GAA: Late Tyrone fightback not enough as Monaghan minors advance

Conor McKenna makes a determined run past Monaghan's Conor Duffy. INTT2614-702DCA
Conor McKenna makes a determined run past Monaghan's Conor Duffy. INTT2614-702DCA

Monaghan 3-8 Tyrone 0-16

Tyrone’s Ulster minor championship hopes were extinguished at the quarter-final stage in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on Saturday, when they lost by the minimum margin to Monaghan in the proverbial game of two halves.

The Red Hands went into the game as favourites but in the first half they were overrun by a dominant Monaghan side who displayed a greater commitment and will to win.

Tyrone's James Darcy and Cormac O'Hagan tackle Monaghan's John Beattie. INTT2614-703DCA

Tyrone's James Darcy and Cormac O'Hagan tackle Monaghan's John Beattie. INTT2614-703DCA

Each time they attacked the Tyrone defence they looked capable of scoring, and they were full value for their 3-6 to 0-5 interval lead, despite the fact that their last two goals were both gifted to them.

Tyrone could only improve in the second half, and they certainly did that as they threw off the shackles and took the game to their opponents.

The switch of Cormac O’Hagan to midfield gave them a platform, and as Monaghan retreated into their shell Tyrone bombarded their goals. The winners managed only two second half points but, while Tyrone managed to cut the deficit to the minimum, they couldn’t get that elusive score that would have forced extra time.

Indeed, in those frantic final couple of minutes they could have won it with Monaghan keeper Shane Garland twice denying Conor McKenna

In the end though, they had left themselves with too much to do and a side that were highly rated crashed out.

This was the second time in a space of a week that Tyrone lost to Monaghan in the Ulster championship and it means that the Red Hands bowed out in the first round of the provincial series at senior, U21 and minor levels.

Midfielder Macauley Quinn opened the scoring in the fourth minute, but that proved to be the only time that Tyrone would have their noses in front in the entire contest.

It took another quarter of an hour for Lee Brennan to get their second score from a free by which time they were in trouble.

John Beattie, David McAllister, Francis Maguire and Barry McGinn all had Monaghan points with Maguire slipping the ball under keeper Patrick O’Neill as the reigning Ulster champions laid down a marker.

In the 21st minute a high ball in from McAlister wasn’t dealt with by the Tyrone defence and David Garland had the simple task of finishing to the net from close range.

Tyrone responded with points from Fintan McClure, Brennan and McKenna though the latter’s should have been a goal when he blasted over when in the clear.

It was still a good response from Tyrone but all that was undone a minute into injury time when keeper Patrick O’Neill spilled the ball allowing Garland to get his second goal.

Tyrone had nothing to lose now and after O’Hagan and Aaron Jones had exchanged early second half points they assumed complete control.

Brennan scored twice from play either side of a McKenna free. McGinn converted a Monaghan free but with a quarter of an hour left to play that proved to be their last score of the game.

McKenna, Brennan, Enda McGarrity and substitute Conan McLernon all scored points and when O’Hagan knocked over a “45” the gap was down to two with three minutes left on the clock.

Tyrone then almost got in for a goal when McLernon and Brennan combined to find McKenna, but his shot was well saved by Garland, with corner back Caolan McElwain completing the clearance of the line.

Substitute Padraig McGirr left one between the sides and when Tyrone won the next kick out they had one last chance to force extra time but O’Hagan shot wide as Monaghan held on.