Derry 1-15 Tyrone 2-12
Derry fought back from seven points behind to earn a draw with Tyrone at Celtic Park tonight.
Skipper Mark Lynch produced the vital equalising score seven minutes from the end to mark the Oak Leafer’s return to the top tier.
Conan Grugan smashed home a brilliant goal to get Tyrone off to the perfect start. He found acres of space to pick up Darren McCurry’s pass and blast an unstoppable shot past Thomas Mallon from 15 yards with just three minutes on the clock.
But Derry, playing into the wind, soon recovered their composure, and with Fergal Doherty, Patsy Bradley and Mark Lynch giving them the edge around midfield, they swept forward in waves of attack.
They had the visitors’ defence under sustained pressure, and after James Kielt had shot their opening score from a free, they set about getting themselves ahead on the scoreboard.
Mark Lynch, Enda Lynn and Ciaran McFaul all steered over scores, and Tyrone were forced to introduce Colm Cavanagh in their engineroom when Danny McBride picked up a black card on 10 minutes.
Derry stretched the lead with Lynn’s second, but Cavanagh made a difference around the middle, and four points on the spin, two of them ‘45s from goalkeeper Niall Morgan, had the Red Hands level by the end of the opening quarter.
Now the Red Hands were dominant, Mattie Donnelly drifting from the edge of the square to forage for possession, and the ever-alert and elusive McCurry always a threat, hooking over a wonderful third score from wide on the left.
Sean Leo McGoldrick put in a couple of vital tackles to take the pressure off the Oak defence, and they were relieved to hear the half-time whistle, turning around two points behind, 1-6 to 0-7
Tyrone struck another major blow just five minutes into the second half, when McCurry blocked an attempted clearance from goalkeeper Mallon and finished the loose ball to the net.
Now they led by 2-9 to 0-8, and a Derry collapse looked possible.
But they showed they are made of serious stuff, and with Sean Leo McGoldrick involved in virtually everything, and experienced pair Doherty and Lynch leading by example, they dragged themselves back into it.
Emmet McGuckin and Kielt smacked over points, and in the 53rd minute, substitute O’Boyle finished to the net after linking with McGoldrick.
Tyrone came again, with Ronan O’Neill coming off the bench to convert a couple of frees, and Grugan sliced over a gem off the outside of his left boot.
Going into the final ten minutes, the Red Hands were still clinging on to a three points lead, but they were coming under increasing pressure from a Derry team building from deep and attacking in numbers.
And Derry finished the stronger. Gerard O’Kane gave them a major lift with a long range point, before veteran midfielder Doherty hit the target, and it was skipper Lynch who made the difference in the end with his fourth score.
Derry: T Mallon, D Brown, C McKaigue, D McBride, A McAlyn, M Lynch, SL McGoldrick, F Doherty, P Bradley, G O’Kane, J Kielt, E Lynn, C McFaul, E McGuckin, B Heron.
Tyrone: N Morgan, A McCrory, C Clarke, B Tierney, C McGinley, P Harte, R McNabb, D McBride, C Grugan, N McKenna, S McGuigan, PJ Lavery, D McCurry, M Donnelly, P McNeice.
Subs: C Cavanagh for McBride (10, BC)
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)