wylie, C Walshe 0-1 each.Tyrone: C McAliskey 0-6 (3f), M McKernan 1-1, L Brennan 0-3 (3f), N Sludden 0-2, C McShane, M Donnelly, P Harte, P Hampsey 0-1 each.

Monaghan: R Beggan 8; D Mone 7, D Wylie 7, R Wylie 7; K Duffy 7, V Corey 7, K O'Connell 8; N Kearns 8, D Hughes 8; F Kelly 7, J McCarron 6, D Ward 6; R McAnespie 8, K Hughes 7, C McManus 7 Subs: C McCarthy 7 for Ward (41), O Duffy 7 for McCarron (60), C Walshe for Mone (64).

Tyrone: N Morgan 7; P Hampsey 7, R McNamee 6, C McCarron 6; T McCann 6, F Burns 7, P Harte 6; C Cavanagh 6, M Donnelly 7; C McShane 7, N Sludden 7, C Meyler 6, L Brennan 6, C McAliskey 8, M Bradley 7 Subs: R O'Neill 6 for Bradley (19), D McClure 6 for Cavanagh (HT), M McKernan 7 for McCarron (40), HP McGeary 6 for McCann (53), K McGeary 6 for Brennan (55), C McCann for O'Neill (61).

Ref - D Coldrick (Meath).

Irish Independent

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