Tyrone are back in an All-Ireland SFC final for the first time in a decade, following their narrow 1-13 to 0-15 win over Ulster neighbours Monaghan at Croke Park.
A gripping Ulster derby was no classic, but captivating nonetheless as two neighbours with an intimate knowledge of each-others’ strengths, weaknesses and styles of play locked horns in a game of nerves and tactics.
Both based on a defensive strategy, they cancelled each other out for long spells, and it was a Niall Sludden goal in the 64th minute that ultimately decided who goes through to meet three-time champions Dublin in the decider on September 2.
That three-pointer came just moments after Conor McManus had nudged the Farney men ahead for the first time, and their supporters in the 49,606 crowd dared to dream.
But it was not to be, and their quest for a first appearance in the All-Ireland final since 1930 goes on as their first semi-final in 30 years ended in narrow defeat and bitter disappointment.
McManus ended with eight points to his name, but due to the effective man-marking job carried out by Padraig Hampsey, just one of those came from play.
Colm Cavanagh and Niall Sludden had Tyrone two points to the good inside the opening two minutes, and after Conor McManus had got Monaghan off the mark, they reeled off another double, with Connor McAliskey and Frank Burns hitting the target.
A neatly constructed move ended with Conor McCarthy narrowing the gap, but as Tyrone broke with pace from defence, Kieran McGeary and McAliskey combined to send Cathal McShane in to curl over a gem at he Hill 16 end.
Rory Beggan’s majestic kick-out strategy launched a wave of attacks, one of which almost created a goal as McManus picked out Dermot Malone, but Burns was in quickly to avert the danger.
Despite the effectiveness of Colm Cavanagh as sweeper, Tyrone lived dangerously at the back, and they needed a fine save from Niall Morgan, who was quickly off his line to deny Vinny Corey, who gathered he rebound from a Colin Walshe shot that came back off a post.
Monaghan were growing in confidence, and when Fintan Kelly fired over a long-range score, they were just a point adrift.
But Mattie Donnelly provided a solid platform for Tyrone attacks which varied in width and lines of running, and was instrumental in Tiernan McCann’s 31st-minute score which restored the two-point cushion.
But late in the half, a magical intervention from Conor McCarthy saw him plunder two points to bring the sides level.
They went in deadlocked at 0-08 each at the break, but Tyrone injected more pace into their game, with McAliskey knocking over two frees and a point from play
Karl O’Connell struggled to find the space to express his dynamism in running from deep, but Hughes and Niall Kearns battled like demons in midfield, and Kieran Hughes came in to cause problems as a target man.
He fired over a point, and won the free from which McManus gave his side the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute.
But Tyrone produced a stunning repost, and when Peter Harte sent Tiernan McCann in, his shot was blocked by Darren Hughes, but Sludden thundered the rebound to the roof of the net.
It was now Tyrone’s game to lose, but they had to perform heroics to hold out as Monaghan hit back with late scores from Kieran Hughes and Drew Wylie, but they fell just short.
'I thought the free-count against us... we were working very hard for frees. It's the first match I've had all year where we got three minutes additional time at the end' - Malachy O'Rourke speaks after Monaghan's defeat. pic.twitter.com/bda4YMoCDd— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) August 12, 2018
Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, K McGeary; T McCann (0-01), F Burns (0-01), P Harte (0-02, 1f); C Cavanagh (0-01), P Hampsey; M Donnelly, N Sludden (1-02), C McShane (0-01); L Brennan (0-01, f), R Donnelly, C McAliskey (0-04, 2f).
Subs: H Loughran for Burns (h-t), M Bradley for Brennan (48), R Brennan for McNamee (50), C McCann for R Donnelly (57), D McClure for McShane (62), R O’Neill for McAliskey (62)
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-01, f); K Duffy, D Wylie (0-01), R Wylie; C Walshe, V Corey, K O’Connell; N Kearns, D Hughes; R McAnespie, S Carey, C McCarthy (0-03); D Malone, F Kelly (0-01), C McManus (0-07, 6f).
Subs: D Mone for Malone (45), K Hughes (0-02) for Carey (51), J McCarron for Corey (68)
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).