Tyrone 3-9 St Mary’s 2-11
The All-Ireland champions revived their hopes of winning the Gaelic Dr McKenna Cup with a first win of the season at Omagh.
A strong second half showing provided Mickey Harte with some serious new talent to consider, Omagh pair Jason McAnulla and Conor O’Donnell hitting a combined total of 2-3 on their debuts.
But they had just a point to spare, hanging on for a point that revives their hopes of willing the Gaelic Life Dr McKenna Cup, thanks to Down’s defeat to Monaghan.
Second-half goals from Owen Mulligan and debutants Jason McAnulla and Conor O’Donnell swung it for Mickey Harte’s side against a gutsy ranch outfit.
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte handed out an unusually high quota of five debuts for this Group B clash, and with five Tyrone players in the St Mary’s starting line-up, and four more on the bench, he was able to run the eye over a large number of prospects for 2009.
Omagh’s McMahon brothers were in opposing camps, both playing at centre back for their respective sides, with Justin in the Ranch side and Joe wearing the Red Hand.
St Mary’s were gifted a goal in the fourth minute when goalkeeper Johnny Curran’s misplaced clearance went straight to Antrim star CJ McGourty, leaving him with a tap-in finish.
The students, with scores from John Kelly and Mark McKenna, lead by 1-2 to 0-1 after five minutes, and with the debutants struggling to find their feet, it was left the experienced Davy Harte, Tommy McGuigan and Joe McMahon to try to spark their challenge into life.
Ryan T O’Neill did have a golden goal chance 10 minutes before the break, but Justin McMahon’s timely intervention saved the day and underlined the class which saw him win an Allstar award at full-back following Tyrone’s All-Ireland triumph.
A Tommy McGuigan free narrowed the gap to two points, but St Mary’s produced a flourish in the final stages of the half, hitting four points in as many minutes.
McGourty hit two sublime points, with his Saffron colleague Kevin Niblock also scoring twice for a 1-7 to 0-4 interval advantage.
But Tyrone started the second half with intent, creating two goal chances in the space of a minute.
Martin Penrose was the creator on both occasions, combining with Conor O’Donnell top send McAnulla through, but goalkeeper Bernard Mullan was quickly off his line to smother the Omagh man’s shot.
Seconds later, though, the Red Hand did find the net, Owen Mulligan beating the Derry ‘keeper with a firmly struck shot that spun in off a post.
And the All-Ireland champions drew level in the 49th minute when substitute Sean Cavanagh, restored to his favourite midfield position, made a trademark surging run through the middle before offloading to McAnulla, who applied a cool finish to the bottom corner of the net.
Stephen O’Neill and Philip Jordan had also been sprung from the bench at this stage, but Paddy Tally’s side continued to play with confidence, although their finishing left something to be desired.
The kept plugging away, however, and quality scores from McGourty and wing back Brian Og Maguire had them two ahead going into the final 10 minutes.
But with four minutes to play, O’Donnell netted from close range after McAnulla’s shot had been superbly kept out by Mullan.
McGourty brought his tally to 2-5 with a stoppage time goal, but it was just not enough to keep the students in the competition.
Tyrone: Johnny Curran, PJ Quinn, P Donnelly, N McGinn, D Harte (0-1), J McMahon, M Swift, C Holmes, P McGahan, C O’Donnell (1-1), T McGuigan (0-1, f), M Penrose (0-2, 1f), J McAnulla (1-3), R O’Neill (0-1), O Mulligan (1-0).
Subs: S Cavanagh for McGahan (28), M McGee for McGinn (48), P Jordan for Donnelly (48), S O’Neill for R O’Neill (50), A Cassidy for Harte (62)
St Mary’s: B Mullan, M Digney, C McElholm, K O’Boyle, S O’Neill, J McMahon, B Og Maguire (0-1), G O’Neill, M McKenna (0-1), N McSherry, K Niblock (0-2, 1f), B McGoldrick, CJ McGourty (2-5, 2f), J Kelly (0-1), M Pollock (0-1).
Subs: P Keenan for McSherry (19), P Carvill for McGoldrick (h-t), M Murray for McElholm (48), Joe Kelly for Niblock (62).
Referee: R Doone (Antrim).