Down pay the penalty

May 26, 2014

As is the case in replays it is the team that learns the most from the drawn game that progresses to the next round and in this respect Tyrone came out tops. As was widely expected both teams made wholesale switches but as with the opening half in Omagh Down paid the penalty of being too ponderous and overpassing the ball, when they knew that it was their running at the Tyrone defence and the swift delivery of ball into their forwards that brought the better results in the drawn game. By the time Down resorted to the latter the re-jigged Tyrone defence were physically able to outmuscle the home attack unlike the previous week. Saying that, the outcome might have been changed right from the off as Down missed from the penalty spot and ultimately it was the 3 green flags raised by the visitors that  condemned Down to the qualifiers.

Down named the same starting fifteen as took to the field in Omagh a week previous then sprung two late changes with Jerome Johnston continuing in place of Ambrose Rogers and Dan Gordon a shock inclusion at centre field at the expense of Peter Turley whereas Tyrone’s Ronan McNabb and Patrick McNeice were selected to replace Tiernan McCann (injured) and Mark Donnelly (dropped) at wing half back and wing half forward respectively and just before throw in McNeice was replaced by Emmett McKenna with three other unannounced changes also in the form of Justin McMahon for Danny McBride, Ronan McNamee for Barry Tierney and Ronan O’Neill for Niall McKenna. Tyrone had carried out major surgery on their line out but had resisted the temptation to revert wholesale to the old guard.

Down played with a small, fast two man full forward line in Conor Laverty and Jerome Johnston but proceeded to play a slow possession game with umpteen hand passes across the field or solo running characterising their approach play in the first half. In the second half with Laverty upfront on his own they lumped the ball in on him and despite his best efforts, outnumbered and outmuscled, little dividend came their way.

Down missed an early gift when right from the throw in Conor Maginn flew off down the right and as he cut inside to fist a point he was pushed and a penalty awarded. Aidan Carr stepped up and powered his kick down the middle but unlike last Sunday when Michael O’Neill dived to the right, this time Niall Morgan stood his ground and the ball hit him.

Down bounced back from the penalty disappointment, to go ahead through Conor Laverty who took a diagonal pass from Aidan Carr in the fourth minute to open the scoring.

Down also missed from two frees during the half but really Tyrone dominated the middle third and like the drawn game squandered possession with six wides or shots dropped short despite also kicking four uninterrupted points for a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after fourteen minutes with scores from Darren McCurry, Emmett McKenna, Niall Morgan and Peter Harte, indeed Harte tore through the heart of the Down defence with alarming ease before firing a rising shot over the bar which could as quickly have been a shot on goal.

Morgan’s importance to the Red Hands was aptly illustrated by his three points and his quick accurate kick outs which too often caught Down slack and off their men and allowed Tyrone to build unopposed, their dominance of possession not really expressed on the scoreboard.

Rare highlights in the first quarter for the Mourne men were a Carr tackle which dispossessed Cavanagh and a terrific piece of chasing back by O’Hare which turned the ball over in Down’s favour. But there was little inventive about the Mourne play which was laboured for long periods.

A foul off the ball presented Donal O’Hare with Down’s second point from a close in free and twice the visitors full back line were unconvincing under the high ball but Down were unable to benefit.

A lazy foul at the other end allowed McCurry put a goal between them again and though O’Hare replied in kind, the first goal arrived just moments later to give Tyrone breathing space.

A long ball down the middle was missed by everyone with Ciaran McGinley just getting a foot to it to soccer it past Brendan McVeigh off the greasy surface. When Down missed a twenty metre free and Morgan added a long range one for Tyrone there were six points between the teams with twenty eight minutes played.

Four unanswered Down points in the final five minutes of the half rescued the home side and they were all hard won scores emphasising again that whatever this Down team lacks in ability they know how to dig in and fight for a match.

With Niall Madine seeing a lot of ball around centre field Down began to get it in quickly and Laverty, Maginn, O’Hare and Gordon all registered scores to leave it a more than manageable two point match at the break.

Tyrone brought on Stephen O’Neill and Conor Gormley for the restart and whatever momentum Down had hoped to build on was lost when McGinley blasted in his second goal within a minute of the throw-in. It was a gift with schoolboy Down defending as defenders were drawn to the ball leaving McGinley unmarked inside to pick his spot when the ball arrived with him. The same player added a point unbalanced and falling over and you sensed it was Tyrones’s night. Morgan added another long range free and they hit both bar and post as Down rocked.

Benny Coulter came on to midfield with McKernan moved back to centre half back and Coulter pointed with his first touch in the forty fifth minute soon followed by another O’Hare score after a one two with Laverty but Down could not sustain their efforts.

Tyrone cancelled out Down’s back to back points with their third goal from a Peter Harte penalty after frightening Tyrone pace had exposed Down’s inadequacies at the back.

Jerome Johnston almost produced an instant reply but his dribbling shot came out off the base of the post and was cleared.

Mattie Donnelly made it double scores with a point after sixty minutes, 0-9 to 3-9. With Dan Gordon now at full forward for Down, Conor Garvey produced some determination with a great Down point before Niall McKenna replied on the turn with his first touch. Two late scores from Donal O’Hare were just that, too late and Tyrone sub Conor McAliskey finished off the scoring in the sixty ninth minute.