Cadbury’s Ulster Under-21 Football Championship Semi-Final
Tyrone 0-11 Monaghan 1-7 6/4/11
It was a case of so near, yet so far for Monaghan’s Under-21 footballers, who lost to Tyrone by the narrowest of margins in Wednesday night’s Ulster semi-final. Monaghan made two changes from the team that beat Derry in the first round, with Daniel McKenna and Owen Coyle returning from injury to replace Kevin Mooney and Mark Hanratty. Eamon McEneaney’s side led for much of the game, helped by a goal from Cadbury’s Man of the Match Christopher McGuinness, but a battle-hardened Tyrone team, who had taken three games to get past Down, finished strongly to squeeze through to the provincial final. There was controversy at the death, as Monaghan won a ’45, which Pete Dooney dropped in on top of the square instead of going for a point, with the scoreboard showing Tyrone leading by two points rather than one.
Monaghan flew out of the starting blocks, with Keith McEnaney scoring the game’s first two points, both very well-taken efforts, and they had a couple of chances to add a goal, but Dermot Malone and Daniel McKenna both narrowly off-target. The Farney men found the net on 13 minutes when McEnaney turned provider for Christopher McGuinness to slot the ball home. Tyrone were shell-shocked, but wing-back Niall Sludden got them off the mark on 15 minutes and a free by Paddy McNiece closed the gap to three. A fine score by Mattie Donnelly and a point from Ronan O’Neill made it four-in-a-row for Tyrone, but Pete Dooney responded to give Monaghan a 1-3 to 0-4 lead at half-time.
It didn’t take Tyrone long in the second half to draw level, as Kyle Coney finished off a well-worked move with a point before Donnelly kicked the equaliser. A foul on Malone allowed McGuinness to convert a free, but Niall McKenna brought Tyrone level and Donnelly, who had earlier had a goal-attempt cleared off the line, followed up with his third point to edge the Red Hand men ahead for the first time. Two good points in quick succession by McGuinness regained the advantage for Monaghan, but a good break by Ronan McNabb created a point for Peter Harte which levelled it up once again. McGuinness hit another point to take his tally to 1-4, but a sweetly-struck ’45 by Coney had the sides all-square with time running out. A swift counter-attack by Tyrone was well finished by sub John McCullagh, before a handpassed effort by Donnelly was disallowed. Dooney dropped a free towards goal deep into the five minutes of injury-time, but Tyrone managed to clear the danger and hold on to book their place in next Wednesday’s final against Cavan.
Tyrone: N Morgan; R Pickering, R McNamee, F McQuaid; N Sludden (0-1), P Harte (0-1), T McCann; N McKenna (0-1), R Donnelly; P McNeice (0-1f), S McGuigan, D McNulty; K Coney (0-2, 1’45’), M Donnelly (0-3), R O’Neill (0-1).
Subs: C Girvan for McNeice (H-T), R McNabb for McNulty (45 mins), M Slane for Pickering (53), J McCullagh (0-1) for McGuigan (53).
Monaghan: R Beggan; C Walshe (Capt.), F Kelly, O Coyle; S Dooney, K Duffy, D Millar; P Dooney (0-1), P O’Hara; P Boyle, D Malone, P O’Hanlon; C McGuinness (1-4, one free), K McEnaney (0-2), D McKenna. Subs: J McCarron for McEnaney (45 mins), K Mooney for Millar (50), M Hanratty for S Dooney (57).
Referee: F Cleary (Fermanagh).