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GAA: TYRONE HUNGRY FOR TITLE DEFENCE; U-21 CHAMPIONSHIPS: Red Hand men survive Down scare.

Byline: Orla BANNON

TYRONE proved they have the hunger to mount a serious defence of their Ulster and All-Ireland U21 football crowns after beating Down in a closely fought Ulster championship quarter final on Saturday.

Down mounted a late comeback and hit four unanswered points to level the scores in Healy Park before an injury-time winner from Eoin Mulligan gave the defending champions a narrow 1-12 to 1-11 victory.

Down were a side many felt would test Tyrone to the limit and Red Hand captain Cormac McAnallen admitted afterwards his side were relieved to have overcome a very tough hurdle.

McAnallen said: "Every man in there knows he was in a battle today. Down could have won this match as easily as us and we're just delighted to have got through.

"I didn't know how long was left after the point went over, but thankfully it was the winner."

Tyrone raced into an early lead with two points from Enda McGinley, Eoin Mulligan and Cormac McAnallen but the impressive Benny Coulter sent Aidan O'Prey through for a well struck goal before points from Liam Doyle and Anthony Devlin put the Mournemen in front for the first time.

However Tyrone rallied well before the interval and led 0-9 to 1-4 at the break.

When Tyrone full-forward Kevin Hughes smashed the ball into the net in the 37th minute, it looked all over for Down but they came back again to tie the scores at 1-10 apiece guaranteeing a pulsating finale.

But the champions, determined not to surrender their crown, rallied for one final push culminating in Mulligan's match-winner.

Tyrone now meet Monaghan, who were comfortable 2-7 to 1-6 winners over Antrim at Casement Park.

As well as Tyrone's gutsy win, the other top performance of the day was by Fermanagh who defeated Derry by 2-10 to 0-12 after extra-time in Ballinascreen.

The game went into extra-time after Derry had fluffed a penalty chance in the last minute of normal time.

The scores were locked at 0-6 apiece when Stephen McGuigan was fouled and midfielder James Conway stepped up to try and blast the penalty to the net, whenever a point would surely have won the game for the Oak Leafers.

Stand-in Fermanagh keeper Dermot McKeogh was the Erne hero parrying the strike and McGuigan's resulting shot from the rebound hit the post.

Buoyed by their escape, three frees from Ronan McCabe had Fermanagh 0-9 to 0-6 ahead after five minutes of extra-time but Derry responded with points from McGuigan and Conway.

However two goals in two minutes from Lisnaskea's Mark Little left the Erne men leading by 2-9 to 0-8 at the end of the first period to wrap up the game.

Fermanagh finished the game with 13 men after Shane McCabe and Barry Owens were sent off for receiving their second yellow cards in the second-half of extra-time.

However they will be available to play Cavan in the semi-finals, the Breffni men beating Armagh by 1-17 to 1-12 at Crossmaglen on Saturday, also after-time.

Dublin justified their favourites tag when accounting for Kildare in the Leinster U-21 FC semi-final at Mullingar on Saturday on a scoreline of 0-11 to 0-7.

Despite playing against the wind in the first half, the Dubs were 0-7 to 0-5 ahead at the interval with International Rules star Colin Moran particularly influential.

Colm Reilly accounted for all the Lilywhite's first half total and his early point after the break gave Kildare a glimmer of hope. Second half points from James Gahan, Wayne McCarthy and substitute Peter Lawless extinguished any hope Kildare harboured, however, and ensured a deserved success for Dublin.

The Dubs will play rivals Meath in the decider following the Royals' 1-11 to 2-5 semi-final success over Wicklow at Dr Cullen Park, Carlow on Saturday.

An 18th minute goal from Christopher Reynolds, younger brother of senior star Paddy, helped establish a 1-6 to 0-2 half-time lead for the men in green and gold, yet despite leading by 1-11 to 0-4 with just five minutes remaining their supporters were forced to endure a few anxious moments near the end.

Wicklow produced two goals in as many minutes through substitute Paddy Moynihan and full-forward Trevor O'Donnell to set up a nail-biting climax.

Leighton Glynn's injury time point brought the Garden County even closer but Meath held on to secure a provincial final ticket for the second year in a row.

In Munster, Cork emerged victorious against rivals Kerry in the provincial semi-final on Saturday in Pairc Ui Chaoimh by the narrowest of margins, 1-11 to 1-10.

The sides were level, 0-6 apiece at the half-way stage, but a Conor McCarthy goal early in the second half placed the Rebels firmly in the driving seat.

Kerry staged a late comeback which yielded a Sean O'Sullivan goal and two points from Declan Quinn but it proved to be too little too late for the Kingdom.

Reigning champions Limerick qualified for yet another provincial decider when comfortably defeating Tipperary by 1-9 to 0-3 at Mitchelstown on Saturday.

Colm Hickey was Limerick's top scorer with 0-7 while Peter Lawlor's 53rd minute goal put the issue beyond any doubt.

In Connacht, Mayo and Sligo will contest this year's final following their respective wins over Leitrim and Galway on Saturday.

0-13 to 1-6 was the final score in the Mayo and Leitrim game which was played in Sean Mhic Diarmada Park, Carrick-on-Shannon.

An injury-time goal from substitute Shane Gallagher handed Sligo a 1-10 to 1-9 success over reigning champions Galway at Markievicz Park.

Sligo led by 0-7 to 0-2 at half-time but Galway improved on the resumption and looked set for a final showdown with Mayo - thanks to a Kieran Comer goal - before Gallagher snatched victory from under their noses.

CAPTION(S):

INFLUENTIAL: Dublin's Colin Moran; TYRONE POWER: Eoin Mulligan's hunt for an U-21 winners medal is still on
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 2, 2001
Words:977
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