Ulster Senior Football Championship Quarter Final:
Antrim 1-13 Tyrone 2-14
Tyrone began their defence of the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship with a 2-14 to 1-13 victory over Antrim at Casement Park on Sunday afternoon.
Tyrone were widely expected to win this game, but perhaps were not expecting to have things as tough as they did, Antrim threatening to cause an upset in the second half when they narrowed the gap to just three points.
In the end though, the game had shades of last year’s provincial decider between the sides, Tyrone finishing strongly to put the game to bed, and the fact that Mickey Harte could afford to substitute Ryan McMenamin, Davy Harte and Brian Dooher, an illustration of the strength of their panel.
It took the O’Neill County less than 10 minutes of the game for them to assert their superiority as Kevin Hughes found the net. Having been put through by a great ball from Owen Mulligan, it seemed as if Hughes had lost control of the ball but he managed to beat Antrim goalkeeper John Finucane with a ground shot.
That goal made it 1-1 to 0-1 for the Red Hands and they drove on from there, full-back Justin McMahon even getting in on the act as he broke through the Antrim defence to make it 1-5 to 0-2 in the 21st minute.
It got even better for Mickey Harte’s side soon after when Mulligan struck for the second goal, dispossessing Colin Brady before beating two men with a dummy and then sending his shot to the corner of the net for a 2-6 to 0-4 lead.
Hughes was unlucky not to get his second, and Tyrone’s third, shortly before half-time, while Sean Cavanagh had a goal ruled out for over-carrying, but when the whistle went they still led by seven points and were in a commanding position.
At the outset of the second half, things still seemed to be following the same pattern, Cavanagh and Hughes both pointing, but slowly Antrim began to come back into the game and when Paddy Cunningham, with a huge free, and CJ McGourty both pointed in quick succession, there was just six points in it, 2-10 to 0-10.
When Kevin Niblock then scored a goal for the home side in the 59th minute, Antrim trailed by four and an unlikely comeback still looked to be a prospect, a prospect enhanced when Cunningham sent over another point from a long-range free.
The momentum was certainly with Antrim by this stage, Tyrone’s nerviness leading to them shooting poor wides, but Martin Penrose’s free with five minutes left, which ended a 26-minute spell without a score, settled the champions again.
Antrim kept the pressure up, however, McGourty pointing again, but Tyrone had weathered the storm and points from Cavanagh and sub Tommy McGuigan settled them, McGourty’s injury-time effort for Antrim a mere consolation, Tyrone now awaiting the winners of the game between Donegal and Down.
Afterwards, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte admitted that it had been a difficult assignment.
“It was a tough second half for us,” he said.
“We were in a good position at half time, and probably could have been further ahead if we had taken out changes..
“It was a decent lead but, considering the breeze that was out there and considering that Antrim had nothing to lose, it was still a tall order and we were hanging on at the end.
“Antrim always kept the gap manageable, and we knew if they got a goal we’d be under real pressure and so it proved, we had to fight to the end.
“It’s no bad thing to get a good challenge, it will serve us well and serve Antrim well going forward.”
Ulster Senior Football Championship First Round:
Derry 1-07 Armagh 1-10
Armagh have advanced to a meeting with Monaghan in the GAA Football Ulster Senior Championship after getting the better of Derry in their preliminary round clash at Celtic Park on Sunday afternoon.
Having gone in level at half-time following a late Steven McDonnell-inspired scoring burst,
Paddy O’Rourke’s side limited their hosts to just a solitary point in the second half, a goal from sub Jamie Clarke proving to be the crucial score, while goalkeeper Paul Hearty also saved a late penalty from Derry defender Gerard O’Kane.
In front of 10,342 people, the game began in a fairly scrappy manner, with little or no shape to it. Derry went ahead on four occasions but Armagh answered them each time, Paddy Bradley and Aaron Kernan exchanging frees, with scores from play thin on the ground.
Then, on the half-hour mark, Derry finally managed to open up some daylight between the sides when Paddy Bradley palmed the ball to the net after Mark Lynch and Fergal O’Doherty had done well in what was a sweeping move.
Credit to Armagh though, they responded well and by half-time were level at 1-5 to 0-8.
A good Charlie Vernon point put them ahead for the first time early in the second half and Ryan Henderson then extended it before Eoin Bradley cut the gap with a fine effort.
It would prove to be the Oak Leaf County’s only score of the second period though and things got worse for Eoin Bradley shortly after when he was sent off for a second booking after a high tackle on Kernan.
Clarke then struck for the goal on 57, playing in by a probing McDonnell ball to make it 1-10 to 1-6, with what would be the game’s last score.
There was some time for late drama however, Derry awarded a penalty in the final five minutes, but Hearty stood up well to O’Kane’s shot and Armagh held on to inflict what was only Derry’s second-ever championship defeat at the ground.
Afterwards, McDonnell praised his side’s battling ability. “All through the league, we have responded well after conceding goals,” he said, “and we did the same here to make sure we went in level at half-time.
“We never panicked and showed good maturity, but we will have to up things a bit for the Monaghan game.”