Smash and grab raid leaves minors stunned

Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship Final, Clones, Co. Monaghan 21/7/2013'Tyrone vs Monaghan'Adam Kieran of Monaghan with Conor McKenna of Tyrone'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Donall Farmer
Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Football Championship Final, Clones, Co. Monaghan 21/7/2013'Tyrone vs Monaghan'Adam Kieran of Monaghan with Conor McKenna of Tyrone'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Donall Farmer

Tyrone minors woke up on Monday morning still wondering how they failed to win the Ulster minor championship title at St.Tiernachs Park in Clones.

Instead it was a almost like daylight robbery as Monaghan took the silverware for the first time since 1945.

With a dozen minutes of normal time left to play the holders were eight points to the good and seemingly well on top but they failed to score again as the wheels came off the wagon in spectacular style.

Barry McGinn’s second goal gave the Farney County a bit of belief and, after Tyrone had captain Ruairi McGlone sent off for a second yellow card offence, it all went really pear-shaped for the devastated Red Hand lads.

And Monaghan clinched victory in dramatic style when Fearghal McMahon converted a penalty a minute into injury time, an award that looked soft to say the least. Tyrone manager Mickey Donnelly couldn’t hide his disappointment after the game.

“I’m absolutely gutted for the lads to have lost that match, said Donnelly. “We were in a very strong position but in the final quarter of the game we just couldn’t get our hands on the ball around the middle third of the field and that allowed them to get back into the game.

“We will have to try and pick ourselves up for the All Ireland quarter final against Kerry but we have a lot of work to do before that.”

Tyrone were out of the blocks quickly as they confidently took the game to pre-match favourites Monaghan.

Centre half forward Conor McKenna had the ball over the bar within fifteen seconds of the start before Lee Brennan impressively knocked over a forty metre free.

In the third minute midfielder Ronan Nugent showed great strength out on the right wing to hold off a challenge before landing a superb point and that was quickly by a quality effort from Daire Gallagher.

A close in free from Brennan left the Red Hands five points to the good before Monaghan opened their account in the 12th minute, when centre half forward Ryan McAnespie - who lives in Aughnacloy - took a superb point after a good catch and forty metre run.

Tyrone continued to look the better side with Brennan pointing from play and David Mulgrew hitting a beauty from distance in the next attack for a 0-7 to 0-1 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

In the 19th minute Monaghan struck for the first goal of the afternoon when good approach play from McAnespie saw him lay off the ball for McMahon to finish low to the bottom left hand corner of the net past keeper Sean Fox.

Tyrone responded in positive fashion, with Brennan and McKenna both scoring points and it took a good save from Monaghan keeper Conor Forde to deny McKenna a goal.

Fox then made a good stop to thwart McGinn but in the twenty seventh minute the latter found the net.

A minute into injury time in the first half Tyrone grabbed a goal when McKenna fisted the ball to the net to leave it 1-9 to 2-1 at the break.

Donal Meegan came on at halftime for Monaghan and within forty seconds he had made his impression with a point.

McMahon and Stephen McGrath then traded points before McGrath narrowed the gap further from another placed ball.

In the seventh minute Tyrone scored their second goal when a blistering forty metre run from corner back Colm Byrne ended with him offloading to team captain McGlone who blasted to the net.

Brennan took a good score from out on the wing and when McKenna followed that up with another point to put them eight clear.

McMahon knocked over a brace of frees in reply but when a long range point from midfielder Frank Burns was followed by one from defender Padraig McGirr there looked like there would only be one winner.

A McMahon free went over via the post before McGinn got his second major from close range to cut the deficit to four with ten minutes left on the clock.

Conor McCarthy then weighed in with a good individual point before McMahon registered again.

In the 58th minute McGlone picked up a second booking for what looked like a harsh decision.

A minute into injury time Monaghan were awarded that crucial penalty when the referee deemed that centre half back Aodh Curran had been pushed.

McKenna confidently despatched the resulting kick past keeper Fox.

It was an unbelievable turnaround and Meegan concluded the scoring when he took a pass from Desmond Ward to fist over the bar to give them an historic victory and leave Tyrone to wonder what might have been - on a day when they unquestionably had more than one hand on the Cup.

There were mixed emoitions at the final whistle for Monaghan trainer Ciaran McBride, the Omagh man a great playing servant for the Red Hands in years gone by.“It was very hard for me, my head saying one things and my heart another. The only saving grace really is that we didn;t put Tyrone out of the championship, they’ll get a second chance as beaten finalists” he stressed.

“However, Tyrone minors have had a lot of days in the sun over the years. Monaghan were overdue this one” added the happy Farney county backroom man.