Tyrone 1-13 Monaghan 2-10
A point dropped or a point gained? The answer to that question depended on to whom you spoke at the final whistle in Healy Park.
History will show that Tyrone senior hurlers fought out an entertaining opening round Division 3A league draw with provincial rivals Monaghan, in Omagh on Sunday.
Tyrone manager Mattie Lennon was concerned about the lack of field time his players had got in the run up to Sunday’s first league excursion, but those fears appeared to be unfounded as Tyrone took the game by the scruff of the neck to establish a 5-1 lead by the 10th minute.
They continued to be the dominant side with Jason Kelly, Padraig McHugh and Tiernan Morgan all prominent in defence and, even though Monaghan squandered a first half penalty, the Red Hands full value for their 1-10 to 1-5 interval lead.
Captain Damian Casey leading the hosts offensive efforts with a 1-5 haul in half one – his goal coming from a free on 26 minutes. Aidan Kelly, Conor Grogan and Sean Og Grogan others to cause the Oriel men problems.
However, Trevor Hilliard managed to regroup his charges at half time and, a 1-3 scoring burst at the top of half two turned the game on its head.
Suddenly Tyrone’s measured and assured approach was replaced by hesitancy and indecisiveness and a meagre three point return in the half will have raised alarm bells with much stronger opposition to face in the coming weeks.
Monaghan displayed huge character to respond each time Tyrone got their noses in front with Ronan Meegan’s equalising score on 63 minutes proving to be the last of the contest as both teams wasted opportunities to clinch maximum points.
Paddy Finnegan, Peter Treanor, Niall Garland, Tony Forde and late replacement Brian Flanagan among those to impress for a new-look Oriel outfit as both teams were left to reflect on what might have been.
Swapped points from Casey and Ronan Curran in the opening minutes hinted at a competitive start, but it was soon evident Tyrone were the better team. Aidan Kelly was driving confidently from midfield, and with Gerard Gilmore, Casey and Sean Og Grogan full of running the hosts set about turning their early supremacy into scores.
Casey knocked over successive frees in the space of a minute with Sean Og Grogan and Kelly pushing Tyrone four clear by the 10th minute.
Meegan retorted with a free and, as Monaghan displayed some of their potential Stephen Lambe provided one of the scores of the afternoon following an energy sapping run on 13 minutes. Meegan and Casey traded points, but Monaghan were warming to the task and with Garland, Cormac McNally and Treanor foraging for possession the visitors found themselves ahead for the first time on 19 minutes when Castleblayney clubman Tony Forde fired to the back of John Devlin’s net for a 1-4 to 0-6 advantage.
That major heralded a backlash from Tyrone as Conor Grogan, Kelly and Casey landed points inside a four minute period and, when Casey rattled the net on 26 minutes from a close range free Tyrone enjoyed a 1-9 to 1-4 cushion.
Deaglan Crowe and Aonghus MacSuibhne entered the fray as Monaghan tried to stay the distance and, when referee James Clarke awarded Monaghan a penalty on 30 minute they had the opportunity to do so.
However, goalkeeper Hugh Byrne drilled the resulting penalty over the cross bar leaving a third point from the hurl of Kelly to conclude the first half scoring. Tyrone worthy of their 1-10 to 1-5 interval lead.
Monaghan reappeared for the second period with their team talk still ringing in their ears and within seven minutes they had restored parity.
Meegan got the recovery going with a converted free in the opening minute before some questionable defending allowed the opportune Forde in for his second major of the afternoon.
Lambe levelled the issue for the third time in the match and when Garland belted over a free from distance on 40 minutes Monaghan had the wind in their sails.
Tyrone were struggling to match the work rate of their opponents, but a Casey free settled them into the half on 13 minutes. The Tyrone captain then swapped points with Lambe before Grogan nudged the hosts back in front with a fine score on 59 minutes.
That was to be Tyrone’s last and, even though there were still seven minutes remaining when Meegan planted the equalising score neither team could avail of their opportunities leaving them to settle for a point.
Tyrone knowing exactly what is required on the training field this week before heading to Swords to face Fingal on Sunday.