Tyrone minors & seniors impress to reach Ulster final
It was wonderful weather for sporting events at the weekend and Casement Park on Saturday evening looked resplendent as it basked in the glorious sunshine of mid summer.
The organisational problems that affected the venue over the past few years seem to have been well and truly sorted out and even though there was a huge crowd of almost twenty thousand supporters, we did not have the same chaotic queuing and parking nightmares that have been witnessed in the past.
A great day for Tyrone football with wins for both the minor and senior teams and although in both games there were periods of anxiety and Down dominance, few could argue that overall the two best teams on the day won through to the provincial final.
I was very impressed with the way Down started the senior game and in the opening fifteen minutes it looked like they were going to run Mickey Harte’s men ragged. The Mourne men were assured in possession and hardly wasted a ball as they built up a double scores lead of eight points to four. Tyrone were in trouble all over the field and to add to the problems star full forward Stevie O’Neill had to go off with a foot injury. It was not looking great at this stage and there were quite a few Tyrone supporters who feared the worst as memories of Newry in 2008 came flooding back.
The Tyrone management switched Peter Harte from the half back line into a more advanced role and that, plus the introduction of Brian Mc Guigan, seemed to ignite Tyrone’s challenge. The Red Hands gained a foothold around the middle of the field and every time the ball broke Brian Dooher and his colleagues were there to sweep it up. Tyrone dominated the remainder of the first half as the threat from the Down attack all but disappeared. Both Benny Coulter and Martin Clarke became less influential as the Mc Mahon brothers put the clampers on the much vaunted pair. Benny did however illustrate the talent that he is with one fine run and attempt on goal that big Paschal did very well to save.
The first half of the game was full of flowing open football as both teams and the referee contributed to an exciting and entertaining thirty five minutes. We were all looking forward to something similar in the second half but it just did not happen as Down failed to make an impact and Tyrone moved up a gear or two. It was the men in white and red who were displaying the greater intensity and organisation as they fought for every ball in every area of the field.
No one demonstrated this hunger better than Martin Penrose who had an outstanding game throughout but was particularly prominent in the second half as he covered every blade of grass on the pitch. He finished top scorer on the day with five points and his increased accuracy and reliability from placed balls is testimony to the worth of hard work and constant practice. Just mentioning free kicks it was good to see Sean Cavanagh back hitting frees from the left hand side and with Mugsy and Stevie O’Neill also competent in this area it certainly adds to the threat from our forward line.
The four point margin of victory was a fair reflection on the gap between the two sides but Paschal Mc Connell had to be at his very best to deny Down with a fantastic one handed save late in the game when Tyrone were leading by three points. The interesting thing about that goal scoring chance was that it came about as a result of a turnover that should never have been. Team captain Brian Dooher, who was also outstanding throughout the game, carried the ball into a ruck of Down players when he had better options around him. The ball was spilled in the tackle and transferred forward quickly as Down created the best goal scoring chance of the day. Fortunately for the Clan na Gael man and his team mates, Pascal made a fine stop and the danger was averted.
There were several times during the game when players, including the talismanic number ten, took the wrong option in trying to force a pass, break a tackle, over elaborate or over carry. A close look at Saturday’s game will highlight one or two key areas for improvement and learning and hopefully all the players will benefit from close scrutiny of these situations. These mistakes did not prove too costly against Down but later in the year facing better quality opposition who will analyse in detail every kick, tackle and score, such tendencies could prove fatal.
Tyrone will now turn their focus to another Ulster Final and will relish the chance for Mickey Harte to win back to back titles. There will be no chance of complacency or lack of preparation as they attempt to win consecutive provincial titles under Mickey’s guidance for the first time.
Like many other Tyrone fans I had become so used to this present Tyrone squad winning things that this particular statistic had slipped my mind. When you consider the number of honours won by the manager since he took over in 2003 it is strange to find that back to back provincial titles have so far eluded him. Let’s hope this is the year that he and his team can set the record straight on that one.
It was evident in the post match interviews that Tyrone had been shaken by the start Down had made but while a good start in any game is important a strong finish more often than not makes the difference in the final result. Tyrone did not start well but once Brian Mc Guigan came on and the team took on a more orthodox “shape” there was only going to be one winner. The Ardboe man had a great game and looked to be in excellent shape. His return and the return from injury of Ryan Mc Menamin and Davy Harte among others will increase the manager’s options and intensify the battle for places. All these things will only improve the squad and make the team even stronger.
While it was the start made by the seniors that alarmed most Tyrone supporters it was the closing stages of the minor game that caused concerns for followers of The O’Neill County. Tyrone played reasonably well in the first half and when Tommy Canavan goaled just before half time things looked pretty good for his team. Indeed Tyrone extended their lead to eight points halfway through the second half and were looking unassailable at this stage. Fair play to the Down lads as they came storming back to narrow the gap and it took a fantastic save from Tyrone goalkeeper Mark Mc Reynolds with eight minutes remaining to keep Tyrone ahead.
Down were very much in the ascendancy at this stage and I am sure team manager Raymond Munroe must have been thinking his team could well have suffered a similar exit to last year’s with the way the game was going. There was some desperate defending and a few other heart stopping moments as Down took control but eventually Tyrone managed to lift the siege and half back Eunan Deeney secured the win with an excellent point from wide on the right.
Tyrone are now guaranteed an All Ireland quarter final and with exams all but over and the return for the final of Conan Grugan, they must be fancied to do well. This is a fairly talented bunch of lads, but as Saturday showed there is a bit of bite to them too. They battled hard to hang on for the victory and there is a lot to be learned from tough games like these. They were facing an excellent Down side who had been tipped by many to do well this year and several Down people I spoke to had high hopes for this team.
It is to the credit of the management and the team that they got the win and now that all distractions are out of the way the aim must be to lift another Ulster title. They are certainly capable of that and should go into the game in a fairly confident manner.
With the focus and attention being very much on county football over the weekend there was limited activity on the club front with the reserve championship taking pride of place. However there was one outstanding underage championship final to be played and it took place on Friday night. Galbally were facing Clonoe for the right to be crowned undisputed kingpins of under fourteen football in Tyrone having already won the league and Feile titles. At one stage the men in blue led by ten points but Clonoe showed tremendous heart and fighting spirit to come back and pip the Pearses by a single point. In so doing they denied Galbally a unique treble at this level.
It was tough on all those involved with this group of players but we should congratulate them for the success and pleasure they have brought to their community this year. I am sure they will win more titles in the future but a defeat like last Friday’s can be hard on young lads. Congratulations of course to Clonoe who came into this final without showing any great form but who demonstrated durability and talent to be crowned Tyrone Under Fourteen Grade One Champions 2010.
ULSTER SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL
Tyrone 0-14 Down 0-10
Tyrone are through to back to back Ulster senior finals for the first time since 1996 after overcoming the challenge of Down at Casement Park Belfast on Saturday afternoon.
It was a contest where the Red Hands’ experience came to the fore at crucial stages as they made it through to a decider against either Monaghan or Fermanagh.
Down looked impressive in the early stages of the game as they raced into a 0-8 to 0-4 lead but half a dozen points without reply gave Tyrone the lead at the break and they never looked back.
Mark Poland, Ambrose Rogers and Dan Gordon were among the points for Down early on but a brilliant score from out on the right wing from inspirational captain Brian Dooher kept the Ulster champions in touch.
Frees from Poland and Martin Clarke  put Down into a good position and they received a further boost when Tyrone lost full forward Stephen O’Neill to injury after only a dozen minutes, Brian McGuigan taking his place. Gradually though the Tyrone machine clicked into action with Dooher, Joe McMahon, Sean Cavanagh and defender Dermot Carlin all on target as they turned things around to lead 0-10 to 0-8 at the break.
Down substitute Paul McComiskey reduced the deficit on the restart from a free but Tyrone responded with a fisted point from midfielder Colm Cavanagh and a superb effort from Owen Mulligan after he had sold a trademark dummy.
It was apparent at this stage that Down were going to struggle to break down Tyrone’s defence with the McMahon brothers, Philip Jordan and Conor Gormley all to the fore. The fact that Down managed only one point in the final thirty four minutes of the game tells its own story on a day when Benny Coulter was held scoreless and Martin Clarke managed only one point from play.
Tyrone were content to sit back and soak up the pressure with all their experience coming to the fore as they held up possession despite coming under pressure. In Martin Penrose they had the man of the match as he covered every blade of grass and weighed in with five quality points into the bargain.
With three minutes of normal time left to play Tyrone keeper Pascal McConnell came to his side’s rescue with a brilliant save to deny Danny Hughes what would have been an equalising goal, McComiskey blasting wide from the rebound. Tyrone came down the field for Penrose to strike the insurance point as they made it through to the July 18th decider.
Tyrone – P McConnell, M Swift, Justin McMahon, D Carlin [0-1], P Harte, C Gormley, P Jordan, C Cavanagh [0-1], K Hughes, B Dooher [0-2], S Cavanagh [0-3], Joe McMahon [0-1], M Penrose [0-5], S O’Neill, O Mulligan [0-1].
Subs – B McGuigan for O’Neill, S O’Neill for Swift, T McGuigan for Harte, R Mellon for Dooher, C McCullagh for Mulligan
Down – B McVeigh, D Rooney, B McArdle, D Rafferty, K McKernan, J Colgan, C Garvey, A Rogers [0-2], K King, D Hughes [0-1], M Poland [0-2], B Coulter, C Maginn, D Gordon [0-1], M Clarke [0-3].
Subs – P McComiskey [0-1] for Poland, D O’Hagan for Garvey, P Fitzpatrick for King, J Brown for Maginn
Referee – G O’Conamha, Galway
ULSTER MINOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL
Tyrone 1-10 Down 0-10
Tyrone are through to the Ulster minor football final thanks to a three point success over a Down side who went into this encounter at Casement Park as warm favourites on Saturday afternoon.
Down were the better side in the early stages of the game and that was reflected on the scoreboard as they established a 0-3 to 0-1 lead thanks to points from Caolan Mooney, Danny Savage and Ryan O’Hare, Ronan O’Neill with Tyrone’s point.
They failed to score in the second quarter though and that’s when Tyrone set about building up a match winning lead. Thomas Canavan hit a trio of points with O’Neill on target again before the former struck for a brilliant goal in the final minute of the half as the winners led 1-5 to 0-3.
Down got a much needed score two minutes after the restart through Savage but despite playing against the wind it was Tyrone who continued to dominate with Ryan Devlin, Harry Og Conlon, John McCullagh and O’Neill all on target by the tenth minute for a 1-9 to 0-4 lead.
The prematch favourites were staring at a crushing defeat but they then threw caution to the wind as they produced a tremendous final quarter comeback. O’Hare and Jerome Johnston both had points before two quick fire scores from Mooney took them right back into contention.
With only six minutes left to play a crucial turning point in the game arrived when Mooney was denied a goal by an outstanding save from Red Hands keeper Mark McReynolds.
A goal at that stage may well have changed the outcome of the contest but despite further points from substitute Matty Bagnall and O’Hare it was Tyrone who had the final say through Eunan Deeney as they made it through to the final on July 18th.
Tyrone – M McReynolds, S McGarrity, C Clarke, H P McGeary, N Sludden, M Donaghy, E Deeney [0-1], H Og Conlon [0-1], P McNulty, R Donnelly, T Canavan [1-3], R Devlin [0-1], S Tierney, J McCullagh [0-1], R O’Neill [0-3].
Subs – C McCullagh for Donaghy, E McGahan for Tierney, D Quinn for McGeary
Down – M Cunningham, D Turley, G McGovern, D Murtagh, R Johnston, D O’Hanlon, P Boyle, N McParland, N Donnelly, D Savage [0-2], N Madine, C Mooney [0-3], S McCartan, J Johnson [0-1], R O’Hare [0-3].
Subs – M Bagnall [0-1] for Savage, O Lynch for Jerome Johnston
Referee – D Helferty, Monaghan
O’NEILLS ACL DIVISION THREE
Roes come close on return home
The O’Neill’s ACL Division Three campaign is at an important mid-season stage, writes Damien Donnelly.
Owen Roes and Glenelly played a Division Three re-fixture on Sunday, a significant occasion that marked the return of Owen Roes to their re-developed Pairc an Ghleanna base following two years absence.
The hosts put up an excellent show back on home soil but missed out by 1-13 to 1-11 at the finish.
Declan McCrossan got 1-2 for his team, Brendan Boggs landing some fine Roes points as well. But 1-5 from Cathal Nicholas, including a late penalty strike, plus Conal McCullagh’s 0-3 helped the St Joseph’s over the winning line.
Owen Roes face Drumquin in a league game this Friday ahead of championship action the following weekend.
Friday’s league listings also feature joint leaders Fintona at home to joint third placed Clogher and second placed Stewartstown v joint leaders Killyman.
Dungannon play Brackaville, An Charraig Mhor III meet Beragh and Tattyreagh entertain Errigal Ciaran III.
Brocagh, last year’s junior championship runners-up, launch this season’s bid at Killyclogher on Friday evening against a Dregish team boasting better league standings to date than the Emmetts.
ULSTER LADIES SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP
Tyrone girls face Orchard hurdle
Tyrone ladies meet Armagh this Sunday in a key third group stage match that will decide who plays Monaghan in the Ulster final, writes Damien Donnelly.
Monaghan are already through after narrow wins over Tyrone and Armagh, the Red Hands defeating Down the last day to get back in the mix heading for Saturday’s showdown game at Crossmaglen before the Armagh-Donegal men’s All-Ireland qualifier.
It’s a straight forward situation for both ladies teams here, with victory at Breffni Park(1.45pm) taking either through to the July final.
Tyrone turned in an impressive display at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones when overcoming Down in clear-cut fashion.
This was a good way to bounce back from an earlier one-point reversal to the Oriel girls and reinvigorate their challenge for a place in the silverware showpiece.
The Red Hand girls are the Provincial title holders but they fully realise the danger posed by Armagh, a fact highlighted by Niall Colton and Colm Donnelly from the Tyrone management team. Niall makes it clear when assessing matters on the Tyrone’s camp’s behalf.
“Armagh and Tyrone have served up some good battles in recent years and this latest meeting is one that Tyrone can hopefully shade.
“We are well aware of Armagh’s credentials but it is important to concentrate on our own game and for the team to play to its best abilities.
“The prize at stake is an Ulster final place, so no more motivation is required,” stressed Niall.
That recent win over Down(scoring details and team) is recapped below and Tyrone will be aiming to produce a solid follow-up performance against Armagh on Sunday.
Tyrone Team v Down: Shannon Lynch, Sinead McLaughlin, Maura Kelly, Roisin Rafferty, Maria Donnelly, Neamh Woods, Marie Gallagher, Sarah Donnelly, Shannon Quinn, Cathy Donnelly, Gemma Begley, Aisling O’Kane, Joline Donnelly, Nina Murphy, Catriona McGahan. Subs: Sinead McVey for S Lynch, Eimear Teague for M Gallagher, Clare Scullion for A O’Kane, Niamh McKernan for C McGahan, Seanan Loughran for S McLaughlin.
O’NEILLS UNDER-14 GRADE ONE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL 2010
Clonoe 3-11 Galbally 2-13
Galbally were denied the clean sweep of grade one Under-14 titles when Clonoe staged a superb comeback to win a cracking contest by the minimum margin at Father Devlin Park Donaghmore on Friday night.
With both the Feile and League titles already in the bag the Pearses looked well on their way to another title as they established a ten point lead in the first half. John Hanna and Ronan Nugent both found the net with Enda McGarrity, Patrick Quinn and Brian McKenna among the points but five unanswered scores from the O’Rahillys before the interval helped keep them in contention, Reese Quinn, Eoin Teague and Kevin Duffin among their points.
A Teague goal gave Clonoe renewed hope on the restart and while McGarrity responded for Galbally it was the O’Rahillys who had their tails up. Sean Cullen and Teague both scored goals to put them four ahead. Galbally had found themselves in this position before and they used that experience to fight back with points from Quinn and McGarrity but crucially they missed a couple of chances and it was Clonoe who held on to take the title.