Tyrone made to work for win as Derry rediscover battling qualities
Tyrone 1-19 Derry 1-13
Moral victories may be regarded as worthless currency, but this one should be valued highly by Derry as they head for the All-Ireland Qualifiers with a spring in their step.
Having run Tyrone close at Healy Park, the Oak Leafers have every reason to believe that the recovery they so desperately crave has begun in earnest.
No-one gave the NFL Division Four champions a chance of troubling last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists, but they gave yesterday’s Ulster SFC preliminary round tie a mighty lash, and suddenly the gulf between once fierce rivals does not appear so forbidding.
Mickey Harte’s 100th Championship game as Red Hand manager may not have gone to plan, but he’ll need no reminding of the manner in which is team grew and prospered after a poor start to last year’s campaign.
Only the most fervent and optimistic of Derry supporters genuinely believed the shock was on, even when Chrissy Bradley pushed them in front for the first time with eight minutes to play.
Yes, Tyrone were rattled, but they were never going to bend the knee to a team playing three NFL divisions below them, and certainly not when it’s their arch rivals from across the Sperrins.
The Red Hands slipped into a higher gear, and ruthlessly finished the game off with a 1-5 blast in the closing ten minutes, conceding just one point in return.
The game ended as it had begun, with the Red Hands in control. While playing against the wind, they eased into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead inside the opening quarter, with target man Cathal McShane giving Brendan Rogers a testing time.
McShane and Richie Donnelly had two points each on the board, with Peter Harte converting a free, while Shane McGuigan, who was to finish with 1-6, was the only Derry player capable of troubling the score-board.
But Damian McErlain’s men stepped up their aggression in the tackle, pressed up on Niall Morgan’s kick-outs and began to get some joy, with Ryan Bell and McGuigan punishing as the home defence conceded frees in dangerous areas.
McGuigan narrowed the gap to within a point on the half-hour, but Tyrone rallied again to lead by 0-10 to 0-7 at the break.
Chrissy McKaigue and Enda Lynn were highly influential as they drove the Oak Leaf challenge in the second half, going score for score in the third quarter, as McGuigan and Bell cancelled out scores by impressive debutant Michael Cassidy, Hugh Pat McGeary and Harte.
And in the 55th minute, a majestic pass from Lynn sent McGuigan in for a thunderous finish to Niall Morgan’s net, levelling the scores.
Substitute Chrissy Bradley edged the NFL Division Four champions ahead in the 63rd minute, and the unthinkable suddenly seemed eminently possible.
But Tyrone reacted to the dangerous situation they knew they could competently deal with, and substitute Darren McCurry ran on to the perfect delivery from Frank Burns to pick his spot in the bottom corner of the net a minute later.
A power-play finished the job off as they forced their opponents into submission, and points from McShane. Michael McKernan and Connor McAliskey ensured a comfortable winning margin.
Scorers – Tyrone: C McShane 0-7 (2fs); D McCurry 1-0, P Harte 0-3 (3f); R Donnelly, M Cassidy 0-2 each; F Burns, M McKernan, C McAliskey, HP McGeary, P Hampsey 0-1 each. Derry: S McGuigan 1-6 (0-5f); R Bell 0-3 (3f); C Bradley 0-2 (1f), C McFaul, C McAtamney 0-1 each.
TYRONE: N Morgan; P Hampsey, R McNamee, M McKernan; M Cassidy, B McDonnell, T McCann; R Donnelly, B Kennedy; P Harte, N Sludden, F Burns; M Donnelly, C McShane, HP McGeary. Subs: C Cavanagh for Kennedy (18), D McCurry for Sludden (48), K Coney for Cavanagh (55), R Brennan for McGeary (58), C McAliskey for R Donnelly (63), L Rafferty for McKernan (71)
DERRY: T Mallon; S Quinn, B Rogers, K McKaigue; P McNeill, C McKaigue, N Keenan; P Cassidy, C McAtamney; L McGoldrick, E Lynn, C McFaul; S McGuigan, R Bell, J Rocks.Subs: E Bradley for Quinn (h-t), C Bradley for Bell (47), C Doherty for Rocks (57), R Mooney for Lynn (63), P Coney for Keenan (70), E Concannon for McGoldrick (70)
Ref – P Neilan (Roscommon)