Tyrone withstand late Tipperary rally to be crowned All-Ireland under-21 champions
HIGH drama in Parnell Park tonight as Tyrone sealed this year’s Eirgrid All-Ireland Under 21 football title with a 1-11 to 0-13 win over Tipperary.
Tyrone, who in doing so, secured their first national trophy at the grade since 2001, withstood a late and forceful barrage from Tipp, including two late, brilliant points from Colin O’Riordan and an even later goal chance some five minutes into injury-time.
Vitally though, Tyrone scored a goal - from midfielder Cathal McShane in the 49th minute - and were organised and populated enough in defence not to concede one, rarely looking like they might.
In a match where the beginning of the second half was delayed by over 40 minutes, Tipperary were easily the better in the first, leading by 0-7 to 0-5 by the break, though 10 wides certainly didn’t help Tyrone’s chances any.
They were, however, veracious around breaking ball from both goalkeeper’s kick-outs and thus secured enough possession to feed their inside men; Lee Brennan and Michael Bradley and keep close.
Whether it upset Tipperary’s flow or not, the start of the second half was delayed due to a medical emergency involving a spectator that required an ambulance.
Indeed rumour, at one stage in the 35-minute pause, spread through the ground that the match might even be abandoned.
Momentarily, Tipp emerged from their dressing-room and began conducting warm up, only to be sent back by referee Feargal Kelly but eventually - and some 50 minutes after the first-half ended - the second began and Tyrone started it better, albeit marginally.
They kicked three of the first four points of the half but they spurned the chance to maximise on that superiority.
A smartly-taken quick free from Mark Bradley found half-time substitute, Ruairí McGlone in behind Tipperary’s full-back line.
His shot was low and hard but also errant enough to slide a couple of feet wide of Evan Comerford’s right hand post.
Eventually though, Tyrone's persistence paid off.
Mark Kavanagh slalomed through three attempted tackles and fed Cathal McShane, whose finish was emphatic.
Kevin O’Halloran, so clinical against Dublin in the semi-final from placed balls, kicked five of eight frees, but a couple of misses late on hurt Tipp’s chances.
He missed one with two minutes remaining and by way of demonstrating their newfound ownership of the game’s momentum, Tyrone broke and Mark Kavanagh slotted on the run with his left.
Then O’Riordan, so often bottled up by Tyrone’s defending, seized the initiative, and kicked two points, including a brilliant long distance free with the outside of his right foot but their equaliser never came.
And Kieran McGeary, Tyrone’s captain, became the first man from the county to lift the All-Ireland Under 21 trophy since the late Cormac McAnallen.
SCORERS - Tyrone: C McShane 1-0, D McNulty 0-3 (2f), M Kavanagh, M Bradley, L Brennan (2f) 0-2 each, C Meyler, M Cassidy 0-1 each. Tipperary: K O’Halloran 0-6 (5f), J Keane 0-3 (1f), C O’Riordan 0-2 (1f), B Maher, I Fahey 0-1 each.
Tyrone: S Fox; R Mullan, P Hampsey, C McLaughlin; M Cassidy, R Brennan, K McGeary; C McShane, D McNulty; M Kavanagh, C Meyler, M Walsh; L Brennan, F Burns, M Bradley. Subs: R McGlone for Walsh (h-t), R Kelly for McShane (59), P McKenna for Brennan (62).
Tipperary: E Comerford; K Fahey, J Feehan, C O’Shaughnessy; R Mulcahy, L Boland, B Maher; S O’Brien, C O’Riordan; J Lonergan, I Fahey, L Casey; K O’Halloran, J Keane, P Maher. Subs: J McGrath for P Maher (53)
REF: F Kelly (Longford)