Tyrone displayed magnificent character in capturing the Division Two Ulster Minor Hurling league title with a hard fought five point victory over a competitive Monaghan unit, at Omagh this afternoon.
Declan Bennett’s young charges may have coasted to a facile twenty point league win over the same opposition, at Dungannon last weekend, but today Monaghan turned up determined to prove a point, as they chased a coveted provincial hurling title. Granted last Saturday’s Monaghan team wasn’t a patch on today’s formation as they harried, chased, blocked and succeeded in pressuring Tyrone all over the field with Gareth Keenan, Conor McNally, Fergal Rafter, Kevin Crawley and Brendan McQuaid pivotal figures in their challenge.
Monaghan enjoyed the best of the opening half exchanges, as they established a 5-1 lead after 11 minutes courtesy of some superb points from McQuaid and Rafter. Tyrone were struggling against the breeze, but points from Gerard Gilmore, Tommy Lowe and Damien Casey helped them level the argument by the 26th minute. Casey supplying an exquisite sideline cut to level proceedings at 6 apiece, but after Rafter nudged Monaghan ahead Tyrone took complete control in the run up to half time. Lowe rippling the Oriel net twice in the space of two minutes, as Tyrone entered the break 2-6 to 0-8 ahead against the run of play.
With the wind at their backs Tyrone looked set to seal a comfortable victory, when Gilmore extended their lead to six points, but a Rafter inspired Monaghan side refused to buckle and following the dismissal of Conor McNally the visitors seized momentum. Rafter sent a close range free to the Tyrone net and, when McQuaid pushed them two ahead Tyrone were under the cosh, as they trailed 1-15 to 2-10.
However, that was when the likes of Ruairi Devlin, Eamon Duffin, Tiernan Morgan, Casey and Gilmore rose to the fore. Substitute Mark Mullan flicked a late Casey free to the net for a 3-13 to 1-15 advantage leaving Kevin Grimley to put the gloss on a superb revival with the final score of the game.
An entertaining game of hurling that was played in a sporting manner throughout with both teams worthy of credit for their application of the basic skills on a day their respective efforts could not be faulted.