Spirit of '95 lives on as Tyrone edge thriller with bitter rivals
Tyrone 1-22 Derry 1-17
Published 25/01/2016 | 02:30
A stirring comeback from 13-man Tyrone, a mass brawl with Damian Barton in the thick of things, and the Red Hands snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Sounds just like 1995, and it felt like it too, with the temperature in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night just as hot as that sun-baked Ulster SFC semi-final at Clones.
This time, Tyrone somehow evaded Derry's clutches to seal a fifth Dr McKenna Cup title in a row, but the silverware lifted at the end was irrelevant.
This was psychological warfare. Barton promised when he took over as Derry manager to remind the players what it means to wear the Oak Leaf jersey, and no-one who watched the dramatic events unfold could be in any doubt he is doing just that.
Having already lost a couple of early-season skirmishes to Tyrone, Derry were determined to lay down a marker ahead of the League and Ulster Championship battles to come. And they were the better team for most of normal time, yet at the end of an exhausting 100 minutes they were the ones left counting the cost.
Enda Lynn, their best player on the night, was stretchered off at the end of extra-time with a suspected broken ankle, and the hugely-talented Brendan Rogers had to be taken to hospital with a facial gash sustained in a colission with Tiernan McCann straight after the throw-in.
Afterwards Barton's assistant Tony Scullion described the renewed intensity in this rivalry as "healthy".
"All over Ireland people would come to see Tyrone and Derry play and it's life and death. We are all one big family but when it comes to Derry and Tyrone, that makes football," he said.
Derry scored an unanswered 1-4 in a ten-minute spell in the first half, Ryan Bell getting the goal, and led by 1-5 to 0-4 at the break.
The introduction of Conor Meyler, Darren McCurry and Niall Sludden, who kicked 1-8 between them, ignited Tyrone.
The tempo and urgency reached Championship levels in the last quarter and Derry were still ahead by two points with five minutes to go when all hell broke loose.
Ronan McNamee received a second yellow card and his rash tackle sparked a brawl in the bottom corner of the pitch.
Barton needlessly ran down to get involved and ended up on the ground, rekindling memories of '95 when Pascal Canavan was dismissed for decking the Derry man.
Cathal McCarron received a straight red card, reducing Tyrone to 13 players, and Danial McKinless went soon after for a second yellow card to leave Derry with 14.
Lynn's point from the wing put Derry 1-12 to 0-12 ahead in the 69th minute, but the drama was only starting.
Meyler replied instantly with a point and then kicked a free at the start of injury-time. The referee signalled four minutes of injury-time but in the sixth minute of stoppage-time, Sludden was fouled and McCurry stepped up to nail the equalising free.
Somehow, Tyrone had salvaged a bleak situation to finish level at 0-15 to 1-12, and the momentum was with them now. Although Derry the opening two points of extra-time, Tyrone hit six in a row with Cathal McShane scoring two of them, to lead 0-21 to 1-14 at half-time.
Connor McAliskey was fouled in the square late on and McCurry drilled home the penalty in front of 7,143 dazed, stunned supporters.
"You would need a month's training to deal with that kind of pressure and intensity," Mickey Harte said. "The rest of the season will determine how good that was, but I would rather be using than losing."
Scorers - Tyrone: D McCurry 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), L Brennan 0-4 (2fs), C Meyler (1f), C McAliskey (3fs), C McShane 0-3 each, N Sludden 0-2, HP McGeary, R O'Neill, T McCann, J Munroe 0-1 each. Derry: R Bell 1-1 (0-1f), J Kielt (2fs), E Lynn 0-3 each, E Bradley, C Kearns 0-2 each, C Bradley, O Duffy, N Forrester, C O'Boyle (f), G McWilliams (f), C McAtamney 0-1 each.
Tyrone - N Morgan; C McCarron, R McNamee, HP McGeary; T McCann, J McMahon, B Tierney; C Cavanagh, C Clarke; H Og Conlon, M Donnelly, C McShane; L Brennan, R O'Neill, P Quinn. Subs: P McNulty for Clarke (ht), C Meyler for Conlon (ht), C McAliskey for Quinn (ht), D McCurry for O'Neill (47), N Sludden for McMahon (51), J Munroe for McShane (66), P Hampsey for Tierney (72), C McShane for HP McGeary (76).
Derry - T Mallon; C Mullan, M Craig, K McKaigue; G McKinless, C McKaigue, D Heavron; B Rogers, E Bradley; E Lynn, J Kielt, B Heron; S Heavron, C O'Boyle, R Bell. Subs: C McAtamney for Rogers (1), C Bradley for S Heavron (32), O Duffy for Craig (41), C Kearns for Heron (49), D McKinless for Bell (53), N Forrester for G McKinless (59), G McWilliams for Kielt (79), P Quinn for D Heavron (81), S Mulgrew for Kearns (83).
Ref - Noel Mooney (Cavan).