Stroll in Park for Tyrone

 

All-Ireland SFC Quarter-final/Tyrone 1-21 Fermanagh 0-5: So now Fermanagh know what summer is like in Croke Park. Tyrone could have told them beforehand. Sometimes, you pay homage at the altar and when you go to rise again, your trembling knees betray you. So it was for Ulster's new boys. From Keith Duggan in Croke Park

Yesterday was all too much - the pageantry of the great cathedral, the emotion of the day and, most of all, their neighbours. In local vernacular, Tyrone put manners on Fermanagh.

The great pretenders to the All-Ireland crown played their way to the semi-finals in a kind of cold fury. Beautiful to watch though many of their scores were, there was a sense of detachment about Tyrone, an impatience for bigger days. Even Fermanagh, who have not beaten their neighbours since 1982, must have marvelled at the sumptuous ease with which their cursed rivals put up another formidable score.

As a prelude to the main event, this was a promoter's nightmare. It was like one of those dud heavyweight fights where the stooge goes down in the first.

It took eight minutes for Tyrone's full-forward line to score and, from there, the Ulster champions worked their way back. By the time the final whistle blew, only the full-back trio and Philip Jordan had failed to score.

It is hard to say precisely when the taut wires of the genuine contest snapped, but there was a sense of dark reality closing in as early as the 15th minute when Seán Cavanagh's goal left Tyrone 1-5 to 0-2 to the good. It was not so much the lead as the evident difficulties Fermanagh were encountering just to stay in the same stratosphere as their opponents.

Fermanagh could establish a 12-month tribunal to identify the reasons they folded as horribly as they did and end up none the wiser. They would be as well writing it off as one of those days. Nothing worked.

Early on, they deployed Paul Brewster to sweep the ball destined for Tyrone's shimmering front three. As early as the third minute, a low Brian Dooher pass eluded him and Eoin Mulligan pirouetted for the first of his points.

Dooher was a constant thorn for Fermanagh. During the first half-hour when Tyrone stretched out of sight, he wormed his way into the midfield huddle and emerged from the mêlée with the ball under his arm. Straight away, he was on the lookout for the bobbing blond head of Mulligan or Peter Canavan, the old reliable.

Seán Cavanagh stood alone on the park in the first half. For a young player, he carries a lot of authority. Wonderful to watch bursting forward, he clipped two fine points from play and took a nice squared ball from Mulligan to roll his goal underneath Ronan Gallagher. That move started with a fetch from Kevin Hughes.

Midway through the second half, the same trio were involved in another flowing movement, but when Hughes elected to point instead of pushing the ball on to Mulligan, all alone on the edge of the square, he heard all about it from Cavanagh.

Indeed, it was a surprise that Tyrone confined their scoring exploits to one goal.

As late as the 69th minute, Fermanagh full back Barry Owens got his palms to a low, driven shot from Ger Cavlan. But Fermanagh were by now running on empty.

Minutes earlier, Tyrone threw the ball around without even the pretence of a Fermanagh challenge before Hughes lofted another point, as if tired of holding on to the ball. It was an unforgivable moment from a Fermanagh perspective and indicative of the overwhelming respect they paid Tyrone.

The Ulster champions were 1-11 to 0-2 ahead at half-time without Peter Canavan even attempting a shot from play.

Temporary full back Cormac McAnallen subdued Fermanagh's target man Stephen Maguire, Ciarán Gourley controlled his sector of the field and Ger Cavlan probably did enough to convince Mickey Harte that a big-time temperament beats within him.

Not that this affair in any way resembled the assignments ahead of Tyrone. It is likely they left the field disappointed with the tepidity of their opponents.

Once they fell behind, an anxiety characterised their play. Owens, Raymie Gallagher and the Brewsters tried to resist the red and white deluge. But the second half was painful.

Raymie Gallagher, Fermanagh's dictator on the great raids of last month, was hunted into oblivion. Paul Brewster ended his career on a hauntingly familiar note: beaten and beaten up.

This was a tough lesson for Fermanagh to absorb, but one against which they are now substantial enough to rebel despite this sorry end.

On this form, Tyrone's march has an inexorable look. When they move, they are like a sharp wind. But the sensation of entering the semi-final stage through a game that had degenerated into practice kicking must leave them slightly uneasy.

The titanic struggle their old rivals Armagh endured against Laois in the following game provided a noisy reminder that all the while there is a very different competition going on in a parallel universe. In the coming weeks, the Ulster champions will enter that realm. The value of their Ulster experience will be more accurately analysed then.

They will never be better poised to land the All-Ireland that has so long eluded the great Canavan. They have the ball players and the momentum and the knowledge.

Now, it is time for heart truths.

TYRONE: 1 J Devine; 2 D Carlin, 3 C McAnallen, 4 R McMenamin; 5 C Gormley (0-1), 6 C Gourley (0-1), 7 P Jordan; 8 K Hughes (0-2), 9 S Cavanagh (1-2); 10 B Dooher (0-1), 11 B McGuigan (0-1), 12 G Cavlan (0-3); 13 E McGinley (0-2), 14 P Canavan (0-4, 2 frees), 15 E Mulligan (0-4). Subs: B Robinson for D Carlin, M McGee for R McMenamin (both 51 mins); P Loughran for S Cavanagh, S O'Neill for B McGuigan (both 58); D McCrossan for P Jordan (65).

FERMANAGH: 1 R Gallagher; 3 B Owens, 2 R McCloskey, 4 M Lilley; 5 S McDermott, 6 K Gallagher, 7 N Cox; 8 P Brewster, 9 M McGrath; 25 K Donnelly (0-1), 12 R Keenan, 10 T Brewster (0-2); 27 K O'Reilly (0-1), 14 S Maguire, 11 R Gallagher. Subs: J Sherry for McGrath (33 mins); S Doherty (0-1) for Keenan, C Bradley for O'Reilly (both ht); N Keenan for McDermott (59).

Referee: P McEnaney (Monaghan).