Monaghan were denied by a point in a pulsating finish at Croke Park.
Fintan O’Toole reports from Croke Park
THERE WAS A solitary green flag raised in Croke Park today but it proved critical in determining who would advance to the All-Ireland decider and who would bow out of the 2018 race.
At a juncture when Monaghan had just edged in front, Niall Sludden pounced for that vital strike for Tyrone in the 64th minute. He sidefooted a loose ball to the net after Tiarnan McCann’s hit had produced a heroic block from Darren Hughes.
It provided Tyrone with a vital cushion and they needed it. The three-point advantage they possessed entering injury-time was whittled away as Monaghan bagged late points from Kieran Hughes and Drew Wylie. But there was to be no last-gasp equaliser to rescue Malachy O’Rourke’s side as they slipped to another narrow loss to Tyrone in Croke Park.
The sides had been deadlocked at 0-8 apiece at the break, Monaghan entering their dressing-room in a positive state after drawing level. Conor McCarthy was the source of their hope, weaving a path through the Tyrone defence for a pair of points from play to close out the first half.
Tyrone had made all the hard yards early on. They chalked four points on the board inside the first four minutes with Colm Cavanagh, Niall Sludden, Connor McAliskey and Frank Burns all on target. When Cathal McShane swung over a point in the 11th minute, they were 0-5 to 0-2 to the good and flying high.
But Monaghan reeled Tyrone in to be firmly in the hunt entering the second half. Tyrone made the first burst through a pair of scores from Connor McAliskey, then Rory Beggan and Lee Brennan swapped frees, before Monaghan began to make their charge.
Conor McManus was felled before knocking over a 54th minute free, only their second score of the half, Kieran Hughes blasted over under pressure and McManus converted another free in the 62nd minute.
For the first time in the game Monaghan were in the ascendancy on the scoreboard. But it would prove to be the only time in the match they were in front and the lead only lasted two minutes.
Sludden’s goal was a serious blow to Monaghan’s prospects and a massive tonic to Tyrone’s hopes. Mickey Harte saw his team push on to edge in front by three after a brace of points were notched by his nephew Peter. Monaghan came with a late onslaught but Tyrone held firm and an All-Ireland decider beckons.
Scorers for Tyrone: Niall Sludden 1-2, Connor McAliskey 0-4 (0-2f), Peter Harte 0-2 (0-1f), Tiarnan McCann, Frank Burns, Colm Cavanagh, Cathal McShane, Lee Brennan (0-1f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Monaghan: Conor McManus 0-7 (0-6f), Conor McCarthy 0-3, Kieran Hughes 0-2, Fintan Kelly, Drew Wylie, Rory Beggan (0-1f) 0-1 each.
1. Niall Morgan (Clonoe)
9. Padraig Hampsey (Coalisland)
2. Michael McKernan (Coalisland)
3. Ronan McNamee (Aghyaran
7. Peter Harte (Errigal Ciaran)
6. Frank Burns (Pomeroy)
5. Tiernan McCann (Killyclogher)
8. Colm Cavanagh (Moy)
12. Cathal McShane (Eoghan Ruadh)
11. Niall Sludden (Dromore)
10. Mattie Donnelly (Trillick)
24. Kieran McGeary (Pomeroy)
17. Lee Brennan (Trillick)
14. Richard Donnelly (Trillick)
15. Connor McAliskey (Clonoe)
19. Harry Loughran (Moy) for Burns (half-time)
13. Mark Bradley (Killyclogher) for Lee Brennan (49)
4. Rory Brennan (Trillick) for McNamee (51)
20. Conall McCann (Killyclogher) for Richard Donnelly (57)
26. Ronan O’Neill (Omagh) for McAliskey (62)
21. Declan McClure (Clonoe) for McShane (62)
1. Rory Beggan (Scotstown)
2. Kieran Duffy (Latton)
3. Drew Wylie (Ballybay)
4. Ryan Wylie (Ballybay)
14. Fintan Kelly (Clones)
6. Vinny Corey (Clontibret)
5. Colin Walshe (Doohamlet)
8. Niall Kearns (Sean McDermott’s)
9. Darren Hughes (Scotstown)
11. Shane Carey (Scotstown)
13. Dermot Malone (Castleblaney)
7. Karl O’Connell (Tyholland)
10. Ryan McAnespie (Emyvale)
24 Conor McCarthy (Scotstown)
15. Conor McManus (Clontibret)
12. Dessie Mone (Clontibret) for Malone (46)
21. Kieran Hughes (Scotstown) for Carey (51)
25. Jack McCarron (Currin) for Corey (68)
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)
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