This latest chapter in the bitter rivalry between Derry and Tyrone contained all we have come to expect. A mixture of the good, the bad and the unpleasant. And an unsatisfactory result.
While it was nothing like the barbed All-Ireland quarter final of two years ago, there was enough niggle in the game for Pat McEnaney to take nine names as well as send off Conleth Gilligan with only three minutes left. Three of the four starting midfielders were cautioned, while Tyrone’s Chris Lawn was the only player on either full-back line not be to carded.
Tyrone depended on Peter Canavan again to get them out of the mire but it wasn’t one of the legendary forward’s better days. Brian Dooher notched three points while Ger Cavlan showed enough to suggest Tyrone can’t do without him for the replay next Saturday in Casement Park.
Tyrone will be happier to be playing a part in the sequel. At half-time, talk around the 23,708 crowd had it that the league champions were already through to the semi-final. Although they were playing against the wind in the first half, Derry’s deficiency in the scoring department was glaring.
They only managed three points in the opening half, one of those from defender Paul McFlynn. And for all their brilliance for 25 minutes of the second half, just three of their players managed to nail any scores - McFlynn, Enda Muldoon and Bradley, of course.
Derry’s domination of the second half mirrored that of Tyrone’s in the first. The league champions had scored four points without reply in the first eight minutes, their hunger and sharpness was swamping Derry. When Cormac McAnallen dived on a clearing kick from the Derry defence in the 3rd minute, it didn’t look like Tyrone were suffering from their prolonged spring.
It took Derry ten minutes to mount an attack, a further minute to open their account, from Bradley’s foot. McFlynn tacked on their second three minutes later. It was simply a flurry.
Derry tactics were easy to gauge. They made midfield a swamp, smothered the game by sheer numbers, at one point in the first half, 18 players were counted between the two 40 yard lines.
It didn’t work. Tyrone had spent the spring perfecting the swarming defence that hunt in packs.
The one repetitive flash-point was Eoin Mulligan’s duel with Niall McCusker. Even before throw-in, they were lashing out at each other. The blows affected Mulligan, who mis-fired all afternoon.
Canavan’s accuracy ensured Tyrone led at the break by four, 0-7 to 0-3, but even in that, there were signs before the interval of Tyrone’s forth-coming collapse. Canavan hit two uncharacteristic wides from very scoreable positions towards the end of the half.
Nobody could have believed it would have been so bad. Mickey Moran and John Morrison may have uncovered a magic potion at the break, but the lack of resistance offered by Tyrone for all but the final ten minutes was bewildering.
It looked like the spine of steel that Tyrone developed throughout the league, had snapped. The second period was 20 minutes old before Ger Cavlan got Tyrone’s first score.
In that time, Derry played with a style not seen in Oak Leaf teams in quite a while. Bradley and Gilligan stood out, but Muldoon, Fergal Doherty and Dermot Dougan all had substantial roles too. Bradley and Muldoon had hot-wired the revival with points, before Bradley got the decisive score.
Gavin Diamond dropped a long ball into the square, Dougan rose higher than Colin Holmes and nudged it into Bradley’s direction, who finished with aplomb. That made it 1-6 to 0-7, but Derry weren’t finished yet.
Gilligan’s toil created another score for Bradley, before the lively forward seemed to be hauled down by Holmes for a penalty. McEnaney, who will have better days, waved play on much to the distress of the Derry players and supporters.
Bradley made it 1-9 to 0-8 in the 59th minute, before Fergal Doherty hit a poor wide that would have given Derry a five point edge. Tyrone took heart from the miss and finished as strongly as they started.
Kevin Hughes arrived from the bench and pointed in the 67th minute as Derry faltered for the first time in the half. Canavan equalised with a free a minute later, but even then Tyrone could have stolen the game had Mulligan been on better form.
Scorers for Derry: P. Bradley(1-6, 2 frees), E Muldoon (0-2), P McFlynn (0-1)
Tyrone: P Canavan (0-6, 5 frees, 1 45), B. Dooher (0-3), K. Hughes, G. Cavlan (0-1 each), S O’Neill (0-1, free).
DERRY: M Conlan; S M Lockhart, N McCusker, K McGuckin, P McFlynn, K McCloy, K Doherty; A Tohill, F Doherty; G Diamond, C Gilligan, M O’Neill, P Bradley, E Muldoon, D Dougan.
Subs: D. Scullion for Lockhart (65 mins), J. McBride for Tohill (65 mins), J. Conway for O’Neill (67 mins), G McGonagle for Diamond (69 mins)
TYRONE: J. Devine; C. Lawn, C. Holmes, M. McGee, C. Gormley, G. Devlin, P. Jordan; C. McAnallen, S. Cavanagh; B. Dooher, B. McGuigan, S. O’Neill, E. McGinley, P. Canavan, E. Mulligan.
Subs: G. Cavlan for O’Neill (h-t), C. Gourley for McGee (45 mins), R. McMenamin for Lawn (62 mins), K. Hughes for McGinley (62 mins).
Ref: P. McEnaney (Monaghan)