TYRONE 0-8 MEATH 2-17
SMALL margins eventually led to a disappointingly heavy defeat for the Tyrone hurlers whose aspirations of competing against much stronger opponents in this key clash ultimately fell well short of expectations. But such an outcome wasn’t entirely clear during the opening stages of this clash at a wet and blustery Healy Park on Saturday. For, Tyrone began in fine form and were soon producing positive indications of their ability to compete against quality opposition.
Indeed, they led by 0-3 to 0-2 after 11 minutes. Points courtesy of Dermot Begley and Lorcan Devlin saw them come from behind to go ahead. With Chris Kearns, Oran McKee and Conor Grogan doing well around midfield, and Lorcan Devlin and Sean Duffin looking lively in the attack, they seemed capable of sustaining their challenge.
However, Meath had other ideas. While there wasn’t one moment which stood out as key to their control subsequently, their teamwork, first touch and accuracy were important factors. It was tough on Tyrone, as the Leinster side gradually and emphatically pressed home their advantage with the wind.
Padraig O’Hanrahan was deployed around the centre and won a lot of possession. He hit two points, as scores as well from Simon Ennis, Stephen Morris, Sean Quigley and Eamon O Donnchadha saw them go into 0-8 to 0-3 lead within nine minutes of Tyrone briefly enjoying their own superiority on the scoreboard.
The Red Hands always worked hard, and Tiernan Morgan, Sean Duffin and Bryan McGurk tried to gain a foothold. But too often they were pressurised into over-cooked passes and the tight marking of an opposition defence in which Damien Healy and Brendan McKeon dominated.
Tyrone’s only respite came courtesy of two well taken points approaching half-time. First, Sean Duffin fired over to leave them four behind, and then Dermot Begley registered a free to leave the score 0-10 to 0-5. But the overall trend of the tie was now firmly against them, as Meath finished the half in a real flourish.
Five points in a row left them enjoying a comprehensive interval lead. Kyle Donnelly, Pa Ryan, Eamon O Donnchadha and Padraig O’Hanrahan all fired over to make the score 0-15 to 0-5 and put the pressure on Tyrone to really respond on the resumption.
There were hopes that the Red Hands would be capable of making inroads with the aid of the wind. A point after only a minute of the restart from Sean Duffin gave them hope, and they were determined to make their mark.
For a time, the strong runs forward of Chris Kearns and Conall Devlin and the efforts of Conor Grogan and Sean Duffin created a number of scoring opportunities. Each time, though, they failed to take that final chance.
In contrast, Meath maintained their control and the task facing Tyrone became even tougher when the Royals grabbed the first of two second half goals. It came in the 11th minute when Eamon O Donnchadha shot for a point dipped at the last moment into the net. They were now 1-15 to 0-6 ahead and firmly on course for the victory.
Tyrone’s best point of the game came entering the final quarter. A great sideline cut from James McCann found Sean Duffin who turned and fired over. Minutes later Dermot Begley registered a free and there were hopes that they might stage a late revival.
But four wides in quick succession frustratingly undermined their efforts. There were goal chances, too, as first Sean Duffin and then Rory Weir, tried but failed to find a way through during those closing stages.
There were no such concerns for the visitors. Eamon O Donnchadha added a point, and then Stephen Morris managed to scramble the sliotair to the net to leave them 2-16 to 0-7 ahead as Simon Ennis completed their tally in added time.
TEAMS & SCORERS
Conor McElhatton, Oran McKee, Ruairi Devlin, James McCann, Ruairi Slane, Chris Kearns, Conall Devlin, Dermot Begley (0-4,4Frees, Bryan McGurk, Tiernan Morgan, Conor Grogan, Sean Duffin (0-3), Mickey Little, Lorcan Devlin (0-1), Liam Dunphy. Subs – Fionn Devlin for T Morgan, Mark McCann for B McGurk (49), Rory Weir for L Dunphy (55), Dean Rafferty for C Kearns (62), Anthony Crossan for R Slane (70).
Charlie Ennis, Gerard Dwane, Damien Healy, Brendan McKeon, Kyle Donnelly (0-1), James Toher, Simon Ennis (0-2), Pa Ryan (0-1), Sean Geraghty, Stephen Morris (1-1), Jack Regan, Niall McLarnon, Sean Quigley (0-2), Eamon O Donnchadha (1-4), Padraig O’Hanrahan (0-5,3frees). Subs – Shane Brennan for Donnelly (half-time), Paul Kelly for McLarnon (50), Daire Shine for Geraghty (62), Patrick Barnwell for O Donnchadha (62), Evan Fitzgerald for Quigley (70).
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