GAA Football

Tyrone hold on for precious point as Monaghan fail to take their chances

Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan scores a point from play against Tyrone at Healy Park.
Picture: Seamus Loughran
Kenny Archer at Healy Park

Allianz Football League Division One, round one: Tyrone 0-9 Monaghan 0-9

TYRONE disappointed not to have won a game they really should have lost, Monaghan professing themselves pleased with a point from a match which they mostly had the better of, despite only having held the lead once, and for only two minutes.

That particular score came from their goalkeeper, by the way. From play.

Welcome back to the weird and wonderful world of the Allianz Football League.

Once again there was high drama involving a goalkeeper at both ends, as there had been in last year's Ulster Final between these two counties. The difference was that it was only one of the number ones, Monaghan's Rory Beggan.

The Scotstown man couldn't prevent what looked like a lead score from Tyrone sub Paul Donaghy in the third minute of added time, but that 'point' was ruled out for a foul on Beggan by Brian Kennedy jumping in at him.

After treatment, having had his head bashed against his own crossbar, Beggan had the chance to win this gripping contest in controversial circumstances.

More than 26 years after his father Peter was infamously penalised for touching the ball on the ground, denying Tyrone an equalising score in the 1995 All-Ireland decider, young Darragh Canavan was called for the same offence by whistler Joe McQuillan.

Yet, with the wind and rain howling around the ground almost as loudly as the supporters, Beggan chose not to risk the ball blowing away, or McQuillan blowing the game up if he tried to replace it.

Instead, he kicked the free short to full-back Conor Boyle, but the Clontibret man did likewise, and Tyrone's All-star keeper Niall Morgan caught it under the bar.

Seconds later the long whistle went. The game was over, but the debate will continue.

The Monaghan supporter who loudly proclaimed at half-time that 'McQuillan never gives us anything, he's from Cavan you know!' was rather sheepish at the end.

A Tyrone fan declared he had the referee in his sights, but thankfully he didn't have the requisite weaponry with him.

The Red Hands' joint-boss Brian Dooher tried to sum up the craziness, commenting: "We probably thought we had won it at the end, with that controversial point or maybe it wasn't a point or whatever, but maybe we were lucky we survived.

"Monaghan had a few good chances before that they didn't take, so maybe all in all, it wasn't far away from where it should have been."

Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney might have been expected to bemoan his side's lack of clinical finishing, but he was almost crowing about the outcome - at least in public:

"For us it was a great game of ball. Conditions were tough even if the ground itself was in good condition. It was hard to play and I thought Joe McQuillan refereed really well because it was a hard game to referee and with an awful lot at stake. For us to take a point here in Omagh is a big result for us.

"The positive for Monaghan is that we showed great character and went at Tyrone in the last 10 minutes and, apart from bad execution, I thought we did a lot of things right."

Few would have agreed that McQuillan performed up to standard, making a series of dubious decisions, including ignoring Monaghan sub Karl O'Connell launching himself into Peter Harte.

Moments later 'Footballer of the Year' Kieran McGeary was booked, then sent off in the 69th minute for his second yellow card offence; the Pomeroy man probably deserved that fate, but the lack of consistency was alarming.

Yet the officiating shouldn't distract from a thrilling, hard-fought encounter between these two bitter rivals, battling in increasingly wild weather conditions.

Tyrone had six changes in personnel from last year's Ulster SFC final teams, including Liam Rafferty and Frank Burns in defence instead of Ronan McNamee and Michael O'Neill.

Further forward, Richie Donnelly operated at midfield rather than All-star Kennedy, while Nathan Donnelly (Killyclogher) and Conor Shields (Clogher) made their League debuts. Cathal McShane also started, with Mark Bradley having retired, Conor McKenna abroad, and Mattie Donnelly on the bench.

Monaghan showed four changes from that Croke Park clash, with the bemulleted Gary Mohan at full-forward, Niall Kearns in midfield rather than Killian Lavelle, and Shane Carey and Andrew Woods among the forwards. Conor McManus and Karl O'Connell were held in reserve, with Stephen O'Hanlon absent.

One of the repeat factors was Tyrone goalkeeper Morgan pushing out around midfield, from the very first Monaghan kick-out, and soon after he won a free after being barged by the burly Mohan.

The Truagh Gaels club-man was mostly jousting with home captain Padraig Hampsey though and after the former took a catch only to be dispossessed the pair engaged in some chest-bumping worth of a David Attenborough documentary.

Although Darren Hughes was sweeping, Monaghan were still getting plenty of men forward, with one run from Boyle only ended by Conor Meyler tracking back and tackling.

Boyle's battle with McShane was a doozy, both claiming possession on different occasions but the Leckpatrick man's shooting sights were off-target on a couple of occasions, setting the tone for a tricky day for inside-forwards, with all six starters in that department eventually replaced, none having scored from play.

Besides the slippery ball, the home crowd was riled when first McShane and then Darren McCurry appeared to be fouled while trying to collect a rolling ball, with no frees given - and 'the Dazzler' was even booked for his retaliation.

After early scores were swapped, the hosts pulled three clear, 0-5 to 0-2, although Monaghan would have been ahead if not for Michael McKernan throwing himself to deny Kieran Duffy midway through the half.

The visitors twice more threatened to grab a precious goal. First a flowing move, a mixture of hand-passing and short kicks, ended with the ball flashing across the face of goal, but Mohan could not turn it into net despite plunging forward desperately. Then McGeary blocked a Mohan shot as the game neared half-time.

When a Dessie Ward shot short ended with Niall Sludden scoring his second point from play in added time, the Red Hands somehow held a two-point half-time lead, 0-6 to 0-4.

A bold Morgan interception led to a Tyrone point from corner-back Rafferty, but Monaghan quickly drew level, with their attackers-turned-defenders Ryan McAnespie and Conor McCarthy pointing either side of a Beggan free conversion.

It was Tyrone's turn to waste chances, with Harte shooting wide after McShane chose not to kick a 'mark'. Worse, skipper Hampsey powered forward and played a hand-pass 1-2 with Shield but then dragged his low shot wide.

However, Monaghan were even more profligate, Micheal Bannigan missing a soft free to begin a run of six wides, doubling their tally, including the rarity of McManus failing to profit from a placed ball.

Still, they finally edged in front for the first time in the 50th minute in an unexpected fashion, with Beggan scoring his first Monaghan point from play from the right wing.

Morgan then went up to score a free, and McCurry did likewise minutes later to put Tyrone back ahead, but that proved to be their last score.

Monaghan, astonishingly, only got one more themselves, although it was a peach from McManus.

Beggan could have put them in front again from a free, moments after Kennedy was taken out in midfield to no punishment, but his effort drifted wide.

And that was that - apart from the red card, disallowed score, and spurned opportunity for a Monaghan win.


Tyrone: N Morgan (0-1 free); M McKernan, P Hampsey (capt.), L Rafferty (0-1); K McGeary, F Burns, P Harte (0-1); C Kilpatrick, R Donnelly; C Meyler, N Sludden (0-2), N Donnelly (0-1); D McCurry (0-1 free), C McShane (0-2 frees), C Shields.

Substitutes: B Kennedy for R Donnelly (48); D Canavan for Shields (48); M Donnelly for McCurry (62); P Donaghy for Shields (67).

Yellow cards: McCurry (35); Meyler (53); McGeary (63 and 69); Kilpatrick (73).

Red card: McGeary (second yellow, 69).

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-3, 0-2 frees); C Boyle, R Wylie (capt.); K Duffy (0-1), D Ward, R McAnespie (0-1), C McCarthy (0-1); D Hughes, N Kearns; A Woods, M Bannigan (0-1 free), S Carey (0-1); A Mulligan, G Mohan, J McCarron.

Substitutes: K Lavelle for Kearns (h-t); K O'Connell for Mulligan (46); D Garland for McCarron (56); C McManus (0-1) for Mohan (56).

Yellow cards: Mohan (47).

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).

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