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National Football League Division One North: Tyrone and Monaghan share the spoils




By Daire Walsh

Ryan McAnespie hit a dramatic equaliser against Tyrone at Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday evening, but it wasn’t enough to keep Monaghan out of the relegation play-off spots in Division One North of the National Football League.

With Donegal and Armagh playing out an entertaining draw of their own at the Athletic Grounds, the table remains the same as it was at the end of round two. By virtue of having a superior head-to-head - albeit their scoring average was also slightly better - Tyrone finished the campaign in second, with the Orchard County and Monaghan in the bottom two places.

All four teams in this section of Division One will be forced to wait before discovering their opponents in the next phase, with the concluding round of Division One South not taking place until tomorrow. Both sides can take great encouragement from their displays in this game, which was held in front of a 500-strong crowd after restrictions were eased for outdoor sporting events in Northern Ireland.

Monaghan were 0-7 to 0-4 adrift at the break, but fought back to lead on several occasions in the second period. Tyrone did look set for their second successive win of 2021 when Mattie Donnelly kicked a superb point on 76 minutes, but wing-back McAnespie ensured Monaghan were able to come away with a share of the spoils.

Darren McCurry was Tyrone’s scorer-in-chief on the night as he registered a final haul of five points. Conor McManus was, as ever, a dependable figure within the Monaghan attack - his 0-6 salvo helping them to stay in contention throughout the proceedings.

McCurry had gotten the ball rolling for the hosts with just under two minutes gone on the clock as he claimed a mark off a Conor McKenna pass before expertly shooting between the uprights.

Their Farney opponents responded almost immediately, however, with McManus - back in the starting line-up after a substitute appearance last weekend - kicking a delightful point from play at a tight right-hand angle. Nonetheless, the Red Hand were creating the greater inroads in attack and had an in-form marksman in the shape of the lively McCurry.

In the ninth-minute of the opening period, the Edendork man worked the ball onto his favoured left-foot and edged his side back into the ascendancy. Joining McCurry and McKenna on the inside line was rising star Paul Donaghy.

He subsequently converted a free to offer Tyrone some breathing space and while McManus was quick to respond with a similar effort, the Monaghan defence were struggling to keep tabs on the rampant McCurry. His second point from play coincided with Monaghan having to introduce Kieran Hughes in place of Sean Jones, after the latter had tweaked his hamstring.

Following the completion of the first half water break - at which point Tyrone led 0-4 to 0-2 - 2018 All-Star Rory Beggan stepped forward from his goal to dissect the uprights off a 45-metre free. Despite being second best in the early exchanges, Monaghan remained within touching distance of their provincial rivals.

Tyrone were passing up a number of scoring opportunities and it took some ingenuity from their own netminder to end a 13-minute drought in front of the Monaghan posts. Like his opposite number, Niall Morgan initially travelled up the field with the intention of having a short at the target.

Instead, he picked out Kieran McGeary from a short free and the wing-forward took advantage with a fine score on the run. Tyrone did suffer a minor set-back in the 34th-minute, when corner-back Cormac Munroe was issued with a black card by match referee David Coldrick.

McCurry (off another mark) and Darragh Canavan - son of Red Hand legend Peter - found the range either side of Munroe’s temporary dismissal, but a McManus free ensured Monaghan were just three points in arrears during the interval.

The visitors managed to utilise their brief numerical supremacy on the restart, with McManus, the increasingly-influential Stephen O’Hanlon and substitute Dessie Ward moving them back on level terms in the 43rd-minute. Tyrone were eventually restored to their full compliment of players - Tiernan McCann took over from Munroe when he was slated to return - and secured a man advantage themselves when Monaghan half-forward Micheal Bannigan was black carded 10 minutes into the half.

It did little to dim Monaghan’s enthusiasm, though, and they edged ahead for the first time courtesy of a converted free by McManus. Conor McCarthy followed with a point from play, before Tyrone finally issued a response.

Full-back Ronan McNamee broke forward to kick a fine score and Canavan’s second of the action levelled matters in time for the second half water break. Defenders often chipped in with scores during Mickey Harte’s reign and this has carried through under the joint reigns of Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher.

Centre half-back Frank Burns drove powerfully into the opposition ’45’ and kicked an excellent point on the edge of the ‘D’.

Even though momentum seemed to be shifting towards the Red Hand, Monaghan quickly regained focus. Supplementing Jack McCarron’s successful free on 56 minutes, Beggan and McManus also raised white flags off placed-balls to move the Farney men into the driving seat.

O’Hanlon also kicked a point at the end of a sweeping move to give Monaghan a three-point buffer with just nine minutes of normal time left to play. Another McGeary contribution settled Tyrone and with McCarron making his way to the sin-bin on 68 minutes, they sensed the tie was once again there for the taking.

The announcement of seven additional minutes heightened the tension and unanswered scores from McCurry and McKenna (free) put the game firmly back in the melting pot. Both teams spurned opportunities in a nervy finale, but Donnelly was ice cool when a chance presented itself on the left-wing.

Monaghan had just 60 seconds to conjure a levelling score and at the end of a patient move, it was McAnespit who denied Tyrone victory at the death.

Scorers - Tyrone: Darren McCurry 0-5 (2 marks), Kieran McGeary, Darragh Canavan 0-2 each, Conor McKenna (f), Paul Donaghy (f), Ronan McNamee, Frank Burns, Mattie Donnelly 0-1 each. Monaghan: Conor McManus 0-6 (4f), Rory Beggan (2f), Stephen O’Hanlon 0-2 each, Jack McCarron (f), Ryan McAnespie, Conor McCarthy, Dessie Ward 0-1 each.

TYRONE: Niall Morgan; Cormac Munroe, Ronan McNamee, Rory Brennan; Michael McKernan, Frank Burns, Peter Harte; Matthew Donnelly, Richard Donnelly; Kieran McGeary, Darragh Canavan, Conor Meyler; Darren McCurry, Conor McKenna, Paul Donaghy. Subs: Mark Bradley for Donaghy (half-time), Tiernan McCann for Munroe (43), Liam Rafferty for R Donnelly, Michael O’Neill for Brennan (both 46), Niall Sludden for Canavan (62), Conor Shields for McKernan (73).

MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan; Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie; Karl O’Connell, Karl McMenamin, Ryan McAnespie; Darren Hughes, Killian Lavelle; Stephen O’Hanlon, Aaron Mulligan, Micheal Bannigan; Conor McCarthy, Conor McManus, Sean Jones. Subs: Kieran Hughes for Jones (15), Dessie Ward for D Hughes (21), Jack McCarron for O’Connell, Niall Kearns for Mulligan (both half-time), Shane Hanratty for McMenamin (55), Dermot Malone for O’Hanlon (65).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).

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