TYRONE 2-16 DOWN 1-10
Tyrone eased into yet another McKenna Cup Final with a emphatic 2-16 to 1-10 victory over Down at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday afternoon
With Frank Burns, Darren McCurry, Niall Sludden and Ronan O’Neill all producing sterling efforts, Tyrone were the superior force for much of this encounter, played out in front of nearly three thousand supporters at the Athletic Grounds.
On a lovely winter afternoon, they produced an exhibition of attacking football in the first period, with Darren McCurry especially living up to his ‘Dazzler’ nickname up front.
He hit six points in the first period, but it was the boost of a second minute goal from Conall McCann which provided the Red Hands with the platform on which to build a near unassailable lead.
Buoyed by this Tyrone quickly increased their advantage as McCurry belted over a trademark score with the outside of his trusty left peg and Ronan O’Neill tagged on a 40m free.
Midfielder Sean Dornan and Conor Poland did split the posts to give Down a foothold in the contest before the ten minute mark had elapsed, but their attacking sorties lacked cohesion and purpose in the main.
In contrast Tyrone looked much more incisive and potent, with Kyle Coney pulling the strings around centre field. McCurry and McCann hoisted over wonderful efforts as they exploited pockets of space in the Mourne defensive ranks.
McCann was acting as an effective outlet on the edge of the opposition square and he registered again smartly on the turn, having been picked out by O’Neill to stretch Tyrone clear 1-5 to 0-2 by the quarter hour mark.
While Tyrone did have a strong wind at their backs the gap between the teams continued to grow, with Ronan O’Neill and Frank Burns adding to the scoring tally, the latter’s opportunity a result of more sloppy defending on Down’s part.
Pat Havern stopped the rot for the Mourne men with a 13m free, only for McCurry to respond with a dead ball conversion at the other end.
The Edendork man slotted over three more quality efforts before the break, with midfielder Ben McDonnell also converting, and while Conor Poland twisted into space to slot a Down point, the Mourne boys went into the changing room with a real mountain to climb.
Manager Paddy Tally rung the change at the break, introducing three players, and there was an immediate sign of improvement in terms of intensity and focus, as they pressed up on Benny Gallen’s kick-outs.
Sub Donal O’Hare (free), Pat Havern and Poland all raised white flags though a series of morale-crushing wides hindered any hopes of a remarkable revival.
Despite another McCurry free, Tyrone’s play lacked much of its earlier zip and creativity, players all to often coughing up possession in the tackle instead of taking more sensible options.
Sub Michael O’Neill nearly found the net with a low shot only for O’Hare to pull off an excellent save, and instead it was Down who struck for goal in the 55th minute, Cory Quinn applying a fine first time finish after good work from Liam Kerr.
However the Reds Hands were able to steady the ship again, and a spate of late scores from the Aghyaran contingent put the result beyond all doubt. Benny Gallen (’45’) and Ronan McNamee knocked over points and sub Ronan McHugh blasted in a 69th minute goal as Tyrone moved into another McKenna Cup showdown with ease.