Monaghan 1-12 Tyrone 0-14
If Tyrone are going to win the All-Ireland title in 2014, they are going to have to do it the hard way after Monaghan ended their Ulster Championship campaign at Clones on Sunday.
A meeting with Louth on Saturday week now awaits. Until then manager Micky Harte, along with his backroom team, will have plenty to ponder upon in the wake of Sunday’s narrow one point reversal.
Indeed, had Niall Morgan converted an injury time free Tyrone may have earned a replay against the reigning Ulster Champions. However, on the balance of play over the seventy minutes Monaghan just about deserved their victory.
Had they taken their goal chances in the first half, along with a missed penalty effort from Kieran Hughes, Monaghan’s winning margin would have been much greater.
Manager Mickey Harte was less than happy with the performance of referee Eddie Kinsella and lets his view be known to the Laois whistler after the final whistle.
Just two minutes of injury time hardly did justice to the number of stoppages in play and the duration of time which elapsed to allow Morgan to take Tyrone’s last shot at the target, all but ending the game.
Questions will be asked why skipper Sean Cavanagh did not step up to take the all-important free, just as the former AllStar had done against Down in round one.
The Moy player could have been feeling the effects of a strong challenge from Monaghan midfielder Dick Clerkin minutes earlier. Whatever the reason, keeper Morgan took the responsibility on his shoulders and his kick from the left wing drifted wide of the posts.
It was to be the Red Hands’ last foray into the Monaghan defence and with it went Tyrone’s interest in the Anglo Celt Cup for another twelve months.
To their credit, Tyrone battled right to the bitter end but goals win games, and Monaghan struck the crucial three-pointer on 42 minutes.
Dermot Malone was the scorer and the number 13 did well to cut in from the left before blasting the ball to the back of the net.
Suddenly, for the first time in the match, there was clear water between the two teams as Monaghan held a commanding five point advantage, 1-9 to 0-7.
Points from Sean Cavanagh, Morgan and the impressive Mattie Donnelly set up a pulsating final ten minutes, but Monaghan survived thanks to the boot of Conor McManus who slotted over no fewer than eight points on the day.
The inclusion of skipper McManus in the starting fifteen was a huge boost for the Farney men, one of three changes in the Monaghan’s starting 15 before throw in.
The opening exchanges were pretty even before McCurry opened the scoring with a point from play after just three minutes.
At the other end Niall Morgan almost allowed a speculative shot from Dick Clerkin to creep under his crossbar. Morgan’s clearance brought further anxiety with full forward Kieran Hughes presented with a real goal chance. Luckily for Tyrone his chipped effort drifted just wide of the posts with the keeper stranded.
The Monaghan full forward did get on the score sheet on seven minutes before Ciaran McGinley edged Tyrone ahead in the next attack.
Tyrone racked up three wides in the opening ten and Monaghan corner back popped up to show his prowess in front of posts with a score to level matter again on 11 minutes.
Sean Cavanagh and McManus exchanged points before Mattie Donnelly scored a wonderful point after a strong solo effort.
The ever accurate McManus levelled again with 17 minutes on the clock before McCurry kicked his second point of the day.
Monaghan keeper Rory Beggan was called into action on twenty minutes as he slotted over a 45 to level scores at 0-5 to 0-5.
Monaghan were in the ascendancy with Clerkin and Hughges giving them a foothold at centre field.
They had a golden opportunity to register the first goal of the game when Dessie Mone was upended after some poor defensive play by Tyrone.
Kieran Hughes stepped up to the spot-kick but his left foot shot, which sent Morgan in the opposite direction, hit off the post to safety.
Monaghan did take the lead for the first time in the match on 26 minutes and again it was McManus who showed his class with another successful free.
Chris McGuinness had another goal chance for the Monaghan men but Mcnamee did well with last ditch tackle.
The marauding Mattie Donnelly notched his second point of the half to level matter for a fifth time.
Monaghan did finish the half the stronger with points from McManus and Kieran Hughes before McCurry reduced Tyrone’s de fecit to a single point with a converted free.
Manager Harte introduced Conor Gormley for the restart, with Ronan McNabb making way.
It was in the opening quarter of the second period that Monaghan really took a firm grip on proceedings.
Padraig Donaghy threatened the Tyrone goal butthe Ulster Champions had to content themselves with a point from Rory Beggan from the resulting 45.
Kyle Coney and Connor McAliskey joined the action with Ciaran McGinley and Ronan O’Neill making way.
The crucial score of the day followed on 43 minutes as Clerkin showed great vision to switch play. The ball eventually found its way to Malone and the number 15 showed great composure to round two defenders before kicking low to the net.
Five behind Tyrone faced a real uphill battle but they did, to their credit, find the reserves in the sweltering heat to make a concerted comeback which only just failed.
The Cavanagh brothers, Sean and Colm, began to impose their influence on the game and by the 50th minute the comeback was on.
Points from Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly and Morgan, on the other end of an Fintan Kelly minor, left just three points between the teams entering the final quarter.
Colm Cavanagh and Stephen O’Neill combined to set up McCurry for Tyrone’s best score of the game.
However, McManus kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Farney men with two converted frees.
Tyrone suffered a major blow when McCurry was black carded but as Monaghan set back to defend their advantage Tyrone grew in confidence.
Morgan kicked a wonderful free from all of 50 yards before points from McAliskey set up a grandstand finish.
When Sean Cavanagh was upended it looked very much like a second outing for both teams, but it wasn’t to be - from a Tyrone point of view.