Tyrone 0-11 Derry 1-8
Derry boss Brian McIver fumed at "hometown" decisions as a first league win was snatched away from his side by Tyrone’s late surge on Saturday night.
Terence O’Brien rocked Healy Park with a 62nd minute goal, and the Red Hands were on the ropes.
But after Derry full-back Niall Holly was sent off for a second booking, the home side reeled off four late points to salvage a draw.
McIver had a particular issue with referee David Coldrick’s award of the stoppage-time free kick from which Darren McCurry equalised.
“The free kick at the end, we had turned the ball over and our man was fouled on the way out. It should have been a free to us and it’s game over. It was a hometown decision,” he blasted.
“Decisions were going like that for the great percentage of the night against us... I’m saying nothing.”
The Derry manager had seen his side suffocated out of the game by Tyrone’s ultra-defensive set-up in the first half, but after the break, they began to prise holes in the opposition cover, and struck gold with a late goal that set them up for a first win of the campaign.
“We were the better side coming up to the last few minutes. Very difficult conditions and it was a performance which deserved to win.
“They’re all big games, we’d love to be going out of here with two league points but it’s a point dropped.”
Coldrick had a long, hard look at a sodden surface before deciding to allow the game to go ahead, after heavy rain had battered the Omagh area all afternoon.
And when it did get underway, Tyrone, playing into the driving wind and rain, parked 15 men behind the ball for much of the half.
It had worked at Castlebar, and it did the trick again for 35 minutes on home soil as they frustrated their opponents and conceded just three points before the break.
Eoin Bradley, making his first Derry start since the 2012 qualifier defeat to Cavan, got two of those, one a trademark effort from wide on the left.
But Tyrone made the most of raids on the break, Sean Cavanagh scoring twice and Aidan McCrory denied by Eoin McNicholl’s smart save in the 16th minute.
Mickey Harte’s side reached the break with a 0-4 to 0-3 lead, but their more adventurous approach in the second half allowed their opponents to sniff out gaps in their defence.
Sub James Kielt steered over a couple of long-range frees, and the hard-working Sean Leo McGoldrick had just given Derry the lead for the first time when Emmet McGuckin sent O’Brien in to send a low finish past Niall Morgan.
Four points ahead going into the final six minutes, Derry looked set for full points, but the loss of full back Niall Holly for a second booking gave Tyrone a reprieve, which they accepted gratefully. Sean Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly and PJ Lavery all fired over points, before McCurry nailed his fourth free to salvage a draw.
“We would be pleased with the draw. When Derry got the goal to go four up, (it looked) like there was only one result,” said Harte.
“We are more than happy to have dug in there for the last four minutes as well as the two minutes added on and to salvage a draw, it was admirable for the players to stand up and do that.”
Harte was at a loss to explain his players’ failure to maintain the energy levels that had frustrated Derry in the first half.
“I don’t know that it was. Probably when we had the upper hand we didn’t punish. We had goal chances in the first half and I think if any of them had gone in, we might have been in a much better position.
“When you work hard and don’t finish what are decent chances for goals, that takes its toll on players, because they are working so hard and have nothing to show for it.”
TYRONE: N Morgan, A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron, R McNabb, J McMahon, P Harte, C Cavanagh (0-1), P McNulty, T McCann, M Donnelly (0-1), B Tierney, D McCurry (0-4, 4f), S Cavanagh (0-3, 2f), C McAliskey (0-1).
Subs: C McCann for McNulty (47), PJ Lavery (0-1) for McAliskey (54), C McShane for C Cavanagh (54).
DERRY: E McNicholl, O Duffy, N Holly, D McBride, B Óg McAlary, L Johnston, SL McGoldrick (0-1), M Craig, B Óg McGilligan, C McWilliams (0-1), B Heron (0-1), E Lynn, D McKinless, E Bradley (0-2, 1f), B McGoldrick.
Subs: J Kielt (0-2, 2f) for B McGoldrick (17), M McIver (0-1) for McAlary (BC, 41), F Doherty for Craig (48), T O’Brien (1-0) for McKinless (48), E McGuckin for Kielt (58), L McGoldrick for McWilliams (68).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).<
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