GAA Football

Tyrone comfortably see off Carlow to reach round three of All-Ireland Qualifiers

Tyrone's Niall Sludden goes on the attack during his county's Qualifier win over Carlow

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round two: Carlow 1-10 Tyrone 3-14

A TYRONE player dropping his shorts in front of a young Carlow fan might have been a talking point - except that it merely represented this game ending as a comfortable cruise rather than a logjam for the Red Hands.

Home supporters were intent on taking souvenirs from, or selfies with, both sets of players and Cathal McShane obliged for one lucky youngster with some partial disrobing as he reached the tunnel entrance.

During the game itself, there was only a brief period when Tyrone looked like they might get caught with their pants down, after Carlow’s 16th minute goal from full-forward Darragh O’Brien.

Carlow coach Steven Poacher had promised a ‘bear-pit’ atmosphere but although the hosts led for just over a quarter hour in total, this match was more of a teddy bears’ picnic in the sunshine for the visitors.

Sure, Tyrone took their time to get into their flow, but the only real sweat for Red Hands was among the media from that county in the press box and their sizeable support spectating in the searing heat. The smell in the air wasn’t of an upset, only body odour.

Despite Carlow re-taking the lead, and then holding it for 10 minutes, with that well-worked goal on the quarter hour by O’Brien - set up by their two midfielders and the pace of Paul Broderick - the match was effectively over in the visitors’ favour by half-time.

The Red Hands responded in style to that setback, reeling off five points without reply before the break, to lead by 0-8 to 1-2 at the interval, with Mattie Donnelly and Connor McAliskey to the fore. Colm Cavanagh stepping forward to contest – and win – kick-outs, curtailing the influence of the hard-running Sean Murphy, helped turn the tide too.

Once their manager Mickey Harte extricated himself from a crowd of well-wishers from both counties, he acknowledged they were content to have such an apparently slim advantage at that stage, saying:

“The fact we did end up three points up at half-time, we were reflecting on how Dublin were last year, it was 7-4. We felt if it was good enough for Dublin at half-time against Carlow, it should be good enough for us too…

“Looking back at a few of their results last year, against Dublin and Monaghan, up until half-time there was very little in those games. So we weren’t surprised it would take longer than a half to establish ourselves in the game, and that’s exactly what it did do.”

Not much longer, in truth. Carlow wanted to make Dr Cullen Park a ‘Championship cauldron’, but, their goal apart, they never truly got the pot boiling and it was evident that they were running out of steam somewhat before the teams turned around – while Tyrone began cooking with gas.

The fact that Tyrone scored three second half goals, through Niall Sludden, a Peter Harte penalty, and Richie Donnelly, merely eased their progress into round three of the qualifiers.

Carlow’s goal served only to spark Tyrone, and led to a scoring drought for Turlough O’Brien’s side which lasted for almost half an hour of play before being ended by a free from Broderick in the fifth minute of the second half.

Once again, the Red Hands hit back, reeling off 1-3, capped off by Sludden’s 48th minute goal which was much more notable for its creation than its finish.

Peter Harte, back from suspension, took time to get going, but five minutes after he showed spectators his own sort of ‘collector’s item’, a right foot point, he again deployed his less favoured foot to great effect. First he exchanged hand-passes with Richie Donnelly, then sold several dummies off his right on a jinking forward run, before unselfishly setting up the Dromore man for a palmed goal, and a nine-point lead.

Even if Mickey Harte weren’t his uncle he’d have had to praise that play from Peter, and the boss did, declaring: “Many a player wouldn’t have been able to make a goal of it but he did, and that’s what people with a bit of class can do. You won’t always get that, but the days it comes along it is good to admire.”

Carlow, to their credit, stuck at it, helped by the introduction of fresh legs, and the example of Newry man Poacher, who probably covered more of the pitch than some of his players with his repeated incursions and exhortations.

Tyrone didn’t ring any changes until almost the hour mark, by which time Carlow had made all their substitutions.

Yet for all those alterations, Broderick and impressive centre half-forward Darragh Foley remained their only scorers apart from the goal.

Two Tyrone subs, Kieran McGeary and Ronan O’Neill, were involved along with Harte and Declan McClure in the clever chain of passes that unlocked the Carlow defence, so that goalkeeper Robbie Molloy felt obliged to drag Mattie Donnelly down by the neck on 64 minutes. Harte confidently swept the resultant spot-kick into the net.

Swapping roles, Broderick scored from play and Foley from a free, but Tyrone once more knocked Carlow back, with another sub – Conall McCann – setting up another goal, crashed in by the younger Donnelly in the fourth minute of added time.

Foley and Carlow were still able to get two more scores but even goals wouldn’t have troubled Tyrone by that stage.

The Red Hands, like the other qualifiers, must now try to win two rounds to reach the ‘Super Eights’, but Mickey Harte grinned at that prospect, declaring: “I would love that more than sitting from now until January to play football!

“I wouldn’t call it demanding; I would call it a privilege. A privilege to be in that place and I hope we are playing week on week for as long as this season goes on.”

Depending on this morning’s draw, the Red Hands might need to hold on to their shorts for another fortnight at least.

Carlow: R Molloy; C Crowley, S Redmond, C Lawlor; J Morrissey, D St Ledger, C Moran; S Gannon, D Foley (0-5, 0-3 frees), D Walshe; P Broderick (0-5, 0-4 frees), D O’Brien (1-0), J Murphy (capt.).

Substitutes: M Rennick for Walshe (40); B Kavanagh for Moran (49); BJ Molloy for Crowley (55); C Lawler for J Murphy (55); K Nolan for Morrissey (60); L Walker for O’Brien (60).

Yellow cards: Moran (24); S Murphy (37); St Ledger (54); Molloy (65).


Tyrone: N Morgan; P Hampsey, R McNamee, C McCarron; M McKernan, F Burns (0-1), P Harte (1-1, 1-0 penalty); C Cavanagh, D McClure (0-1); M Donnelly (capt.) (0-2), N Sludden (1-1), C Meyler (0-1); C McShane, R Donnelly (1-2), C McAliskey (0-5, 0-3 frees).

Substitutes: R O’Neill for N Sludden (60); K McGeary for McAliskey (60); P McNulty for McShane (62); R Brennan for McKernan (66); C McCann for M Donnelly (67); A McCrory for McCarron (71).

Yellow cards: N Sludden (2); McAliskey (17); R Donnelly (45); Burns (68)

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)

Attendance: 6,353.

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