GAA: Tyrone 1-11 Antrim 0-7 McKenna Cup Third Round

Barry Tierney is caught by' Antrims Emmet Killough in action at Sundays Game.''�Russell Pritchard / Presseye
Barry Tierney is caught by' Antrims Emmet Killough in action at Sundays Game.''�Russell Pritchard / Presseye

A hardy crowd of 716 made the journey to Clones for the re-scheduled McKenna Cup tie, a relatively comfortable win for an experimental Tyrone side who now take their place in the semi-final in a mouthwatering rematch with Armagh.

After a decent first half display the Red Hands lost their way a little in the second half struggling to convert possession into scores.

There were some very good performances for Mickey Harte and his backroom team to take heart from.

Justin McMahon returned at full-back and impressed, Ronan McNabb won the sponsors man of the match award and Dungannon’s Padraig McNulty put in an industrious shift in midfield.

Tyrone struggled to score in the opening quarter before establishing a decent lead shortly before the break.

A Kyle Coney goal not long into the second half proved to be the games critical score, the full-forward taking advantage of the confusion caused by a spilled Sean Cavanagh shot to score.

Tyrone dominated possession in the opening couple of minutes but couldn’t make that dominance tell on the scoreboard.

It was left to the Saffrons to opening the scoring as midfielder Sean McVeigh fired over a shot from 45 metres out that easily cleared Niall Morgan’s crossbar.

The Red Hands weren’t making things easy for themselves as Sean Cavanagh added to their wides tally when he kicked a free from the left wing wide.

Tyrone might well have netted a couple of minutes later when a brilliant run at the Antrim defence from Connor McAliskey helped forge a goal chance.

McAliskey laid off to Sean Cavanagh who in turn fed Kyle Coney. The Ardboe man had his attempt brilliantly saved by Chris Kerr in the Antrim goal, with Mark Donnelly only able to scuff his rebound, it was turned behind for a 45.

Tyrone goalkeeper made the long journey up the field and made no mistake from the placed ball to leave the scores tied.

Antrim to their credit responded immediately as CJ McGourty made no mistake from a 25 metre free kick from straight in front of the posts.

Tyrone might well have gotten back on terms but two more Morgan 45s failed to find the desired length, and the Red Hands continued to trail.

Plunkett Kane brought Mickey Harte’s charges back on terms once again, the Coalisland man lofting an effort high and between the sticks at the scoreboard end of St Tiernach’s Park.

This gave Tyrone a little impetus and they continued to control the game.

Kyle Coney put Tyrone into the lead for the first time slotting over with a smart, if simple finish from 20 metres out.

Tyrone could well have hit the net when a brilliant touch from Connor McAliskey freed Emmett McKenna who in turn fed Sean Cavangh.

Again Kerr did brilliantly to close down the space on Cavanagh, the shot deflected out for a 45.

Tyrone did get their next point shortly afterwards, good pressure on the Antrim defence allowed Padraig McNulty to tidy things up finding Darren McCurry who scored with a fine effort with the outside of his left foot.

Antrim’s Owen Gallagher was among his sides better players and he hit the target twice in a three minute spell for his side.

The first saw him take advantage of good work from Michael Pollock to slot over from the left of the posts, and a couple of minutes later he made no mistake from the right of the uprights.

Gallagher’s efforts were sandwiched between a Sean Cavanagh free, the free coming from a foul on Mark Donnelly after McNulty had shown great strength to break a couple of tackles in the midfield.

Tyrone led by a point as the half time whistle approached but late points from Conor McAliskey and a Cavanagh free left the gap three at half time.

McAliskey’s effort might well have been a goal after some sharp thinking from Cavanagh saw him take a 20 metre free short to the in-rushing McAliskey, the Clonoe man firing over with just Kerr to beat.

The Saffrons made the better start to the second half with Niall O’Neill taking advantage of some confusion in the Tyrone defence to point within a minute of the throw in. The decisive score of the game came just two minutes later. Sean Cavanagh sold his trademark dummy and fired a shot off towards the posts. Antrim keeper Chris Kerr appeared to have the chance covered but appeared to spill the ball off the woodwork, allowing Kyle Coney to slot home the most straight forward of chances from the rebound.

A minute later Connor McAliskey pointed from play to leave Tyrone very much in the driving seat.

Antrim responded a couple of minutes later with a point from CJ McGourty but they never threatened to get back on terms over the games final half hour.

Points from Sean Cavanagh and Darren McCurry helped Tyrone see out the victory.

Tyrone turned the ball over easily and wasted plenty of chances when they did manufacture them.

They’ll need to improve on this for Wednesday’s clash with Armagh.