Saturday 20 January 2018

Harte happy to escape 'very dangerous' game

Tyrone 1-14 Limerick 0-8

Tyrone's Justin McMahon in action against Geroid Hegarty and Tom Lee of Limerick in their clash at Healy Park yesterday OLIVER McVEIGH/SPORTSFILE
Tyrone's Justin McMahon in action against Geroid Hegarty and Tom Lee of Limerick in their clash at Healy Park yesterday OLIVER McVEIGH/SPORTSFILE
Limerick's Tom Lee in action against Tyrone's Aidan McCrory
Tyrone's Aidan McCrory tries to pass Sean Buckley of Limerick Newsdesk Newsdesk

Tyrone played for a long time like a team that had everything to lose and little to gain, but came good in the last 20 minutes to book a place in this morning's draw for the second round All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.

Mickey Harte's side only led by 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time in Healy Park but four points in an eight-minute spell after the break was the defining spell in the game.

And with Ian Ryan having an uncharacteristic off day with his free-taking, Limerick's challenge faded in the closing stages.

An injury-time goal from Peter Harte was final nail in Limerick's coffin, but the final margin flattered Tyrone.

A six-week lay-off may have been partly to blame for how flat Tyrone were against a team who just hung on to Division 3 status this year.

"The first game is always a very dangerous game because you're not well prepared for it," said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.


"Donegal have arrived in the Ulster final since they beat us and we've been kicking our heels since.

"We were meeting a team from a lower division who if they'd won this game, their season was brilliant and if we lost it, our season was a disaster.

"All those things come into players' heads. I was pleased with how we pushed on in the second half on a day when things weren't going for us."

Conor McAliskey top-scored with six points but it was the introduction of Mark Bradley towards the end of the first half which really injected some much-needed urgency into the Tyrone attack.

Things had started well enough for the home side, in front of 5,225 in Omagh, with three points in the opening 11 minutes.

Mattie Donnelly, Sean Cavanagh (free) and a McAliskey point put the home side seemingly in control.

Midfielder Gearoid Hegarty scored Limerick's first point after 15 minutes but by that stage, the visitors suffered their first black-card dismissal after Cillian Fahy was sent off after six minutes. Darragh Treacy also got a black card before half-time.

Tyrone had a goal disallowed in the 17th minute when over-elaboration led to Cathal McCarron being penalised for a square ball.

Peter Harte made a strong run through the middle and laid the ball off to McAliskey. He passed it back across to McCarron who was already in the square.

McAliskey's free put Tyrone 0-4 to 0-1 ahead in the 21st minute.

Limerick danger man Ryan scored his first from a tight angle and Browne's free brought the visitors back to within a point.

Darren McCurry nailed a free but his manager was not in a patient mood and whisked his marquee forward off after a poor first-half showing.

It was a hard game to watch with no intensity or sense of purpose and moments of quality were rare.

Tyrone moved things around at the break with Mattie Donnelly moving to full-forward and Aidan McCrory pushing up, and a quick flurry of scores gave the home team the cushion they'd been looking for all afternoon.

McAliskey's free was quickly cancelled out by Cian Sheehan's point before a classy score from Ronan O'Neill put Tyrone three points up. Tiernan McCann scored next and then Bradley hit one from a tight angle and suddenly, out of nowhere, Tyrone were five points up by the 45th minute.

Ryan's missed frees meant Limerick couldn't stay with them and when Gearoid Hegarty's fisted effort hit the side netting, after a Ryan free came off the upright, it killed off their challenge.

"Ian is an ace marksman, he usually nails all those kicks for us," said Limerick boss John Brudair afterwards.

"Those kicks would have kept things tight going into the last 10 or 15 minutes, but when the gap spread to five or six, then it became a hard scoreline to claw back."

Game at a glance

Man of the match: Mark Bradley’s introduction in the first half for Darren McCurry helped turn the match in Tyrone’s favour. He lit up the attack, got on a lot of ball and kicked a nice point.

Talking point: Tyrone won’t have scared too many opponents but they will improve after a six-week lay-off.

Magic Moment: Sean Cavanagh produced one, with the last point from play in the 66th minute, scoring from distance despite being off balance and having two defenders for company.

Ref watch: Paddy Neilan disallowed a Tyrone goal in the first half for what looked a square ball against Cathal McCarron, although under the new rules, the score should have stood. The black cards were technically correct.

What’s next? Tyrone await this morning’s qualifiers’ draw. Limerick’s season is over.

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