NFL Division One: Monaghan 0-13 Tyrone 2-15
The relegation picture became clearer in Clones on Sunday. Tyrone, barring catastrophe against Armagh in their last match, are staying up whereas Monaghan – and we say this advisedly – look doomed to relegation after a nine-year residency at the top.
The great escapologists of the final day will have their work cut out. They must go to Castlebar and do what no other team has managed to do this season – beat Mayo – and then hope the rest of the cards fall nicely for them. Even for a county long accustomed to laughing in the face of adversity, it’s hard to see the mirth in that.
This was a match that they must have hoped would make salvation a little easier: a claustrophobic, hard-hitting encounter – Kavanagh’s ‘Epic’ performed on grass.
It didn’t happen, even though the day – cold and squally – should have facilitated a low-scoring encounter in which the home side might thrive. Instead, there came further evidence of Tyrone’s revival. The 2021 All-Ireland champions were assisted in their efforts by Monaghan’s ill-discipline costing them two red cards.
Whatever chance existed at 15-a-side, fizzled out in the face of that kind of numerical inequality. Tyrone joint-manager Brian Dooher was in customarily severe form afterwards. When it was put to him that the picture looked a lot brighter than a couple of matches ago, he almost reprimanded the questioner.
“Wouldn’t be hard. Two or three weeks ago we were sitting at the bottom but we’ve still a bit of work to do yet. It’s definitely improving but it needs a bit more yet. It’s good to get two points here and that’s what we came for.”
It moves the team to six points with a finale against Armagh, who Dooher was at pains to talk up as “one of the best teams in the division”.
If his analysis was predictably demanding, it wasn’t wide of the mark.
“Intensity was good last week and could have been better today. It was good in parts but lacked consistency throughout the match. In the first half we worked hard and got a couple of good scores but gave away too many frees.
“Monaghan got seven of their first eight scores from frees. Any time you’re giving away frees in a scoreable position, that’s criminal.”
To rewind to when the match was a contest, by half-time Monaghan had put themselves in a position to compete with a battling second quarter. Gradually they began to find their way around the suffocating embrace of the Tyrone defence and a couple of cleverly constructed marks yielded points for Dessie Ward and Shane Carey.
From the start, though, the problem for the home team had been that Tyrone’s sharp counterattacks had found a more hospitable environment than the home side at the other end. In the 13th minute Michael McKernan’s cross into the square found Brian Kennedy – productively deployed at full forward – and he was fouled by Francie Hughes for a penalty, which Peter Harte converted.
In the 27th minute just after a Rory Beggan 45 had hauled Monaghan with two points, 0-5 to 1-4, the again impressive Darragh Canavan sprinkled some stardust, holding up the ball tantalisingly before releasing inside.
Darren Hughes over-committed and Cormac Quinn, up from defensive duties, was unopposed to ram home the second goal for a double-score lead, 2-4 to 0-5.
Monaghan, to their credit, plugged away and had recouped the goal through Ward’s and Carey’s marks and a free by Michael Bannigan. Canavan completed the scoring before the break for a 2-5 to 0-8 lead.
If Monaghan were doing well to stay in touch, the necessary platform to win the match wasn’t really visible. Kieran Duffy shot their opening score when joining the attack from full back. It was their last score from play, as frees and marks supplied the remainder of what they put on the scoreboard.
Dooher was unhappy with the number of dead-ball chances his team had gifted Monaghan. Bannigan and Conor McManus were the beneficiaries but the Tyrone defence was hard to break down and the home side spent many of their attacks in long-running bouts of recycling, yielding too few scoring chances.
Jack McCarron had been well shepherded by Pádraig Hampsey and his frustrations had already got him a yellow card just before half-time. His mood hadn’t improved when shortly into the second half he tripped Kieran McGeary and picked up a black card, followed by red – a complete set within a couple of minutes either side of the break.
Ten minutes later, Killian Lavelle followed after a reckless challenge on Conor Meyler cut out the need for any other card colour than red.
The match lost its shape as a result and although Monaghan battled away, they were bailing water from a sinking ship. Tyrone scored 0-10 from eight different players in the second half and breezed to victory.
Even Dooher approved – up to a point.
“I didn’t know that but it’s good to get a range of scorers. Would have liked a few more. I thought some of our shooting was rash and we didn’t convert some reasonable opportunities, But we got two goals, which we hadn’t been taking earlier in the year. That’s the upside.
“Defensively we were fairly solid, which is something to build on. There’s a lot of work to be done but we’re going in the right direction.”
MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan (0-1, a 45); Thomas McPhilips, Kieran Duffy (capt; 0-1), Francis Hughes; Fintan Kelly, Dessie Ward (0-1, mark), Ryan O’Toole; Darren Hughes, Killian Lavelle; Shane Carey (0-1), Michael Bannigan (0-4), Conor McCarthy; Seán Jones, Karl Gallagher (0-1, mark), Jack McCarron.
Subs: Stephen O’Hanlon for Irwin (35 mins), Conor McManus (0-4, four frees) for F Hughes, Karl O’Connell for Jones (both 40), Darragh McAlearney for Ward (62), Aaron Mulligan for Carey (67).
TYRONE: Niall Morgan (0-1, a 45); Michael McKernan, Pádraig Hampsey, Nathan McCarron; Cormac Quinn (1-0), Frank Burns, Peter Harte (1-1, 1-0 pen); Brian Kennedy (0-1), Joe Orguz; Conor Meyler, Kieran McGeary, Mattie Donnelly (0-1); Darren McCurry (0-4, two frees), Conn Kilpatrick (0-2, one mark), Darragh Canavan (0-3).
Subs: Niall Devlin (0-1) for McCarron (49 mins), Ruairi Canavan for McGeary (56), Liam Rafferty for Oguz, Richard Donnelly (0-1) for Myler (both 62), Michael O’Neill for D Canavan (73).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).