Tyrone see off Down and Cavan beat Antrim to set up Ulster U17 Football Championship decider
Ulster U17 Football Championship semi-final: Tyrone 0-15 Down 0-11
TYRONE were always in control at Clones as they systematically dismantled Down's challenge to book their place in the Ulster U17 Football Championship final.
They will meet Cavan on June 11 in a curtain-raiser to the Ulster SFC clash of Cavan and either Monaghan or Fermanagh.
A Mourne attack that had been in prolific form in their opening two games was held in check by a well drilled Tyrone defence and a classy attacking display from Darragh Canavan, who scored five points from play, steered them towards the decider.
Tyrone manager Colin Holmes said he had placed a major emphasis on curbing a free-scoring Down attack that had bagged 10 goals in two games going into this semi-final
“That just pointed us in the right direction. You can't give them space, you can't give them time,” he said.
“They tore Monaghan to pieces with their pace, they're really, really good footballers, so we're just happy to have shut up shop. I'm really happy with the lads, it was a really good defensive performance.
“To be fair, our best line in the first half was our full-back line.”
Holmes also paid tribute to exciting talent Canavan, who complemented his finishing ability with a selfless, hard-working shift.
“You play to your strengths, and he definitely is a massive one for us,” he said.
“Then you have a lot of boys doing the work, to get the ball to Darragh, to pull the boys out of the space.
“We have talked all year about it, you have your stoppers, your kickers, your workers, your runners, your finishers, and in Darragh's case, he's all five.”
Thomas Hoy linked well with Canavan all afternoon, and both players had their names on the scoresheet inside the opening 10 minutes as Tyrone established a foothold.
But the pace and accuracy of the impressive Sheelan Johnston had Down level by the end of the opening quarter, the Kilcoo talent converting a free and slicing over a delightful effort from play.
They were still level after 20 minutes, after Ryan O'Higgins and Canavan traded points, but the Red Hands made their move in the closing stages of the half.
Scores from Michael Conroy, Hoy and Cormac Donnelly sent them in at the break with a double scores lead, 0-8 to 0-4, as they found a way to negotiate paths through a packed defence.
Referee Pat Clarke, who picked up an injury close to half-time, was replaced by another Cavan official, Maggie Farrelly, and despite the efforts of midfielders O'Higgins and Ruairi McCormack, Down could make little headway, their shot selection proving a major problem.
As they went through a 17 minute scoreless spell, their opponents reeled off six points on the spin during the third quarter, with Ethan Jordan coming off the bench to convert three free, and Canavan and Daniel Millar scoring stylish points.
After Canavan fired over his fifth in the 53rd minute, Tyrone failed to score, but they were nine to the good by that stage, and were never going to be caught, despite Down's late run of five scores, three of them from Matthew Carville frees.
Tyrone: L Quinn; C Ward, M McCusker, A Fox; T Quinn, C Munroe, R Slane; M Murnaghan (0-1), B Gormley; J Oguz, D Millar (0-1), D Canavan (0-5); M Conroy (0-1, 0-1 free), C Donnelly (0-2), T Hoy (0-2).
Subs: E Jordan (0-3, 0-3 frees) for Gormley, L Gray for Conroy, R McCabe for Hoy, C Slevin for Slane, K Barker for Oguz, E Devlin for McCabe
Down: J Hazard; D Fegan, T Gordon, C Fitzsimons; J Lynch, R McEvoy, C Cunningham; R O'Higgins (0-1), R McCormick (0-1); R Campbell, T Prenter, C McNulty; S Johnston (0-2, 0-1 free), P Brookes, M Carville (0-5, 0-5 frees).
Subs: J Clarke (0-1) for Brookes, E Byrne (0-1) for McNulty, B McKay for Lynch, T Connery for Campbell, J Blaney for Hazard
Referee: P Clarke (Cavan)
Ulster U17 Football Championship semi-final: Cavan 5-11 Antrim 2-11
CAVAN'S first half goal rush killed off Antrim's challenge before it even began as the Breffni lads powered into the Ulster U17 Championship final.
Cavan led by 14 points at one stage, and weren't troubled by a spirited second half showing by the Saffrons.
Antrim won the second half by 1-6 to 0-6, but by that stage, they faced an impossible task and were playing for pride.
“The lads probably switched off a wee bit in the second half. We seemed to be taking the wrong decisions, whereas we were probably taking the right ones in the first half,” said Cavan manager John Brady.
“There was some lovely football, we cut Antrim open, and we would be very happy with that.
“It certainly would not have been our intention to concede as much as we did in the second half, but
semi-finals are for winning, and we're there now.
“In fairness, we knew Antrim were a good team coming in here.”
As they prepare to meet Tyrone in the decider, Brady admitted that, irrespective of all the planning and preparation, it's impossible to predict what will happen on the day.
“It's all a learning curve, and with young lads, you don't know what way they're going to react to things,” he said.
“It's good to be there in the first ever Ulster U17 final, it's a good achievement for our lads.”
Antrim scored first through Ruairi Brolly, but they were soon in disarray at the back, sliced open time after time by a slick-moving Cavan side that hunted in packs.
Cian McGovern's defence-splitting pass sent Seanie Keogan in to pick his spot for the first goal in the eighth minute.
They hit the net twice more in the following five minutes, Shane Hanley punishing a turnover, before Sean Martin and Keogan combined to send midfielder Dylan Molloy in for the third.
By the end of the opening quarter, the Breffni teenagers led by 3-4 to 0-1, but Antrim pulled back a goal through Marc McAfee in the 24th minute.
That sparked another Breffni blitz, with Callum Lynch smashing in a spectacular goal, before Sean Martin slotted home a penalty, and now all six starting attackers had scored.
Brolly sliced over a couple of long range frees, but at the break, Cavan led by 5-5 to 1-5.
Goalkeeper Luke Mulholland converted a 45 and Brolly added to his tally from play and placed balls as Antrim fought back with pride.
And they grabbed a second goal on 44 minutes when Peter Henvey tapped in from the rebound after Stephen Lovett had saved from Eamon Kelly.
Brolly finished with eight points, with Dominic McEnhill also chipping in with a neat score as the Saffrons finished strongly.
Cavan eased off in the closing stages, content to defend a comfortable lead, with just two score in the final quarter coming from Keogan and McGovern.
Cavan: S Lovett; K Brady, F O'Reilly, K Smyth; DJ Cassidy, P McNulty, G Brady; K Fadoju, D Molloy (1-2); C McGovern (0-2), S Hanley (1-1), C Lynch (1-0); S Keogan (1-2), P Lynch (0-2, 2f), S Martin (1-1, 1-0 pen).
Subs: T Smith (0-1) for Hanley, M McSherry for Cassidy, K Tyler for Lynch, C Shekleton for Martin, K Curtis for O'Reilly (BC)
Antrim: L Mulholland (0-1, 0-1 45); E McCusker, C Scullion, C Murray; B McCarthy, M Keegan, E Kelly; J Lamont, C Barr; M McAfee (1-0), E Daly, A McNeilly (0-1, 0-1 free); R Brolly (0-8, 0-6 frees), P Henvey (1-0), D McEnhill (0-1).
Subs: C McGettigan for McCusker,
C Henderson for McCarthy, C O'Loan for McNeilly, A Loughran for Daly, N McStravick for McEnhill, E McNicholl for Keegan (BC)
Referee: D Mullan (Derry)