Top gun McAliskey fires Tyrone to facile victory
Tyrone 2-15 Louth 0-8
Tyrone won the ó Fiaich Cup with a runaway win over Louth at Crossmaglen yesterday.
It was established pair Connor McAliskey and Tiernan McCann who grabbed the goals, but there were worthy contributions from a number of new recruits, including Lee Brennan, Kieran McGeary, Padraig Hampsey and Hugh Pat McGeary.
Louth were ahead with ten minutes to play in the first half, while playing into the breeze, but the Red Hands worked out a way to break down the opposition defence and never looked like losing. And an injection of seasoned players off the bench for the second half helped them maintain a structured and effective strategy.
Louth got men behind the ball to stifle Tyrone's efforts to establish a platform, restricting the wind-assisted Red Hands to just two points in the opening 27 minutes.
Ronan O'Neill landed a long-range effort, but the industry of Adrian Reid and Declan Byrne, allied to defensive steel from Patrick Reilly and Padraig Rath, held Tyrone at bay for a frustrating quarter of an hour, during which they hit a rash of wides.
Louth, with Tommy Durnin and Dan O'Connell beginning to emerge at midfield, grew in confidence, pushing forward for Byrne and Gerard McSorley to steer over stylish point as they hit the front in the 26th minute.
However, that setback spurred Tyrone into action, and the lead was short-lived. With Tiernan McCann, Kieran McGeary and Conal McCann driving from deep, and Richie Donnelly covering plenty of ground, they began to operate efficiently.
Debutant McGeary, captain of this year's All-Ireland-winning U-21 team, landed a spectacular long-range score, and there were points from Brennan, Conal McCann and Ronan O'Neill as they hit the target five times in the space of eight minutes.
In stoppage time, Tyrone grabbed a goal that was to push them into a point of no return.
McGeary and Brennan combined to pierce the heart of the Louth defence, and Tiernan McCann stooped to punch home from close range, sending his side in with a 1-7 to 0-3 interval lead.
Louth hit a couple of points early in the second half through McSorley and Michael Rafferty, but Tyrone's grip on the contest never loosened.
Richie Donnelly, Connor McAliskey, Lee Brennan, Mark Bradley and Niall Sludden all fired over points, and in the 58th minute, they ended any glimmer of Louth hope with a second goal.
A free from Brennan fell to substitute McAliskey, and he rifled the ball into the net.
Louth did respond with scores from McEneaney frees and a wonderful McSorley point, but Tyrone were never troubled, and completed the job with Cathal McShane becoming the tenth Red Hand player to score, and Brennan bringing his tally to six points on the occasion of his first Tyrone start.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte requires time and space for observation and reflection, along with lots of hands-on experience for a fresh intake of potential Tyrone stars of the future.
The ó Fiaich Cup competition has conveniently ticked many of those boxes, enabling the Red Hand boss to make an early appraisal of the personnel available to him in 2016.
SCORERS - Tyrone: C McAliskey 1-1, T McCann 1-0, L Brennan 0-6 (5f), R O'Neill 0-2 (1f), C McCann, R Donnelly, K McGeary, N Sludden, M Bradley, C McShane 0-1 each. Louth: G McSorley, J McEneaney (3f) 0-3 each, M Rafferty, D Byrne 0-1 each.
Tyrone - M O'Neill; A McCrory, P Hampsey, HP McGeary; T McCann, C Clarke, J Munroe; H Og Conlan, R Donnelly; C McCann, R O'Neill, N Sludden; P Quinn, L Brennan, D Mulgrew.
Subs: P Harte for C McCann, B Tierney for K McGeary, C McAliskey for Mulgrew, P McNulty for Conlan, M Bradley for Quinn, N Morgan for M O'Neill, C McShane for R O'Neill, C McCann for Donnelly.
Louth - N Gallagher; P Rath, P Reilly, K Murphy; E Lafferty, D McMahon, D Maguire; T Durnin, D O'Connell; A Reid, M Rafferty, D Byrne; G McSorley, B Flanagan, J McEneaney. Subs: K McLoughlin for Maguire, D Quigley for Reilly, T McEneaney for Flanagan, J Califf for Rafferty.
Ref - P Hughes (Armagh)