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Tyrone survive stirring Monaghan fightback to land first Ulster title in 4 years

It was the first Ulster final to take place in Croke Park since 2006.

Tyrone 0-16

Monaghan 0-15

A TOPSY TURVY Ulster final saw Tyrone lift their first provincial title since 2017 to set-up an All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Kerry on 14/15 August. 

padraig-hampsey-lifts-the-cup Tyrone's Padraig Hampsey lifts the cup. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Tyrone led by five at half-time and looked in complete control before a stirring second-half from Monaghan put them back in contention. They pressed up man-on-man with Tyrone all over the field, upped the intensity and started forcing turnovers in defence.

It was an inspiring turnaround from Monaghan considering the difficult couple of weeks they’ve endured since the death of U20 captain Brendan Óg Ó Duffaigh. 

The Farney won the third quarter by 0-6 to 0-2, but Tyrone managed to steady themselves and see out a one-point win. 

Tyrone were hit with a Covid issue during the week, which meant they were without joint-manager Feargal Logan. They were also down a number of players, with Tiernan McCann, Richard Donnelly, Frank Burns and Rory Brennan the notable absentees from the panel.  

It was a most unusual game. Goalkeepers Niall Morgan and particularly Rory Beggan spent a great deal of time up the field as extra outfield players.

Beggan got himself on a sight of ball. He converted two frees and narrowly shot wide after sneaking forward during the second-half, while he also sent a ball inside that was gathered by the onrushing Morgan. Only in Tyrone v Monaghan would one keeper kick the ball to another in open play.

Both keepers pushed up to midfield to cover space on the opposition kick-outs. At one stage Morgan tracked Andrew Woods right into the full-forward line, with Peter Harte forced to cover between the sticks. 

Twice in the final quarter, Beggan was almost caught out when he contested Morgan’s restarts and Tyrone came up with possession. He recovered brilliantly to steal the ball from Mattie Donnelly with a goal looking certain in the 69th minute, while McKenna was whistled for fouling the ball in the second instance.

karl-oconnelltigh-with-kieran-mcgeary Monaghan's Karl O'Connell with Kieran McGeary of Tyrone. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Monaghan looked gased in the closing stages after expending huge energy in the third quarter after throwing everything at it. Tyrone were able to slow the game down, holding onto possession as Darren McCurry pointed two key scores in the final eight minutes to steer them home.

2019 All-Star Cathal McShane arrived off the bench but looked rusty. He clipped a score but sent another wide, was twice dispossessed by Conor Boyle, who also drove upfield to fire over a point. 

Donnelly and Conor McKenna had good first halves with Tyrone snapping at Monaghan heels over the field. But both men faded as Monaghan came roaring into the game after the interval. 

Tyrone were hauled back level by the 49th minute, yet they answered the question as they’ve done multiple times this season. From the 6-15 they shipped to Kerry in the league to adjusting to a new style under their joint bosses Logan and Brian Dooher, to the Covid close contact cases that robbed them of several key men, they’ve shown a good ability to roll with the punches and stay on their feet. 

This was the fourth time Tyrone have beaten Monaghan in Croke Park since 2013 and they’ll head to the last four of the All-Ireland series as underdogs. It’s a role this group of players will relish and they certainly have the athletes to live with the Kingdom, but the real test will be getting enough scores to beat the All-Ireland favourites.

After setting up with a sweeper against Donegal, Tyrone went more conventional this time. Peter Harte slotted in at centre-back, with Ronan McNamee detailed on McCarron and Padraig Hampsey tracking danger man McManus.

The Red Hands left Donnelly and McCurry in the full-forward line, with Mark Bradley buzzing between the lines. Conor McKenna took up the centre-forward’s role and looked to stretch Monaghan by floating to the wings. 

Tyrone looked more dangerous moving the ball through the hands and their kicking game did plenty of damage. In the opening 35 minutes, McCurry, Donnelly and Bradley helped themselves to a brace apiece from play. 

They led by 0-6 to 0-4 at the first water break and were five clear by the half. Donnelly stroked over a delightful score after a solo dummy, summing up their early dominance

McKenna was involved in Sludden’s 17th minute score and dropped a shot short that led to a point from Michael McKernan. As the rain started to fall, the former AFL man was in the middle of putting on a glove when the ball came towards him and he delivered a fine pass into Bradley that resulted in a score. 

matthew-donnelly-with-conor-boyle Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly runs at Conor Boyle of Monaghan. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

McCarron stroked over a brace for the Farney in the opening period but their shooting was off and they missed seven strikes at the posts, with McManus guilty of two misses. 

Aaron Mulligan was called ashore in the 31st minute after picking up a yellow and by the start of the second-half, McEneaney had three subs used following the half-time withdrawals of Karl O’Connell and Darren Hughes. It served to kick them into life.

Monaghan started the second-half with early scores from Conor McCarthy and Rory Beggan. McCurry responded with a free, but the Farney had all the momentum. They brought the tally down to the minimum after a brace of frees from McManus and a mark from Walshe.

Tyrone sprang Cathal McShane off the bench, but he was stripped by Conor Boyle with his first two possessions. Rory Beggan had a point ruled put by Hawk-Eye before McCarron drew Monaghan level with a mark after a lovely pass by McManus.

It was an outstanding 15-minute period for Monaghan after half-time. They started to come out on top of the 50/50 balls, while Tyrone struggled to supply their inside line with ball.

Their first score from play in the half arrived via McShane, sending them back in front 0-13 to 0-12 by the second water break. A point off Harte’s weaker right foot and a converted free from McCurry settled Tyrone.

But again, Monaghan responded. They kicked three of the next four scores to reduce the gap to the interval. Tyrone had a couple of goal chances after Beggan was caught under a pair of Morgan restarts, but were unable to hold onto the ball with the goal at their mercy. 

The Red Hand held onto possession in stoppage-time, running down the clock until the final whistle.

Scores for Tyrone: Darren McCurry 0-5 (0-2f, 0-1m), Mattie Donnelly 0-3 (0-1f), Mark Bradley 0-2, Padraig Hampsey, Michael McKiernan, Niall Sludden, Peter Harte, Kieran McGeary and Cathal McShane 0-1 each.

Scores for Monaghan: Conor McManus 0-4 (0-3f), Jack McCarron (0-1m) and Rory Beggan (0-2f) 0-2 each, Conor Boyle, Kieran Duffy, Killian Lavelle, Michael Bannigan, Conor McCarthy and Colin Walshe (0-1m) 0-1 each.

Tyrone

1. Niall Morgan (Edendork)

2. Michael McKernan (Coalisland), 3. Ronan McNamee (Aghyaran), 4. Padraig Hampsey (Coalisland)

11. Michael O’Neill (Ardboe), 7. Peter Harte (Errigal Ciaran),  10. Kieran McGeary (Pomeroy)

8. Brian Kennedy (Derrylaughan), 9. Conn Kilpatrick (Edendork)

5. Niall Sludden (Dromore), 15. Conor McKenna (Eglish) 12. Conor Meyler (Omagh)

17. Mark Bradley (Kiclogher)

13. Darren McCurry (Edendork), 14. Mattie Donnelly (Trillick)

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Subs

21. Niall Kelly (Errigal Ciaran) for O’Neill (17, inj)

24. Cathal McShane (Owen Roe O’Neills) for Kennedy (46)

20. Darragh Canavan (Errigal Ciaran) for Kilpatrick (54)

25. Ronan O’Neill (Omagh) for Bradley (65)

Monaghan

1. Rory Beggan (Scotstown)

3. Conor Boyle (Clontibret), 4. Ryan Wylie (Ballybay), 2. Kieran Duffy (Latton),

7. Ryan McAnespie (Emyvale),  6. Dessie Ward (Ballybay), 5. Karl O’Connell (Tyholland),

8. Darren Hughes (Scotstown), 9. Killian Lavelle (Clontibret)

11. Aaron Mulligan (Latton), 13. Conor McCarthy (Scotstown), 10. Stephen O’Hanlon (Carrickmacross), 

12. Michael Bannigan (Annamullen)

14. Jack McCarron (Currin), 15.  Conor McManus (Clontibret)

Subs

20. Shane Carey (An Bhoth) for Mulligan (31)

19. Colin Walshe (Doohamlet) for O’Connell (ht)

22. Niall Kearns (Sean McDermotts) for Hughes (ht)

17. Kieran Hughes (Scotstown) for O’Hanlon (54)

24. Andrew Woods (Inniskeen Grattans) for McCarthy (62)

Referee: David Gough (Meath)

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Croke Park

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