There was to be no surprise victory for Down in their Ulster Football Championship replay against Tyrone as the Red Hands claimed an eight-point win in front of almost 18,000 spectators at Pairc Esler, Newry on Saturday.
Ciaran McGinley was in superb form registering 2-1, including a goal in either half, in a game in which Tyrone showed great energy in taking on the Down defence.
Peter Harte registered Tyrone’s third goal following a controversially awarded penalty entering the final quarter and although Down scored three of the final five points the visitors held out for a deserved win.
Conor Maginn was fouled in the square inside the opening 45 seconds as referee Cormac Reilly had no hesitation in awarding an early penalty.
Aidan Carr was going for his second penalty goal in a week but Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan kept it out.
With light drizzle falling, Conor Laverty and Ronan O’Neill traded early points before scores from O’Neill and Morgan handed Tyrone a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after 13 minutes.
Harte pushed the visitors three points clear from the resulting kick-out but Down kept in touch thanks to a Donal O’Hare score.
An easy tap-over free from Darren McCurry handed Tyrone a 0-5 to 0-2 lead at the end of the first quarter but suddenly scores were at a premium.
O’Hare’s second point cut the gap to two points but Tyrone forged further in front.
McGinley’s opening goal arrived after a long ball in over the Down cover dropped to McGinley who got inside and toe-poked the ball to the net.
A Morgan free pushed Tyrone 1-6 to 0-3 ahead after 27 minutes, and although the Red Hands were comfortable at this stage, they wouldn’t score again until the second half.
Down finished the half in impressive fashion with four unanswered points before the break, including scores from Laverty, Maginn and Dan Gordon.
A superb team move in injury-time resulted in O’Hare’s third point as the gap was cut to two points at the interval.
If the game began in explosive fashion, there was as equally memorable a start to the second half.
Errigal Ciaran clubman McGinley was again goal hungry in the opening minute as Brendan McArdle was left exposed for McGinley to send the ball to the top corner.
McGinley brought his tally to 2-1 inside a minute as he extended Tyrone’s lead to six points with a well struck score.
Down needed a score quickly but Madine’s 38th minute effort was wide. They were punished as Morgan struck his third point, seven minutes into the half to open up a 2-8 to 0-7 lead.
Down manager James McCartan sprung Benny Coulter from the bench and on his first touch the substitute responded with a point inside 30 seconds of his introduction.
Down worked hard and cut the gap to five points by the 49th minute as O’Hare popped over his fourth point of the night.
Momentum swung in Tyrone’s favour after Peter Harte comfortably slotted in a controversial penalty, as Tyrone took a 3-8 to 0-9 into the final quarter.
Mattie Donnelly and Niall McKenna helped Tyrone get two of the next three scores and although Down rallied with a brace of O’Hare points, Tyrone sealed victory through substitute Conor McAliskey to ensure an eight-point win.
TYRONE: N Morgan (0-3, 2 ‘45, 1f); A McCrory, J McMahon, R McNamee; R McNabb, M Donnelly (0-1), P Harte (1-1, 1-0pen); C Cavanagh, C Clarke; E McKenna, S Cavanagh, C McGinley (2-1), D McCurry (0-1, 1f), R O’Neill (0-2, 1s/l), K Coney. Subs: Stephen O’Neill for E McKenna (HT); C Gormley for R O’Neill (HT); Niall McKenna (0-1) for Coney (51); M Penrose for McCurry (63); C McAliskey (0-1) for (67); D McBride for M Donnelly (68).
DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McCartan, R Boyle; D Rooney, A Carr, C Garvey (0-1); D Gordon (0-1), K McKernan; C Maginn (0-1), M Poland, J Johnston; D O’Hare (0-6, 4f), N Madine, C Laverty (0-2). Subs: Benny Coulter (0-1) for A Carr (45); Ryan Johnson for Madine (47); A Rogers for Johnston (60); Damian Turley for D McCartan (63).