Tyrone cruised through to the Ulster SFC semi-finals with a comfortable win over Antrim at the Athletic Grounds.
Antrim’s two second half goals restored a measure of pride, but they were never going to avoid a thumping reversal that sends they into the Qualifiers with confidence at a low ebb.
The Red Hands will have learned little from this outing as they prepare for a last four clash with either Donegal or Fermanagh, but with 14 different players on the score-sheet, there can be no doubt about the depth and quality of firepower they possess.
Tiernan McCann’s 28th minute goal underlined the Red Hands’ vast superiority, with Cathal McShane kicking five points as they built up a 1-16 to 0-5 interval lead.
Antrim pulled back goals through Patrick McCormick and Matthew Fitzpatrick, but Connor McAliskey grabbed a second for Tyrone as they cantered to the finish line.
No surprises in Armagh Cty, where a quite predictable procession marched relentlessly towards the Saffron goal.
Antrim had gone into this quarter-final tie encouraged by the exploits of fellow Division Four side Derry, who had run the Red Hands close in the preliminary round.
But their optimism proved hopelessly misplaced. Outmanoeuvred and outclassed, their submission was assured long before the finish as last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists strolled into the provincial last four.
This was an evening to add weight to argument of those who advocate the creation of a tiered championship, but they’re unlikely to find any comfort elsewhere in what remains the most competitive of the four provincial series.
Tyrone eased into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead inside the opening three minutes, profiting off Antrim goalkeeper Padraig Nugent’s booming long kick-outs, with Michael Cassidy, Cathal McShane and Peter Harte (free) all on target.
Ben McDonnell, Colm Cavanagh and Richie Donnelly gave the Red Hands a midfield edge, but the Saffrons were able to stay in touch, living off scraps for James McAuley and Patrick McBride to split the posts.
Matthew Fitzpatrick’s strong running gave the Saffrons some penetration, but possession was given away too easily for Tyrone to counter at pace, with McShane slotting over his second.
By the end of the opening quarter, Mickey Harte’s side had built up a 0-7 to 0-2 advantage, by way of mixing it up between running game and long ball, with McShane a supremely effective ball-winner in the expression of the latter option.
Richie Donnelly became the seventh Tyrone player to register a score, and in the 28th minute, Tyrone were out of sight after Tiernan McCann smashed home a brilliant goal. Once again, the Antrim kick-out was the source, and once possession was secured the intent was clear as Peter Harte spotted the run of wing back McCann, who gave Nugent no chance with a rocket.
When goalkeeper Niall Morgan stroked a ’45 between the posts, ten Tyrone players had registered on the score-board, and the outcome was assured as they went in at the break leading by 1-16 to 0-5.
Mickey Harte emptied his bench, replacing key men McShane, Harte and Mattie Donnelly as early as 40 minutes, and soon afterwards Antrim got in for a goal, finished expertly to the bottom corner of the net by corner back Patrick McCormick in the 48th minute.
The Red Hands responded with scores from substitutes Darren McCurry and Connor McAliskey, but once again Tyrone were caught out at the back as Patrick McBride sent Matthew Fitzpatrick through for a second goal.
These lapses hurt Red Hand pride, and they grabbed a second goal through Connor McAliskey, who almost burst the net with a rocket, with ten minutes to play.
Antrim: P Nugent; P McCormack (1-00), R Johnston, P Gallagher; P McBride (0-02, 2f), D Lynch, N Delargey; C Duffin, S Beatty, J McAuley (0-01), M Fitzpatrick (1-00), K Quinn; R Murray (0-06, 5f), J Smith, O Eastwood.
Subs: R McNulty for Smith (h-t), E Walsh for Eastwood (49), R Scott for Quinn (51), M McCarry for Beatty (54), J Mallon for McAuley (62), C Mallon for Walsh (76)
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-01, ’45); HP McGeary, R McNamee (0-01), R Brennan (0-01); T McCann (1-00), P Hampsey, M Cassidy (0-01); C Cavanagh, B McDonnell; R Donnelly (0-03), N Sludden (0-01), F Burns (0-01); P Harte (0-01, f), C McShane (0-06, 3f), M Donnelly (0-03).
Subs: C Grugan for McDonnell (BC 23), A McCrory for Hampsey (h-t), C McAliskey (1-02, 0-1f) for Harte (41), K Coney (0-01) for M Donnelly (41), D McCurry (0-01) for McShane (41), C McCann for Sludden (54)
Referee: M Deegan (Laois)