Tyrone batter Banner with late scoring salvo to set up round three showdown against Cork

First half double from Niall Devlin provides platform as Tyrone coast to 14-point victory

Clare defender Alan Sweeney tackles as Seanie O'Donnell goes on the attack for Tyrone. Picture: Seamus Loughran
Clare defender Alan Sweeney tackles as Seanie O'Donnell goes on the attack for Tyrone. Picture: Seamus Loughran (seamus loughran)

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Group Three, round two: Tyrone 3-15 Clare 0-10

A SALVO of quality scores in the final quarter papered over first half cracks and set Tyrone up for a round three showdown with Cork in a fortnight’s time.

Victories for them (O’Moore Park, Portlaoise is the likely venue) and Donegal would leave the Ulster duo and Cork all on four points and, in a three-way tie, top spot would be decided on scoring difference.

The Red Hands did theirs no harm with their late flurry. They had relied on Darren McCurry and Darragh Canavan for half of their scores this season but neither scored in a first half that was dominated by 2-2 from the versatile boot of corner-back Niall Devlin.

McCurry didn’t score at all but Canavan’s 1-4 included a brilliant goal that sent the result beyond any doubt.

“We’re at the business-end of the season and it’s do-or-die,” said Brian Dooher.

“If we hadn’t come out of here with a win today we were gone. The boys’ backs were to the wall and they responded in the right way, particularly in the second half – the first half was ropey enough, hesitant and a bit nervous but once they got that cushion and a bit of belief in themselves they pushed on.

“Everybody is still alive going into the last game.

“Three of the four teams in the group can still make top spot so it’s all up for grabs. We’re looking forward to getting down to Cork and getting another performance. Wherever that takes us, so be it.”

Michael O'Neill and Clare's Daniel Walsh  and Alan Walsh battle it out at Healy Park. Picture: Seamus Loughran
Michael O'Neill and Clare's Daniel Walsh and Alan Walsh battle it out at Healy Park. Picture: Seamus Loughran (seamus loughran)

Losing by 14 points was a little harsh on Clare who competed well throughout a forgettable first half in front of a couple of thousand diehards at Healy Park.

“It got away from us in the last quarter when we had gone silly really – chasing when there was no need to chase it,” said manager Mark Fitzgerald.

“For long periods we were doing ok but Tyrone showed their bit of quality when they got a bit of freedom.”

The first half wasn’t a great advert for this group format but it began with a burst of action. Cillian Rouine put the ball over the Tyrone bar after 15 seconds but the home side responded with an equally good score. Seanie O’Donnell broke down the right and passed to cousin Darragh Canavan. His sliderule pass picked out Ciaran Daly whose brilliant eye-of-a-needle finish levelled it.

O’Donnell was busy in defence too. His tackle stopped Ikem Ugweru’s break and the Clare wing-back was then black-carded for dragging down Mattie Donnelly as he gathered the loose ball.

Niall Devlin sent Tyrone ahead with his first score but Clare, playing into a stiff breeze and with Ugweru in the sin bin, were patient with the ball until Ronan Lanigan broke into space and Emmet McMahon took his pace to equalise.

Tyrone had the Canavan brothers and McCurry up front but the ball didn’t reach them and Ugweru had returned to the ‘action’ and McMahon had sent Clare ahead with a free before Ruairi Canavan got his first scoring chance.

He sent it wide but he was involved in Tyrone’s next score. Darragh Canavan’s industry won a sideline kick which he played to his sibling and Donnelly, Michael O’Neill and Aidan Clarke were all involved before Devlin – who once again hadn’t been tracked coming from defence - slashed a shot to the back of the Banner net to leave Tyrone 1-2 to 0-3 ahead after 19 minutes.

Lanigan pulled one back and then Rouine took Ugweru’s pass and ran into the wide-open spaces in the Tyrone defence to equalise.

Tyrone hit back immediately. Niall Morgan added energy to their attack when he pushed forward and spotted Devlin loitering near the Clare posts and the Coalisland corner-back dummied a tackle and then calmly placed the ball into the net.

And Devlin wasn’t finished there. He started another Tyrone move with an alert turnover and finished it with a calm shot to leave Tyrone four points ahead (2-3 to 0-5) at the interval.

Ageless Mattie Donnelly played a one-two with Daly before splitting the posts early in the second half and then Brian Kennedy (after a Devlin pass) steadied himself and sent the home side six in front.

McMahon pulled one back for a Clare side who gave up the kickout but couldn’t prevent Tyrone from breaking through their massed defence up the right wing. However, Darragh Canavan hit the post and Michael McKernan fisted wide before Aaron Griffin scored at the other end.

Darragh Canavan had replied before referee Jerome Henry spotted Daly’s push on his opposite number Daniel Walsh and McMahon curled over a simple free.

McGeary was booked for a similarly rash challenge on Lanigan but this time McMahon shot wide and Gavin Murray also missed (hit the post) as Clare countered when Donnelly’s shot dropped short.

Tyrone raised the tempo. Darragh Canavan’s mark left five in it as Shea O’Hare came on for his first taste of senior football and the All-Ireland U20 winner set up Donnelly for his second after the Canavans had brought the crowd to life with a pair of long-range points.

McMahon pulled a point back but then Bohannon was red-carded for settling the score with Michael O’Neill. O’Neill had flattened the Shannon Gaels midfielder early in the first half and Bohannon took his revenge when he caught the Ardboe man in the chest and was sent to the line.

Tyrone twisted the knife with style and flair.

Donnelly scored his third and substitute Conn Kilpatrick his first and then Kilpatrick managed to break the kickout down and Darragh Canavan swapped passes with his brother and cracked home a right foot drive.

They have plenty to work on, but a 14-point win is a good day’s work and Tyrone will need more of the same in round three.

Tyrone: N Morgan; N Devlin (2-2), P Hampsey, M McKernan; A Clarke, M Donnelly (0-4), K McGeary; B Kennedy (0-1), J Oguz; C Daly (0-1), M O’Neill, S O’Donnell; D McCurry, D Canavan (1-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 mark), R Canavan (0-2)

Subs: C Kilpatrick (0-1) for Oguz (50), P Harte for McCurry (53), S O’Hare for McGeary (57), C McShane for O’Donnell (62), C Quinn for O’Neill (67)

Yellow card: McGeary (55)

Clare: S Ryan; M Doherty, C Brennan, R Lanigan (0-1); A Sweeney, C Rouine (0-2), I Ugweru; B McNamara, D Bohannon; D Walsh, D Coughlan, G Murray; C Downes, A Griffin, E McMahon (0-5, 0-3 frees)

Subs: J Stack for Downes (43), E O’Connor for McNamara (52), C Burke for Sweeney (58), C Burke for Griffin (62), M McInerney for McMahon (65)

Black card: Ugweru (4)

Red card: Bohannon (67)

Referee: J Henry (Mayo)