By Mike Fitzpatrick
This senior football Div. 1 game had all the potential for a tremendous clash.
Tyrone, with league top scorer Mickey Slowey in their lineup, was eyeing a playoff spot. And Monaghan, with only two points to date, was attempting a belated effort to snatch a playoff spot too — against all the odds.
Add to this the presence of the aforementioned Slowey and his brother Martin, Monaghan natives facing off versus their fellow county men while wearing the colors of Tyrone. Duke Devlin’s men were regarded by many as being slight favorites, but Monaghan, with such exciting attack-minded players as P.J. Rogers, Kieran Tavey and Eddie Murphy, proved no pushovers.
The man who really stood out for Seamus Dooley’s charges, however, was midfielder Hughie Sullivan, scoring a cracking goal and two points, and proving himself to be a vital link between Bonnie Duffy and Co. at the back and the aforementioned forwards.
Monaghan, as they have done so often this season, started as the stronger side. Pushing forward like pit bulls toward a butcher’s shop, they took an early lead thanks a point from midfielder Peter Hassen, and Sullivan’s goal.
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Tyrone were a little rocked, and immediately fought back. The incomparable Michael Slowey opened the scoring for Tyrone, and it became increasingly evident that here was a man the Monaghan backline would have to mark heavily.
One of the keys to preventing Slowey’s impact has proved to be the necessary reduction of free kicks given to Tyrone, as he is lethal in dead ball situations.
For Monaghan, the partnership of Murphy and the returning from injury Kieran Tavey, was a little subdued towards the end of the first half, with the Tyrone defense restricting them to just one point.
Tyrone came back and Slowey hit four consecutive points for his side to lead Monaghan by three points going into the interval.
The second half proved to be a reasonably even-sided affair, with both sides scoring six points apiece. Tavey, Hassen and Pogo McEntee provided some hope for Monaghan with some well contested efforts, and Sullivan’s battle in midfield with Eoin Gormley and whoever else was brave enough to challenge him was a sight to behold.
McEntee’s point levelled the game at nine points each, but the last fifteen minutes or so witnessed something of a Tyrone revival.
An inspired double substitution by Tyrone, bringing on Duke and Eamonn Devlin, who both scored points, was to prove to be the blow that finished Monaghan.
Late points from the excellent Tavey and Sullivan proved to be too late in the game, and unfortunately, probably too late in the season for Monaghan.
Tyrone: Mike Deere, Aidan Lloyd, Sean Teague, Remo Higney, Philip Sloane, Martin Slowey, Collie Fearon, Eoin Gormley (0-2), Stephen Conway, Michael Slowey (0-8), Shaun Tracey (0-1), Philip Mallon (0-2), Gary McConnell, Mark Daly. Subs: Eamonn Devlin (0-1), Duke Devlin (0-1).
Monaghan: Darren Doherty, Gary Birdy, Bonnie Duffy, Michael Traynor, Peter Coyne, Bernard Traynor, Brian McKenna, Hughie Sullivan (1-2), Peter Hassen (0-2), Paul McGlynn, Noel McEntee (0-1), PJ Rogers, Eddie Murphy, Kieran Tavey (0-3), Emmet McCormack. Subs: Paul McEntee.