Derry 1-15 Tyrone 2-12
IN all Mickey Harte’s years, how often have you seen Tyrone lose a seven point lead? That their long run without a win in Derry, which reportedly stretches back to 1981, was continued highlighted a certain inexperience within their ranks.
That inexperience will sort itself when Sean Cavanagh and Stephen O’Neill and the McMahons return.
Derry did not lack for cool heads in a frenetic game. They were led by Mark Lynch and Fergal Doherty as they clawed their way back from 2-9 to 0-8 behind after 41 minutes.
The hosts had looked dead and buried when Darren McCurry charged down Thomas Mallon’s attempted clearance and swivelled to fire Tyrone into a seven-point lead with a superb finish.
They held their lead until the 50th minute but with Cailean O’Boyle coming off the bench to fist a goal, Derry were given renewed hope.
Conan Grugan kicked a sublime score off the outside of the left foot to put Tyrone 2-12 to 1-12 up with 11 minutes to play and at that, Derry looked beaten again.
But a superb 50-yard score from Gerard O’Kane, a cool curling effort from Fergal Doherty and then a Mark Lynch equaliser after Sean Leo McGoldrick’s magnificent one-handed catch ensured Derry would share the spoils.
Both sides had chances to win it but the tense last nine minutes were scoreless.
Tyrone, as they had in the McKenna Cup clash between the sides two weeks ago, hit the net early, and again it came courtesy of a big gap down the middle of the Derry defence.
Patsy Bradley failed to track the crafty run of Conan Grugan and the Omagh man, on his National League debut, hammered an unstoppable finish past Thomas Mallon from 12 yards.
And yet, after nine minutes, the visitors trailed. Derry had been the better side in that opening period and hit five points either side of Grugan’s goal.
Colm Cavanagh’s introduction at midfield as a black card replacement for Danny McBride helped swing a midfield battle which Derry had dominated early on.
The Oak Leafers were loading midfield, leaving McGuckin as the only man inside the Tyrone 65’ at times, but it was white shirts that picked up the majority of the ball in the second quarter.
Three superb dead balls from goalkeeper Niall Morgan, allied to the supply lines improving and the sharpness of Darren McCurry inside, saw Mickey Harte’s men turn it around to lead 1-6 to 0-7 at the break, having played with the breeze.
Brian McIver’s men had re-jigged their team but, instead of playing as a sweeper as expected, Mark Lynch played almost as a third midfielder, a ploy which didn’t pay the dividends Derry might have hoped.
Tyrone were carrying more of a threat in front of goal and their willingness to take a goal chance on marked the difference in the sides for a long time.
Derry passed up opportunities, the best of them coming after 48 minutes when Fergal Doherty’s low deflected strike cannoned out off the post. They contrived to make a mess of the follow up and stayed well in arrears. But Derry rallied in the final quarter and ensured that their first game back in the top flight did at least see the extension of an unbeaten home record against Tyrone that stretches back over 30 years.
Scorers for Derry: M Lynch 0-4 (0-2f), E Lynn 0-3, C O’Boyle 1-0, C McFaul 0-2, J Kielt 0-2 (0-1f), E McGuckin 0-1, A McAlynn 0-1, G O’Kane 0-1, F Doherty 0-1
Scorers for Tyrone: D McCurry 1-4 (0-1f), C Grugan 1-1, N Morgan 0-3 (0-2 45’, 0-1f), R O’Neill 0-2f, S McGuigan 0-1, M Donnelly 0-1
Subs for Derry: D Mullan for Heron (HT), C O’Boyle (1-0) for McFaul (48), C McGoldrick for McGuckin (63).
Subs for Tyrone: C Cavanagh for D McBride (black card, 10), R O’Neill (0-2f) for N McKenna (HT), R McKenna for McNabb (HT), C McAliskey for Lavery (53)
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).
Sean Leo McGoldrick ran fully 90 yards to set up a goal for Cailean O'Boyle that renewed Derry belief
Talk of the town
Not bad for the first night of February. If all the championship games played this summer match this, then we’re in for some season.
Did that just happen?
It’s seldom in Mickey Harte’s long reign that Tyrone have squandered a seven point lead, but their inexperience in certain areas showed when the pressure came on.
Best on show
When the service was any way half decent, Darren McCurry was a nightmare for Derry to deal with, though he was better marshalled in the second-half.
Black card watch
Just the one. Danny McBride was the recipient after just 10 minutes, guilty of a bodycheck that was dealt with when the ball went dead. Joe McQuillan didn’t appear to miss anything major.
Derry’s tactic of swarming midfield backfired on them in the first half as Tyrone dominated for 25 minutes, but the character that Brian McIver has instilled in his team again shone through.
The man in black
In a frantic game, Joe McQuillan was never quite at the centre of things but did have a late call to make when Derry appeared to be denied a 13-metre free with two minutes left and the sides level, opting instead for a hop ball.
Derry will try and add to their first point when they travel to Tralee to face Kerry on Sunday, while Mickey Harte’s charges will host Mayo at Healy Park.