Red Hands retain Ulster crown

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Red Hands retain Ulster crown thumbnailThousands of Tyrone supporters celebrate Tyrone's Ulster Final victory.

ST TIERNACH'S Park was a sea of white and red as Tyrone secured back-to-back Ulster Championship titles on Sunday, following a 2-17 to 0-15 win over Down.


2016's titanic battle with Donegal was a war of attrition, with Tyrone fighting tooth and nail to eventually come out on top by two points and reclaim the Anglo-Celt Cup after a five year absence. Twelve months later though, on another sweltering Sunday in Clones, the Red Hands had a hand on the cup with 15 minutes to go.

A resurgent Down came to town buoyed by a memorable semi-final win over Monaghan, and Eamon Burns' men stayed in touch with an off-colour Tyrone in first half. The holders though displayed their strength in depth after the break with Declan McClure and two-goal hero Ronan O'Neill coming off the bench to great effect. Down were unable to keep up, and Tyrone never looked back to run out eight point victors.

Mickey Harte's focus will now turn to a return to Croke Park for a All-Ireland quarter-final with either Armagh, Monaghan or Kildare, and he'll be intent on making up for the disappointment of last year's exit at the same stage at the hands of Mayo.


Padraig Hampsey opened the scoring after three minutes in a first half where Tyrone failed to find their gear in the blistering heat of Clones. Shay Millar levelled the scores a moment later before Tyrone stretched out a three point lead thanks to well-worked scores from Peter Harte, Hampsey again, and Mattie Donnelly.

Down's defence were holding up well, with Mark Bradley being well-shackled by Down skipper Darren O'Hagan, and the Mournemen were trying their luck from range in attempt to counteract Tyrone's mass defence. A a few wides they registered huge scores via Ryan Johnston and Niall Donnelly. At the other end, Niall Sludden and Sean Cavanagh were on target for the Red Hands, but the attacking play was lacking its usual incisiveness and pace.

Ronan McNamee was negating the threat of Down danger man Connaire Harrison at the edge of the square, but Eamon Burns' men came back to within a point for Tyrone through Darragh O'Hanlon's free and a super score from Conor Maginn, set up by a lung-bursting run from Ryan Johnston.

Down now had momentum, and O'Hanlon then had a glorious chance to send them into the lead in the 32nd minute when he collected a pass from Jerome Johnston and burst through. Faced with just Niall Morgan to beat, the wing-back blazed wide, much to the dismay of the Down fans.

After a period of broken play, Joe McQuillan brandished a harsh black card to Kieran McGeary and yellow cards to both sides, before Mattie Donnelly ended Tyrone's run of 18 minutes without a score when he fended off several tackles to get the last point of the half, with Tyrone 0-7 to 0-5 up.

Mickey Harte's team restarted the game keen to put that lacklustre first half behind them, and they wasted no time in taking a firm grip of the game at the start of the second period, scoring six unanswered points.

David Mulgrew found room to fire over, while frees from Cavanagh and Harte sandwiched a smart Mark Bradley point. Down began to struggle as Tyrone threw off the shackles, and they were dealt a further blow when key man Kevin McKernan was sent to the line after a black card in the 41st minute.


McClure was introduced off the bench after 50 minutes and the Clonoe man's influence was immediate, taking a number of impressive marks in the midfield, one of which setting up Bradley for another score. Conall McCann split the posts from the left wing after Harte collected a break, while a Hampsey interception lead to elder McCann brother Tiernan getting on the score-sheet as Tyrone looked to have found their groove.

Down eventually raised the white flag in the second half through Caolan Mooney and a Ryan Johnston free, but the reigning champions struck moments later to bury their opponents and stretch their lead to 10 points.

Newly introduced as a sub, Ronan O'Neill planted the ball in the net with his first touch after good approach play from McClure and Donnelly. Down keeper Michael Cunningham landed a long range free, but Tyrone came back down the field in search of another goal, and Cunningham produced a great stop to tip a Hampsey effort over the bar.

O Hanlon and Mooney tagged on two more, but the result was put beyond all doubt in the 64th minute with Tyrone's second goal. It was a piece of magic from Omagh attacker O'Niell again, who gathered an inch-perfect Darren McCurry pass and deftly lobbed the Cunningham from 15 yards.

After that Tyrone emptied their bench, but were reduced to 14 men when Cathal McCarron received a second yellow card for his part in a skirmish, while Down sub Mark Poland had to retire due to a nasty head injury. O'Hanlon and Mooney again added to Down's total, but the game was played out to an anti-climax as Donnelly and Lee Brennan traded scores with Joe Murphy, David McKibbin and O'Hanlon.

All that was left was for Joe McQuillan to call time on the match and for captain Cavanagh to collect Tyrone's 15th Anglo-Celt Cup.



Tyrone: Niall Morgan, Aidan McCrory, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron, Tiernan McCann, Padraig Hampsey, Peter Harte, Colm Cavanagh, Conall McCann, David Mulgrew, Niall Sludden, Kieran McGeary, Mark Bradley, Sean Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly

Subs: Declan McClure for McGeary (38mins black card), Darren McCurry for S Cavanagh (48mins), Ronan O'Neill for M Bradley (53 mins), Conor Meyler for D Mulgrew (54mins), Cathal McShane for C McCann (58 mins), Lee Brennan for N Sludden (65 mins).

Tyrone scorers: Ronan O'Neill 2-0, Mattie Donnelly 0-3, Padraig Hampsey 0-3, Mark Bradley 0-2, Sean Cavanagh 0-2 (1f), Peter Harte 0-2 (1f), Niall Sludden 0-1, David Mulgrew 0-1, Conall McCann 0-1, Tiernan McCann 0-1, Lee Brennan 0-1

Down: Michael Cunningham, Niall McParland, Gerard McGovern, Darren O'Hagan, Darragh O'Hanlon, Conaill McGovern, Caolan Mooney, Kevin McKernan, Niall Donnelly, Peter Turley, Conor Maginn, Shay Millar, Jerome Johnston, Connaire Harrison, Ryan Johnston

Subs: Joe Murphy for K McKernan (41mins black card), David McKibbin for P Turley (46mins), Donal O'Hare for J Johnston (49 mins), Mark Poland for S Millar (55mins), Aidan Carr for N Donnelly (58 mins), Sean Dornan for C Maginn (61 mins).

Down scorers: Darragh O'Hanlon 0-4 (4f), Caolan Mooney 0-3, Ryan Johnston 0-2 (1f), Niall Donnelly, 0-1, Conor Maginn 0-1, Shay Millar 0-1, Michael Cunningham 0-1 (1f), Joe Murphy 0-1, David McKibbin 0-1

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

Attendance: 32,912


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