Experience carries the day as Monaghan outlast Tyrone
Rory Beggan and Conor McManus is sparkling form for Malachy O'Rourke's side
Tyrone’s Ronan O’Neill with Monaghan’s Ryan Wylie and goalkeeper Rory Beggan. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Monaghan 1-18 Tyrone 1-16
Who needs television, anyway? The lack of live cameras in Healy Park exercised plenty of the 15,029 who were here – as did the price they had to pay to get off their couch, come to that. And yet you’d be hard-pushed to claim that anybody went home short-changed after an afternoon of football that kept bubbling away right to the end. Maybe the upshot will be that this will be regarded in time like a lost live album, the sort of niche recording that only those who were here can appreciate. We’ll make Ulster football a hipster’s paradise yet, lads.
The brass tacks of it are that Monaghan came out the winners because they finished both halves much the stronger. Tyrone were two points up going into first-half injury time but found themselves sitting in the dressing-room two points down.
Later on, they were level in the 66th minute having scored three rollicking points on the bounce but registered just a scrappy goal thereafter – and even then it only took the bad look off the scoreline. Essentially Monaghan outscored them by 1-7 to 1-1 in the last knockings of both periods. Otherwise, there was very little between the sides.
Malachy O’Rourke’s team would be good men to recruit for a bomb disposal unit. Red wire, blue wire, whatever. They won’t panic either way. They were behind early here but played themselves back into it like men who had seen this movie before.
When the final whistle went, they had five players on the pitch who have passed their 30th birthday. Tyrone’s oldest player at that stage was 27-year-old Mattie Donnelly. When Cathal McCarron was substituted in the 39th minute, it meant that for the first time since 2003, Tyrone were playing a championship match without an All-Ireland winner on the pitch. Experience carried the day.
“That’s it,” said Malachy O’Rourke afterwards. “That’s the way championship matches go and teams can get on top of you. It is easy for us on the sideline and in the stand but boys just have to dig in there and realise that that’s the way things go.
“Just be strong. Have good communication there. You get the ball, make sure you are composed on it and you don’t give it away because Tyrone are very dangerous on the counter-attack when you are out of position. There was a lot of things that we had to factor into it.”
The worth of experience is the knowledge that things are rarely as bad as others imagine. And that you will usually get a chance to redeem yourself. Vinny Corey was skinned by Donnelly for a blinding point near the end of the first half but a minute later he was up the other end of the pitch finishing off a fine Monaghan move to roll home Monaghan’s goal.
Drew Wylie ran in treacle as Connor McAliskey skated passed him to get in behind early on but ended the half with an outrageous score on the run from the right-hand side. And just to round it all off, Conor McManus finished an afternoon in which his most effective interventions had been turnovers in his own full-back line by spearing a ridiculous point from the right touchline in the 71st minute.
Monaghan led by 1-7 to 0-8 at the break and came out scudding for the second half. Ryan McAnespie’s excellent afternoon got the adornment it deserved in a whip-crack point in the 38th minute to put them a goal ahead. And though McAliskey – who was by a distance Tyrone’s best performer – hit back with a couple of pearlers of his own, there was always a sense that Monaghan could keep them at arm’s reach.
Key to that was the tick-tock of long-range scores provided by Rory Beggan. The Monaghan goalkeeper had visited Healy Park during the week along with the Monaghan minors to test the dimensions of the pitch. When Mickey Harte was asked afterwards if he considered that sharp practice, he demurred and most likely secretly admired the forward thinking involved.
“No, I think that’s fair enough,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what day he does it and what day he practises it. It’s the day of the game that matters. He is doing this for a good while now, he is doing it in various grounds around the country and I have no issue with that at all and it is a credit to the capacity he has that he can hit those long frees consistently.
“It’s a serious weapon to have in their team because there’s four points that you might normally expect to get one of them if you are lucky, especially the distance you are kicking them from. I don’t think anybody else has a player that they would be sure enough to get four of those kicks.
“That’s a real bonus to Monaghan and then you add in Conor McManus, he can hit quality scores. They have a lot of good players, seasoned players and new kids on the block and I think we will be hearing a lot more of them this summer.”
On this evidence, Harte might not be far wrong. As for his own side, the road is long from here.
MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-2 45); Dessie Mone (0-1), Drew Wylie (0-1), Ryan Wylie; Kieran Duffy, Vinny Corey (1-0), Karl O’Connell; Niall Kearns, Darren Hughes; Fintan Kelly (0-1), Jack McCarron (0-2, 0-1 free), Dessie Ward; Ryan McAnespie (0-1), Kieran Hughes, Conor McManus (0-6, 0-4 frees). Subs: Conor McCarthy (0-1) for Ward, 41 mins; Owen Duffy for McCarron 61 mins; Colin Walshe (0-1) for Mone, 64 mins
TYRONE: Niall Morgan; Padraig Hampsey (0-1), Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron; Tiernan McCann, Frank Burns, Peter Harte (0-1); Colm Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly (0-1); Cathal McShane (0-1), Niall Sludden (0-2), Conor Meyler; Lee Brennan (0-3, 0-3 frees), Conor McAliskey (0-6, 0-3 frees), Mark Bradley. Subs: Ronan O’Neill for Bradley, 19 mins; Declan McClure for Cavanagh, half-time; Michael McKernan (1-1) for McCarron, 39 mins; Hugh Pat McGeary for McCann, 53 mins; Conall McCann for O’Neill, 62 mins
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)