Tyrone justified their favourites tag to secure a 16th Anglo Celt title and a first in four years when they withstood a determined second half comeback from Monaghan at Croke Park to edge the verdict by the minimum margin.
After an even start Tyrone looked to be in complete control when they greeted the short whistle 0-11 to 0-6 in front after being on top in all sectors throughout the field. Monaghan were in trouble but as expected they mounted a terrific fightback to level matters by the three quarter mark. At that stage the momentum seemed to be with Seamus McEnaney’s side but crucially they were unable to get their noses in front as the Red Hands showed all their experience to take the first Provincial senior title under the management team of Brian Dooher and Fearghal Logan. When the chips were down Tyrone stood up to the task at hand with a brilliant mark from Darren McCurry three minutes from time ultimately proving to be the decisive score. Its the third time in a row that Tyrone have overcome Monaghan in Ulster deciders after their success in 2007 and 2010 while at Croke Park they have now overcome their neighbours four times, the All Ireland Quarters finals in 2013 and 2015 as well as a semi final triumph in 2018. Their reward is an All Ireland semi final meeting with Kerry in two weeks time.
Tyrone were forced into a number of changes from the side that had been named but everyone that came in more than did their bit with one of them, Mark Bradley, opening the scoring in the 2nd minute with a terrific point. Monaghan midfielder Killian Lavelle levelled matters with a neat score before Mattie Donnelly and Conor McManus swapped scores. Donnelly then edged Tyrone back in front only for Jack McCarron to level matters again. Tyrone Captain Paudie Hampsey then led by example with a brilliant score with the outside of his boot from under the Hogan Stand before good work from Conor McKenna saw him lay the ball off Niall Sludden to split the posts.
McCarron though left it a one point game again following a sharp turn but Tyrone responded immediately with a brilliant effort from distance from the superb Kieran McGeary. After the water break Monaghan keeper Rory Beggan nailed a long range free but Tyrone were still looking the better side. Corner back Michael McKernan took a good score and that was added to by a brilliant point from Darren McCurry from out on the right wing. Conor McCarthy then had what proved to be Monaghan’s last score of the first half as Tyrone finished on top. Donnelly sold his marker a great dummy before sending the ball over the bar before McKenna and McCurry combined for Bradley to get his second of the afternoon. Tyrone were well on top at this stage and they finished the half with another McCurry point after Peter Harte had won a Beggan kick out, the Tyrone press putting the Monaghan keepers restarts under severe pressure.
Straight from the restart Monaghan signalled their intent with a Conor McCarthy point after twenty five seconds before Beggan converted a long range free in the 2nd minute. A foul on McKenna presented McCurry with the opportunity to open Tyrone’s second half account and he made no mistake with the 20m conversion. Monaghan though were looking more determined and were now hunting for every ball with McManus knocking over a brace of frees either side of a score from a mark from substitute Colin Walshe.
Monaghan now had their tails up and a good ball inside from McManus picked out McCarron who took the mark and then the point to leave it all square at 0-12 apiece in the 50th minute. Tyrone were on the rack but Cathal McShane, who had been introduced five minutes earlier, settled nerves with a fine individual score. Donnelly then had a chance to leave two between the sides but his free came back off the post but moments later it was 0-14 to 0-12 after a splendid effort with his weaker right foot from Harte after Ronan McNamee had done very well to win possession.
With seven minutes to go a McCurry free left three between the sides but Monaghan weren’t going away. Full back Conor Boyle landed an inspirational score before Walshe picked out corner back Kieran Duffy for another well taken point. It was anybody’s game at this stage but crucially McCurry took an outstanding mark from a high ball in from McKenna before knocking over the resulting kick. Walshe won a free which McManus converted and there was nobody leaving Croke Park early. Beggan, who had been in advanced positions all day for Monaghan, almost got caught out but he somehow got back to put in a great tackle and clearance on Donnelly. Dessie Ward had a chance to force extra time but he shot wide before great defence from Hampsey helped his teammates get over the line as the final whistle sounded moments later.
Tyrone – Niall Morgan; Michael McKernan, Ronan McNamee, Padraig Hampsey; Michael O’Neill, Kieran McGeary, Peter Harte; Brian Kennedy, Conn Kilpatrick; Conor Meyler, Conor McKenna, Niall Sludden; Darren McCurry, Mattie Donnelly, Mark Bradley. Subs: Niall Kelly for O’Neill, Cathal McShane for Kennedy, Darragh Canavan for Kilpatrick, Ronan O’Neill for Bradley
Monaghan – Rory Beggan; Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie; Karl O’Connell, Dessie Ward, Ryan McAnespie; Darren Hughes, Killian Lavelle; Micheal Bannigan, Aaron Mulligan, Stephen O’Hanlon; Conor McManus, Jack McCarron, Conor McCarthy. Subs: Shane Carey for Mulligan, Colin Walshe for O’Connell, Niall Kearns for Hughes, Kieran Hughes for O’Hanlon, Andrew Woods for McCarthy