Red Hands face fight for survival

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

TYRONE remain in deep trouble in the NFL relegation zone after losing a thrilling encounter by a single point at Castleblayney.


A late revival fell just short as Monaghan took the points from a crunch tie, and the Red Hands have taken just two points from a possible eight.

Eight Lee Brennan points were not enough to save battling Tyrone from the narrowest of defeats, but there was plenty to admire in the performance of Mickey Harte's side in front of a big crowd at St Mary's Park.

However, with another Ulster derby against Donegal just around the corner, these are worrying times for a side that faces a major battle to remain in the premier grade.

"Every game is important and we're four of the six points that people would consider as securing safety. It's not a good place to be in, but it's where we are and it's still in our own hands to pull out from that. The next three games will have a knockout status from here on," said manager Mickey Harte as he reflected on a narrow defeat.

"We got off to a poor start but then went ahead by a point at half-time. Because of that probably flattering lead it was felt that we could push ahead in the second and probably get something from the game," he said.

"I think the performance was good enough in the early part of that second half and got into the lead. The critical time was when they got unanswered points to push away from us. But the players showed a lot of courage and determination to fight back to a one point game and there were chances to be better than and weren't taken.

"You have to pay the price for not capitalising on those chances. There are fine margins in this Division that we're in and that's the difference between two valuable league points, one and none. That's where we find ourselves now."

But Harte was pleased with the endeavour of his players, and felt they were not getting the reward for their efforts at times.

"There were times when the last pass just didn't work out as well, and another occasion when two players went for the ball and didn't get it."

"It's very hard on players when they put in a lot of hard work and get nothing out of it.

"While we didn't get anything from this game in terms of league points, I think there'll be plenty to get from in terms of improvements. Obviously the finishing side of things is one and if there had been better ball handling then we'd be in a much better place"

The Tyrone boss believes his players remain confident, and in the right state of mind to take on the challenge that faces them in the weeks ahead as they bid to salvage their Division One status.

"I don't think confidence is an issue for us after the recent losses. It's just one of those things that teams go through phases of creating lots of chances and not finishing them. You're not going to finish them all, but we need a better percentage and haven't managed to do that in a number of crucial games over the past few years," he added.

"It's something that we have to think about and try to improve. The players also deserve credit for the standard of the football that they produced in this game in conditions that were slipper with the onset of frost. The spectators, especially those who maybe didn't have a vested interest, certainly got value for money.

"Monaghan had a lot of seasoned players who came on and performed well."

Fintan Kelly, one of four late changes in the Monaghan side, was a key player in the early stages, hitting the first three points as the home side got off to a brisk start in front of a large and vociferous crowd.

Shane Carey added another score from a free as the Farney men raced into a four points lead, with the visitors struggling to get any momentum going.

It wasn't until the tenth minute that Colm Cavanagh, back from his All-Ireland heroics with Moy for a first appearance of the season, opened the Red Hand account with a well taken score.

Lee Brennan got his eye in with a straightforward free that he steered between the posts, and as the balance shifted, Monaghan went through a spell of almost ten minutes without a score, until goalkeeper Rory Beggan stepped up to send a long range free flying between the posts.

Colin Walshe pressed forward to add another for a 0-6 to 0-2 lead, but Tyrone countered to craft a golden goal chance. However, Mattie Donnelly sent his shot over the bar via the crossbar.

The Ulster champions were beginning to get a foothold in the game, and dominated the last ten minutes of the second half, hitting four points to go in front, with Brennan and defender Michael McKernan hitting eye-catching scores.

Jack McCarron, from a free, made it seven each at the start of the second half and a huge Beggan free edged Monaghan back in front, but Brennan replied instantly with his fourth pointed free before nailing another free to restore the visitors' lead.

Another free from the Trillick ace nudged Tyrone in front for the first time, but Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke had his own star finisher to spring from the bench, and Conor McManus came into the action to make a real difference.

Within seconds of joining the game, he slotted over a free, before Niall Sludden delivered the first score from play of the second half at the three-quarters stage.

McCarron's free tied the scores up again before a brilliant McManus curling effort from play had Monaghan back in front with twelve minutes remaining.

Ward doubled the home side's lead with ten minutes to play, and another substitute, Owen Duffy, made it four in a row for the Monaghan men.

Beggan's third point from a massive free kick left four points between the sides as time ticked away, but once again, the Red Hands fough t back.

Richie Donnelly and Brennan, with two more frees, narrowed the gap, but a late effort dropped into the arms of Beggan, and the Farney held on for a narrow win.

Monaghan: Rory Beggan (0-3); Colin Walshe (0-1), Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie; Dessie Mone, Drew Wylie, Vinnie Corey; Darren Hughes, Niall Kearns; Shane Carey (0-1), Fintan Kelly (0-3), Dessie Ward (0-1); Jack McCarron (0-2), Thomas Kerr, Conor McCarthy.

Subs: Karl O'Connell for Mone, Kieran Duffy for Walshe, Conor McManus (0-2) for Kerr, Owen Duffy (0-1) for Carey, Kieran Hughes for McCarron, Dermot Malone for McCarthy,

Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Michael McKernan (0-1), Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron; Conor Meyler, Padraig Hampsey, Kieran McGeary; Colm Cavanagh (0-1), Mattie Donnelly (0-1); Conall McCann, Niall Sludden (0-1), Peter Harte (0-1); Lee Brennan (0-8), Richie Donnelly (0-1), Connor McAliskey.

Subs: Hugh Pat McGeary for McCarron, Mark Bradley for McAliskey, David Mulgrew for McCann, Darren McCurry for Mulgrew (BC), Padraig McNulty for R Donnelly.

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).


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