Sunday 17 December 2017

Red Hand in cruise control as three-goal blitz destroys Derry

Tyrone 3-14 Derry 0-12

Tyrone defender Cathal McCarron tries to fend off the attentions of Derry
pair Niall Toner and Danny Heavron in Celtic Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Tyrone defender Cathal McCarron tries to fend off the attentions of Derry pair Niall Toner and Danny Heavron in Celtic Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Niall Holly of Derry in action against Niall Sludden of Tyrone. Photo: Sportsfile
Sean Cavanagh of Tyrone in action against James Kielt, centre, of Derry. Photo: Sportsfile
Christopher McKaigue of Derry is shown a red card and sent off by referee David Coldrick. Photo: Sportsfile
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte celebrates with his two year old grandson Michael Harte after the game. Photo: Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

A quarter of a century ago Mickey Harte took charge of his first Tyrone county team, and told his minors to report for duty in a white shirt and tie.

They arrived in Derry yesterday all dressed in brown suede shoes, blue chinos and white shirts; right down to the selectors and support staff. Looking professional in a country and western night kind of way beloved of the citizens of that county, and delivering a professional performance in burying their rivals from the north.

For the second consecutive week, the favourites were so far in front by half-time, that spiritually they were on the bus home. The second half here for Tyrone was just a matter of housekeeping duties and getting out of Celtic Park with no injuries after a three-goal blitz in the opening half.

Coming into this game, doubts were sent up like flares about Tyrone's inability to score goals, having only gathered three from play in their seven Championship games in 2015.

It took eight minutes for their first of the 2016 edition to arrive, and it showcased all that is impressive about Harte's team this season.


Derry full-back Brendan Rogers was caught on the fringes of the Red Hand's defensive trap. Richie Donnelly chipped the broken ball to Mark Bradley who carried it past a tackle and returned it to Donnelly. His searching early delivery caught out the isolated Derry defender Oisin Duffy who watched it go over his head and into the arms of Ronan O'Neill. A dummy later and the ball was in the net.

Further points from acute angles by Cathal McShane and O'Neill demonstrated the quality of the shooting in the opening quarter but Derry stuck to their task with a couple of impressively converted James Kielt points and one from Mark Lynch which left the minimum in it after 15 minutes.

Only, Tyrone were to score 2-6 to Derry's single point before they went in for half-time.

Where did it all go horribly wrong for Damian Barton's men? On several fronts. Mattie Donnelly floated a ball into Sean Cavanagh, who was enjoying a running battle with Brendan Rogers all day, and Cavanagh managed to hold off the Slaughtneil man to swivel and shoot. Goalkeeper Thomas Mallon was equal to the effort, but not O'Neill's follow-up tap-in. On the line, Derry management reacted by switching Karl McKaigue onto O'Neill and they soon took Duffy out of his misery by sending on their specialist man-marker Dermot McBride.

While Derry took 21 minutes to get their next score from Karl McKaigue, the hammer blow arrived straight away. Another turnover, and Peter Harte was away. Kevin Johnston might have committed to a tackle but chose to track him instead.

Harte travelled into the heart of Derry's rearguard and slipped Sean Cavanagh the ball, he took it to the byline before transferring inside to Harte, who coolly placed it in the net with a delicious drop-kick.

Three goals in 37 minutes - it took them seven games to rack that up last summer and left 11 points in it at the break, 3-8 to 0-6.

The lively but under-utilised Championship debutant Niall Toner had an effort parried and from the rebound Ciaran McFaul back-heeled it flamboyantly into O'Boyle's path, but he pulled his shot just wide of the post.

For some reason, the clearly-limping Mark Lynch found himself marking the fleet-footed Peter Harte but when he was withdrawn, Derry had an alarming lack of leadership.

Twelve points up, Tyrone began running the bench and some of the lack of continuity showed up in a baggy, shapeless quarter of an hour. They became indulgent and were guilty of the kind of misses that would not be tolerated in a more competitive affair.

Substitute Ryan Bell clipped two points over . Eoghan Brown and Danny Heavron added two fine efforts but their fate was sealed when Ciaran McFaul, chasing down a loose Michael O'Neill kickout to Tiernan McCann, lunged at the wing-back and incurred a black card to follow his earlier yellow.

Three minutes from time, captain Chrissy McKaigue followed him having been spotted by the umpires using his elbow on Colm Cavanagh. It's been a while since we have heard a Tyrone crowd sing their 'Cheerios', but it got a good airing at this point.

Two matches into the Ulster Championship and two utter mismatches later, somebody needs to check the copyright on that old saying that in the Ulster Championship, anything can happen on the day.

Irish Independent

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