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Sean Dornan of Down in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone during the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Semi-Final match between Tyrone and Down at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. 
Sean Dornan of Down in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone during the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Semi-Final match between Tyrone and Down at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. 

Tyrone see off Down in Dr McKenna Cup semi-final

Bank of Ireland Dr. McKenna Cup semi-final

TYRONE 2-16 DOWN 1-10

By Michael Devlin at the Athletic Grounds

Tyrone will take on Monaghan in the Dr McKenna Cup final next weekend after a dominant first half performance ensured a nine-point win for the Red Hands over Down at the Athletic Grounds this afternoon.

After leading by 11 points at the break, Tyrone had to weather a spirited Down fightback in the second period, with Cory Quinn finding the net in the 55th minute as the gap was cut down to five at one stage.

Tyrone finished strong though and a Ronan McHugh goal towards the end helped restore their comfortable lead by the final whistle.

Mickey Harte's men got off the mark early with a smartly taken Conal McCann goal after Niall Sludden had intuitively located him with a quick free kick pass. Darren McCurry opened his account soon after and Ronan O’Neill, who plundered 2-3 in midweek against Armagh, registered a free during Tyrone’s bright start to the game.

Sean Dornan and Conor Poland found the target during a four-minute spell that proved to be Down’s best period of the half, but Tyrone regained their strong grip on proceedings with McCurry and McCann finding time and space to punish Paddy Tally’s side on the scoreboard.

By the 22nd minute it was 1-7 to 0-2 to the Red Hands, with midfielder Frank Burns’ industry finding reward with a point. Playing against the breeze, Down found it difficult to infiltrate the crowded Tyrone rearguard, who were able to turnover attacks and turn that possession into points at the other end, with Ben McDonell the next man to get on the score-sheet.

Then began a McCurry mini-masterclass, the Edendork man landing two superb scores either side of an accurate free, all in the space of four minutes. That brought Tyrone’s lead to a comfortable 11 points at the halfway point.

Down were markedly improved after the restart and clipped over the first three scores of the half through sub Donal O’Hare, Pat Havern and Poland, before McCurry knocked over his seventh of the afternoon within a routine free.

In the 53rd minute Down keeper John O’Hare denied Michael O’Neill a goal with a reaction save, and from there Darren O’Hagan split the posts at the other end to reduce Tyrone’s lead to eight points.

Down then sprung to life moments later when Quinn pounced to slot home a goal soccer-style after a slick team move.

However they were reduced to 14-men in the 61st minute after a black card was incurred by Johnny Flynn. A Ross McGarry point soon after though maintained their momentum, and the score was now 1-13 to 1-9.

Tyrone had been lacklustre in the second period, and a Benny Gallen ’45 in the 64th minute was only their second score of the half. They received a shot in the arm a few minutes later however as substitutes Tiernan McCann and Ronan McHugh combined for the latter to smash a goal past O’Hare.

McHugh’s Aghyaran club-mate Ronan McNamee then curled over a sweet score from the left wing, and McHugh again followed suit with a point from the other side to push Tyrone ten in front as the game entered injury time.

A Liam Kerr free for Down was the last action of the game as Tyrone looked ahead ahead to another McKenna Cup final, with Monaghan the opponents at the Athletic Grounds again in six days’ time.

Tyrone scorers: Darren McCurry 0-7 (3f), Conall McCann 1-2, Ronan McHugh 1-1, Ronan O’Neill 0-2 (1f), Frank Burns 0-1, Ben McDonnell 0-1, Benny Gallen 0-1 (45’), Ronan McNamee 0-1.

Down scorers: Conor Poland 0-3, Cory Quinn 1-0, Pat Havern 0-2 (1f), Donal O’Hare 0-1 (1f), Sean Dornan 0-1, Barry O’Hagan 0-1, Ross MCGarry 0-1, Liam Kerr 0-1 (1f).

TYRONE: Benny Gallen; Hugh Pat McGeary, Ronan McNamee, Niall Kelly; Ciaran McLaughlin, Aidan McCrory, Conall Grimes; Ben McDonnell, Frank Burns; Niall Sludden, Kyle Coney, Darren McCurry; Kieran McGeary, Conall McCann, Ronan O’Neill.

SUBS: Tiernan McCann for K. McGeary (40), Ronan McHugh for N. Sludden (40), Michael Cassidy for HP McGeary, (46), Michael O’Neill for C McLaughlin (51).

DOWN: John O’Hare; Gerard Collins, Kevin McKernan, Ryan McAleenan; Pierce Laverty. Darren O’Hagan, Ross Carr; Sean Dornan, Johnny Flynn; Conor Poland, Cory Quinn, Barry O’Hagan; Ciaran Harney, Pat Havern, Liam Middleton.

SUBS: Donal O’Hare for L. Middleton(HT), Liam Kerr for C. Harney(HT), Daniel Guinness for R. Carr (HT), Ross McGarry for Pat Havern (55), Brendan Gallen for B. O’Hagan (61).

Referee: Dan Mullan (Doire)

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