Honours even after thrilling Ulster final
Down 4-8 Tyrone 1-17
Down and Tyrone fought out a thrilling draw in today's Ulster senior football final at Clones but must return to the County Monaghan venue this day week to replay.
After a slow start, the game, played in front of 32,000 spectators, sparked into life. Characters and potential match winners emerged from both sides with the formidable Peter Canavan - scorer of 1-7 - turning in one of his finest showings in a Tyrone jersey while Down's dynamic forward Benny Coulter time and again hauled his side back into the game when heads around him were beginning to drop.
Both sides started warily of each other and because of this the first half was a largely lifeless affair. Canavan got the opening score but by the 15th minute Down trailed by just one point with Liam Doyle and Dan Gordon replying to Sean Kavanagh and Kevin Hughes efforts.
Despite dominating possession, especially around the centre, Tyrone's passing was far from perfect and cost them when attacking deep in Down territory. Micky McVeigh, the Down goalkeeper, prevented Tyrone from opening a sizeable lead after 15 minutes when tearing off his line to deny Cormac McAnallen from close range when a goal looked on.
Following a spate of tit-for-tat scoring - where Tyrone never led by more than three points - Coulter sparked the contest into life with an injury time goal. Cutting in from the left corner, the 20-year-old shrugged off Conor Gormley's tame challenge and skipped along the touchline before beating John Devine at his near post to edge Down one point ahead.
More drama was to follow just seconds later when midfielder Gregory McCartan was sent for an early bath. The Down star was tripped by Brian McGuigan - an incident the referee did not see - and he retaliated by throwing the ball in his opponent's face. Somewhat deflated after that incident, Down took to the dressing room with a two point advantage on a scoreline of 1-7 to 0-8.
Down emerged a new team after the break and knocked Tyrone for six with two goals in almost as many minutes. Coulter, such an inspirational figure in the first period, carried on where he left off and burst through the static Tyrone defence two minutes in before laying off to Liam Doyle who netted with a simple finish past Devine. Minutes later gangly full forward Dan Gordon rose highest to palm home a long searching ball that Tyrone's Chris Lawn failed to negotiate.
But, curiously, with just nine minutes of the half played, Down opted to sit back and defend their nine point lead, forcing Tyrone to attack them from distance. But Tyrone counteracted with their own tactical game, forcing Down's enlarged defence to cover from wing to wing with cross field balls.
As Down became tired and weary, Tyrone grew stronger and stronger and Peter Canavan set out on a personal mission to bridge the gap. The captain netted coolly from the penalty spot on 47 minutes and then combined with McGuigan and Philip Jordan to level proceedings on 62 minutes.
But within seconds of reducing that nine point deficit, Tyrone were facing another task; finding another three points to tie the game following substitute James McCartan's fisted goal, after outfielding three Tyrone defenders, on 63 minutes.
Canavan, again, succeeded in his task and it was his late point that brought the sides level once again. The full forward played an injury time free short to Kevin Hughes who kicked wide when maybe a stab at the posts himself would have been better served. Anyhow, the 32,000 strong crowd were treated to a thrilling Ulster final, second helpings of which will be served next Sunday.