FERMANAGH 0-4 TYRONE 0-8
By Barry O’Donnell
TYRONE slogged out a low-scoring 0-8 to 0-4 victory over Fermanagh at wet and windy Brewster Park on Sunday to progress to yet another Dr McKenna Cup Final.
It was a dour and at times ill-tempered affair, littered with off the ball skirmishes and offering little in the way of free flowing football. The Red Hands prevailed despite just scoring two points in the second half, when weather conditions and the state of the pitch deteriorated.
Tyrone, chasing a seventh successive McKenna Cup triumph, will now face either Armagh or Donegal in next Sunday’s final.
Having rung the changes again the Red Hands were quicker out of the blocks, and it required a desperate goal-line block by Erne keeper Patrick Caddent to thwart Ronan McHugh’s audacious back-heeled attempt, after Michael Cassidy had initially been denied.
Declan McClure eventually opened the scoring for Tyrone with a lovely finish in the eighth minute, and his Clonoe club colleague Connor McAliskey quickly followed up with two conversions, one a free and the other a sublime score on the turn.
The home side were held to just three points in the first period but they all in a cluster, just before the quarter-hour mark. Aidan Breen jinked into space to slot over and Barry Mulrone and Seamus Quigley (free) then slotted over as the Erne men drew level.
However as the heavens opened sothe early cohesion and fluency of the match evaporated, with referee Ciaran Brannigan having to work overtime to maintain order.
Six bookings were meted out, including yellow cards for Tyrone’s Hugh-Pat McGeary and McAliskey, the latter involved in a running battle across the entire half with adhesive Fermanagh defender Kane Connor who tested the refs patience once too often and was red carded right before the interval.
The visitors had ended their own scoring drought when McCurry slipped over a close range free on the half hour mark, following a head-high tackle on Niall Sludden, who was the subject of some meaty challenges throughout.
There seemed suggestions in the run-up to the short whistle that the Red Hands were hitting their strides, and with Richard Donnelly capping some purposeful approach work with a wonderful effort, from Sludden’s super throughball, they held a double scores 0-6 to 0-3 cushion at the break.
Though down a man, the Ernesiders brought a renewed purpose and spirit to the early second half action as Ryan Jones swung over a beauty, from Declan McCusker’s pass. However this 36th minute strike was to prove to be their last score of the contest, as they became pre-occupied with stymieing Tyrone at the other end, while half time sub Padraig Hampsay allowed neither Quigley brother any leeway to wreak havoc.
Forward thrusts were laborious and ineffective for the most part, each side making little headway, even if neither could be faulted in terms of commitment and determination.
A Darren McCurry pointed free was the only scoring return that the visitor had to show for their efforts until two minutes from time when sub Ronan O’Neill provided them with some breathing space with a tidy finish on the turn.
Aidan Breen, Barry Mulrone, Ryan Jones (0-1 each), Seamus Quigley (0-1, free)
Darren McCurry (0-3,3 frees), Connor McAliskey (0-2 1 free), Declan McClure, Richard Donnelly, Ronan O’Neill (0-1 each)
Patrick Caddden, Cian McManus, Che Cullen, Kane Connor, James McMahon, Lee Cullen, Declan McCusker, Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Jones, Barry Mulrone, Ryan Lyons, Aidan Breen, Daniel Teague, Conall Jones, Seamus Quigley. Subs used: Ruairi Corrigan for R Lyons (40 mins), Sean Quigley for Seamus Quigley (47), Eamon McHugh for D Teague (54), Eddie Courtney for A Breen (61), Eoin McManus for L Cullen (70)
Mickey O’Neill, Aidan McCrory, Hugh Pat McGeary, Michael Cassidy, Ciaran McLaughlin, Matthew Donnelly, Kieran McGeary, Ben McDonnell, Declan McClure, Richard Donnelly, Niall Sludden, Conall McCann, Darren McCurry, Ronan McHugh, Connor McAliskey. Subs used: Padraig Hampsey for HP McGeary (h-time), Peter Harte for C McAliskey (43), Padraig McNulty for B McDonnell (47), Ronan O’Neill for D McCurry (51), Michael McKernan for R Donnelly (54), Ronan McNabb for M Donnelly (70)
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)