Red Hands retain McKenna Cup title

Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh in action
Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh in action

Tyrone retained the McKenna Cup on Saturday night in the Athletic Grounds with a comfortable 10-point victory over Monaghan.

Goals proved crucial for the Red Hand County, with four majors, two in either half, effectively deciding the game.

The dismissal of Monaghan’s Ronan McNally just before the break also tilted the odds in Tyrone’s favour

“It’s always good to win matches and even better to win trophies,” said Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.

“In January we always want to try and get five matches played in the McKenna Cup and we make it quite often.

“We have been in quite a few finals and it is always better to win finals than lose them.

“Monaghan were very competitive tonight and in the first half it looked like they were in pole position.

“I think we got the goals at crucial time of the first half. It gave us a half time lead of six points which probably on the run of play we didn’t deserve.

“They lost a man after that. There was a danger of complacency coming into our play so we had to make sure we attacked that lead. I suppose getting the first score of the second half and another goal consolidated out position.”

Tyrone trailed for most of the first half, but went ahead when Mark Donnelly found the net on 27 minutes.

Up to that point, Monaghan had been the better side and led thanks to Kieran Hughes’ goal early on. However, once Tyrone took the lead they never looked back.

Just before the break, Tyrone went six clear following a goal from Stephen O’Neill, and then the sending off of McNally left Monaghan with it all to do in the second half.

Any prospect of a Monaghan comeback was quickly extinguished after the restart when Donnelly struck his second goal of the game, Tyrone’s third, to put them 10 points ahead.

Monaghan chipped away at the lead, but Tyrone were always able to keep a buffer of at least six points in their favour, and Peter Harte’s late penalty sealed the win for them. The victory means Mickey Harte has now presided over six McKenna Cup title wins as Tyrone manager.

Meanwhile, a late Neil McManus point proved the difference as Antrim reached the Walsh Cup final by beating Laois 0-18 to 0-17 after extra-time in Rathdowney.

McManus top-scored with 10 points, three of those in extra-time, in a game played in testing conditions.

The sides were level six times in the opening 29 minutes, before points from Tommy Fitzgerald and Stephen Maher gave Laois an 0-8 to 0-6 interval lead.

But seven points without replay paved the way for a narrow Saffrons success. Antrim will face Dublin Institute of Technology in the final.