Refereeing standards questioned but Tyrone come good for a finish
Tyrone 1-11 Down 1-8:Tyrone staged a second-half comeback to deservedly win what was, at times, a tempestuous encounter with Down at Páirc Esler in Newry on Saturday evening.
A total of 15 yellow cards were issued for offences ranging from the innocuous to the downright dangerous and both teams finished with 14 men.
It inevitably meant that the standard of refereeing came under scrutiny in the aftermath of the game as Tyrone manager Mickey Harte called for consistency in the decision making.
“You would always talk about refereeing and talk about consistency,” said Harte. “I have not seen it yet and I certainly didn’t see it tonight. I’ll challenge anybody to look at a video of that game and tell me that the decisions were delivered consistently.
“One thing was a foul and another thing wasn’t,” he added. “There were things going on that appeared to be very much a foul that weren’t blown and other things that seemed rather trivial were blown for.”
One decision that the Tyrone manager felt aggrieved by was Joe McMahon’s dismissal mid-way through the second half for the accumulation of two yellow cards. At that crucial stage of the match the teams were level and despite their numerical advantage, Down were bettered by Tyrone in almost every department in the closing stages.
The Mourne county had the better of the first half and led by two points at the break but they should have been further ahead. Some excellent scores from Benny Coulter, Connaire Harrison and Donal O’Hare had edged the hosts into a four-point lead with only five minutes of the first half left to play.
Down moved the ball with pace and Ryan Mallon proved to be a useful attacking outlet in the half-back line, scoring two points from play.
Seán Cavanagh and Conor McAlliskey had pointed early for Tyrone but there were two separate 10-minute spells in the opening half when Tyrone failed to score.
Yet for all of Down’s industry, points from Conor McAlliskey and a converted free by goalkeeper Niall Morgan meant that Tyrone were only two points adrift by half-time.
Stephen O’Neill pointed seconds after the restart and although Donal O’Hare scored a free for Down in reply, it proved to be their last point of the game.
Play was continually punctuated by persistent fouling, the majority of which was perpetrated by a tiring Down defence. In contrast, Tyrone looked stronger as the game wore on and Stephen O’Neill saw more of the ball.
Conor Clarke brought Tyrone back on level terms by finishing a patient and intricate passing move midway through the second half. When Tyrone then scored a goal through Mark Donnelly following a botched clearance in the Down defence the result began to look inevitable.
Down, though, responded immediately with a goal of their own. A long ball played into the square presented Donal O’Hare with an easy chance to palm the ball into the net from close range. It proved to be Down’s last score as Tyrone took over.
McMahon’s dismissal on 55 minutes only appeared to strengthen the Tyrone resolve. Clarke, Seán Cavanagh and O’Neill scored without reply in the final 15 minutes which meant that when Conor Laverty was dismissed for a second yellow card it mattered little. Down were already well beaten by a resurgent Tyrone team.