Ulster SFC Final
Mickey Harte and Tyrone may have their sights set on bigger things, but you wouldn’t have known it after their Ulster final win against Down.
Harte had witnessed his Tyrone charges retain the Ulster title with an impressive eight-point victory over Down at Clones, to give them a seventh provincial crown since 2001.
On only one of those previous six occasions did Tyrone go on to follow it up with All Ireland success, in 2003, while their All Ireland success of 2008 came after crashing out of Ulster in the quarter-finals at the hands of Down.
While the challenge now will to go on and lift the Sam Maguire at Croke Park on 17 September, the message from Harte was that Ulster titles are to be savoured in their own right.
“I think we may be learned from 2009 and 2010 when we won two Ulster titles back-to-back and nobody seemed to care an awful lot about it,” Harte told Off the Ball.
“You know, they didn’t get excited about it and that was in the wake of having won the All-Ireland in 2003, 2005 and 2008 and people thought winning the Ulster title wasn’t that big a deal.
“But they are a big deal and now I think the people of Tyrone have discovered that it’s a big deal for the players, and the people respond in that way. I’m delighted that people are really enjoying this.”
Despite impressive wins over Armagh and Monaghan, Down, who were looking for a first Ulster title since 2004, were big underdogs heading into the decider, but gave it everything in the first half and only trailed 0-7 to 0-5 at the break
But after a tight and edgy first half, Tyrone reeled off seven unanswered points in the third quarter to completely take the game away from the Mourne county.
Two goals in the last 15 minutes from Ronan O’Neill, the second a superb chip over goalkeeper Michael Cunningham, sealed a 15th Anglo Celt triumph for Tyrone.
“We put ourselves in quite an unassailable position in all of those (Ulster Championship) games and that’s encouraging but it isn’t always going to be like that but it happened this year,” said Harte.
“We played well, we contained maybe in the first half of all of those games and then shot ahead. When we had a purple patch in our games – we made it pay and that’s the difference.
“You can have a purple patch and not get the scores that you ought to get and after that then your purple patch isn’t worth what it ought to be worth but when you get the scores in your purple patch you make a difference.
“We had to deal with Down’s intensity with the pressure they put us under in the first half. They missed a goal that would have probably made a serious difference in the outcome of the first half so we had to deal with their full-on intensity.”
Down manager Eamonn Burns, said: “I thought we played well for long periods but that Tyrone’s experience got them over the line.
“I was pleased with the way we kept battling to the end. We didn’t give up after Tyrone got the two goals.”
Scorers for Tyrone: Ronan O’Neill 2-0, Mattie Donnelly, Padraig Hampsey 0-3 each, Sean Cavanagh, Peter Harte 0-2 (1f) each, Mark Bradley 0-2, Tiernan McCann, Conall McCann, David Mulgrew, Niall Sludden, Declan McClure 0-1 each.
Scorers for Down: Darragh O’Hanlon 0-4 (3f), Caolan Mooney 0-3, Ryan Johnston 0-2, Niall Donnelly, Conor Maginn, Shay Millar, Conor Maginn, Joe Murphy 0-1 each, Michael Cunningham 0-1 (f).
TYRONE: Niall Morgan; Aidan McCrory, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron; Tiernan McCann, Padraig Hampsey, Peter Harte; Colm Cavanagh, Conall McCann; David Mulgrew, Niall Sludden, Kieran McGeary; Mark Bradley, Sean Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly. Subs: Declan McClure for McGeary (BC, 35+1), Darren McCurry for Sean Cavanagh (50), Ronan O’Neill for Bradley (54), Conor Meyler for Mulgrew (55), Cathal McShane for Conall McCann (59), Lee Brennan for Sludden (66).
DOWN: Michael Cunningham; Niall McParland, Gerard McGovern, Darren O’Hagan; Darragh O’Hanlon, Conaill McGovern, Caolan Mooney; Kevin McKernan, Niall Donnelly; Peter Turley, Conor Maginn, Shay Millar; Jerome Johnston, Connaire Harrison, Ryan Johnston. Subs: Joe Murphy for McKernan (BC, 42), David McKibbin for Turley (47), Donal O’Hare for Jerome Johnston (50), Mark Poland for Millar (58), Aidan Carr for Donnelly (59), Sean Dornan for Maginn (61).