Although Derry were reduced in numbers and spirit by that stage, the league champions still managed to string almost 20 passes together before Sean Marty Lockhart dispossessed Peter Canavan. It was a wonderful move, illustrating everything positive in Tyrone’s display on Saturday afternoon. The player in possession was always supported, sometimes by two or three players; the player with the ball always took the right passing option; the move was always composed and never rushed.
“The scoreline might have suggested it was easy, but each of our players had to battle hard out there,” Mickey Harte gushed afterwards. His Tyrone team certainly held on together for 70 minutes and were taking the right options right until the end. Ger Cavlan had a goal-scoring opportunity at the death to glorify the result. He took a point instead. Outside Casement Park, Tyrone supporters were calling it the finest they have seen the county play in years.
Last week was simply a glitch. In this sort of mood, Tyrone are justifiably among the favourites to lift Sam. They have always known size matters in the county and Sean Cavanagh looks a giant among his team-mates. On Saturday, he certainly played like a giant. He controlled midfield from the first minute until the last and scored one of the fastest points ever since in Casement Park after seven seconds.
Leaving Clones last week, there was a feeling Derry had left their best chance behind them. Within six minutes on Saturday, that feeling was pervasive.
Canavan had built on Cavanagh's early score with two points from placed ball. His genius in open play was silenced by Lockhart for long spells, but his free taking was still superb. Two frees, kicked from the outside of his boot, from the right flank in the first half were especially memorable.
Only Canavan and Cavanagh scored for Tyrone in the first half, but that didn't matter. They got 10 points between them, while Derry were restricted to two.
The magnificence of Tyrone's defence was a sight to behold. While Cavanagh's control of midfield ensured his man of the match laurels, on any other day, Ryan McMenamin, Philip Jordan and Declan McCrossan would have been vying for the award.
In the past, Derry would have looked to Anthony Tohill. However, Tohill was out-classed by Cavanagh.
“It was great to play against Anthony, he was one of my idols growing up. Six or seven years ago, when I was 13, Anthony was the best midfielder in the country,” Cavanagh said.
On Saturday, his most significant contribution was when he flattened Cormac McAnallen in the 8th minute. He should have walked for striking, but Curley only produced yellow. McAnallen was rushed to hospital with a suspected broken nose.
Derry were reduced to 14 men in the second half when Padraig O'Kane got his marching orders for striking Cavanagh. It was harsh on O'Kane but there was a kind of perverted justice to the red card. For much of the game, Tyrone had been moving the ball like they had an extra man anyway. That probably explains why they didn't exploit the advantage as much as they should.
Big Geoffrey McGonigal’s late scoring burst put a touch of respectability on the score-line, but the one-sided nature of this replay was so humiliating, the Derry dressing-room was locked for an age afterwards.
Scorers for Tyrone: P Canavan (0-8, 7 frees, 1 45), S Canavagh (0-3), B McGuigan (0-2), G Cavlan, C Lawn, D McCrossan, P Horisk (0-1 each).
Derry: G McGonagle (1-3, all frees), P Bradley(0-1, free) K McCloy(0-1).
TYRONE: J Devine, C Lawn, C Holmes, C Gormely, R McMenamin, D McCrossan, P Jordan; C McAnallen, S Cavanagh; B Dooher, B McGuigan, K Hughes, G Cavlan, P Canavan, E Mulligan.
Subs: C Gourley for McAnallen (9 mins), P Horisk for Gourley(62 mins).
DERRY: M Conlon; S M Lockhart, N McCusker, D Crozier, G Doherty, K McCloy, K Doherty; A Tohill, F Doherty; G Diamond, P McFlynn, M O'Neill, P Bradley, D Dougan, E Muldoon.
Subs: B Murray for O'Neill (h-t), P O'Kane for Doherty (47 mins), G McGonagle for Diamond (49 mins), J McBride for Bradley (68 mins).
Ref: M Curley (Galway).