The thrill, excitement and enjoyment the Ulster Championship has spread throughout the provinces first three games vanished along with Antrim’s challenge yesterday as Tyrone well and truly steam rolled their opponents to see their name in the second semi final. Mickey Harte’s men will certainly face tougher tasks as the year progresses, but he will be happy with his side amassing 2-23.
Michael Cassidy opened the scoring with a point after Tyrone had won an Antrim restart, a running theme throughout the opening period. Antrim responded with their next attack, James McAuley splitting the posts with a fantastic effort, slicing the ball over the bar to draw the game. Cathal McShane chipped over his first when a defence splitting pass left sweeper Declan Lynch in no mans land. Lynch struggled to influence the game from his deep position, with Colm Cavanagh’s threw ball again cutting out Lynch, with Peter Harte striking a point after McShane had been fouled.
Tyrone continued to push up on Antrim’s kickouts, Ben McDonnell capturing a loose ball, which ended in Mattie Donnelly’s possession before he fisted it over the bar. Antrim’s single shinning light in the first 30 minutes, Matthew Fitzpatrick done brilliantly well to gain possession before driving forward to win a free, leaving Patrick McBride with the easy duty of getting his sides second.
McShane and Frank Burns drove Tyrone further ahead, the ladders score again coming off an Antrim kickout, with their only plan seemingly to hit the ball long to Fitzpatrick, a plan Tyrone soon sniffed out as they surrounded the big Naomh Eoin man. Rory Brennan and Richard Donnelly both hit the target, breaking down Antrim’s defensive system to stretch their lead.
The Antrim faithfully called for a penalty in the 24th minute, when Patrick McBride’s speed saw him break through the Tyrone defence only to be hauled to the ground by Ben McDonnell as he entered the square, McDonnell got his marching orders for the black card offence. Ryan Murray tapped over a free which was soon cancelled out by Matty Donnelly, scoring with Tyrone’s next attack.
McShane once again converted from a dead ball before the game was well and truly put to bed, Tyrone again gained possession from an Antrim kick out, worked the ball through the defence before quick hands from Peter Harte saw Tiernan McCann smash the ball to the corner of the net, the score now Tyrone 1-10 Antrim 0-3
McShane split two Ryan Murray points before Tyrone finished the half with a flurry, Niall Sludden, Richard Donnelly, Niall Morgan (45), Matty Donnelly and McShane (free) all hitting the target to see the red hands well in front at the break, 1-16 to 0-5, The game essentially over with 35 minutes of game time still to play.
Antrim could only improve in the second half and that they did, finishing on level terms, scoring 2-4 to Tyrone’s 1-7 in the second period. All that was good about the Saffron’s second half display was due to their hard working wing half back and right footed free taker Patrick McBride, who opened the scoring from a placed ball in the second minute.
Tyrone responded soon after with another McShane score. Antrim had a chance to hit their second of the half but their shot selection was poor, Tyrone on the other hand attacked immediately with a kick out, a beautiful flick on from Richard Donnelly saw the on running Ronan McNamee break through and hit a brilliant point.
Matthew Fitzpatrick came good for his side once more, a fantastic run saw the Tyrone sweepers drawn to the big centre half forward as he slipped the ball through to Patrick McCormack who buried the ball to the back of Niall Morgan’s goal. Substitutes Darren McCurry and Conor McAliskey only added to Antrim’s misery as both men found their range after being introduced.
Ryan Murray (free) and Richard Donnelly traded points before Fitzpatrick and McBride (Antrim’s two star performers) combined to see Fitzpatrick hit his side second three pointer. McBride could have raised another green flag for Antrim, but good work from the Tyrone defence, particularly keeper Niall Morgan saw Tyrone counter attack with energy and pace, finishing with Conor McAliskey rattling the net with a rocket of a shot.
He then struck over his second point of the game while his defensive work was also impressive, making an eye catching block and turnover to deny Antrim another score. Murray did chip over a further two frees but the final point of the evening went to Kyle Coney, the big Ardboe man chasing forward, soloing with the left before firing over with the right to see Tyrone win the game 2-23 to 2-9.
Tyrone: Niall Morgan (0-1), Hugh Pat McGeary, Ronan McNamee (0-1), Rory Brennan (0-1), Tiernan McCann (1-0), Padraig Hampsey, Michael Cassidy (0-1), Colm Cavanagh, Ben McDonnell, Matthew Donnelly (0-3), Niall Sludden (0-1), Frank Burns (0-1), Cathal McShane (0-6), Peter Harte (0-1), Richard Donnelly (0-3). Subs: Conor Grugan for B. McDonnell (Black Card), Aidan McCrory for P. Hampsey, Kyle Coney (0-1) for M.Donnelly, Conor McAliskey (1-2) for C.McShane, Darren McCurry (0-1) for P. Harte, Conall McCann for N. Sludden
Antrim: Padraig Nugent, Patrick McCormack (1-0), Ricky Johnston, Patrick Gallagher, Patrick McBride (0-2), Declan Lynch, Niall Delargy, Colum Duffin, Stephen Beatty, James McAuley (0-1), Matthew Fitzpatrick (1-0), Kevin Quinn, Ryan Murray (0-6), James Smith, Odhran Eastwood. Subs: Ryan McNulty for J. Smith, Eunan Walsh for O. Eastwood, Ruairi Scott for K. Quinn, Michael McCarry for S. Beatty, Jay Mallon for J. McAuley, Conor Mallon for Eunan Walsh.