Tyrone 3-14 Derry 0-12: Strip away all the fireside reminisces about past battles and a rivalry for the ages and this was no more than a meeting of one team ascending towards the summit of football’s ladder and another for whom treading water is the height of their ambitions.
So it proved.
Thirty-five minutes was pretty much all it took for Mickey Harte’s side to give credence to the burgeoning levels of interest in their summer duties and to the suggestion that a first Ulster title since 2010 should be just the start of their ambitions.
Others may see it differently.
They scored just half-a-dozen points in the second half, kicking as many wides and engaging in the sort of lateral football and walking pace that would give a training match a bad name, but their work was long done before the half-time oranges were even peeled.
Derry, as we suspected, were certainly no barometer for ambitions of greatness.
They welcomed their visitors to Celtic Park yesterday on the back of talk about how a number of club players had refused to commit to the county for the season, others who had walked from the panel in recent weeks and after a spring spent leaking scores in Division Two.
Damian Barton, in his first season as manager, even spoke of transition and youth last week.
Yet this was Derry and Tyrone, an ancient rivalry that had thrown up a litany of shocks down the years and one which had its embers stoked four times already this year. Not least when 18 cards were flashed during the course of a fiery McKenna Cup final in January.
Their last five summer meetings had all produced red cards and this one did chuck two more onto the bonfire. Ciaran McFaul walked for a yellow and black card combo after 55 minutes and captain Chrissy McKaigue was awarded a straight red close to the end for a wild elbow at Colm Cavanagh.
Strange to say it then, but those notations in David Coldrick’s book stood in stark relief to a game that lacked the fire and brimstone expected.
A few minor conflagrations threatened, but such disorder normally feeds off tension and intensity and Tyrone sucked both from proceedings.
The first half was sublime on their part.
Battle lines were drawn as expected with Tyrone withdrawing deep into their half, Colm Cavanagh acting as a sweeper and Derry all but invited to launch themselves at the perimeter pretty much at will.
They did so for the most part under a sky weeping buckets.
And they did it well enough for a quarter. Long-distance scores from both sides entertained the 12,011 on site for a spell, but Derry simply didn’t have the savvy, the structure or the legs to stay with Tyrone forever and the first goal highlighted all that.
Derry full-back Brendan Rodgers, hunting upfield, was disposed on Tyrone’s 45 and within maybe 10 seconds the ball had gone through four pairs of Tyrone hands and into the Derry net, courtesy of a glorious shimmy from the eventual scorer Ronan O’Neill. It was simplicity itself, O’Neill collecting a long ball in over Oisin Duffy’s head by Richard Donnelly. But where was the sweeper? The second defender that should have been on Duffy’s shoulder to guard against such a simple but effective tactic.
O’Neill claimed his second goal from a rebound, cleaning up the scraps after Sean Cavanagh had a shot saved from close range, and Peter Harte claimed the third on the stroke of half-time having cut through the defence courtesy of a one-two with Cavanagh.
Only Laois possessed a worst defensive record than Derry in the four league divisions this year and yet here they were with their doors and windows left open against one of the country’s top teams, and the week’s wages lying about on the table. They got what they deserved.
The nadir came in a 60-second period just after the half-hour when their own defensive sloppiness gifted Tyrone three points on the trot, and their dwindling effectiveness at the other end stretched to a 20 -minute spell without a score from the 16th minute on.
Derry tried something different on the restart. Lord knows they had to.
Barton plonked two big men, Caolan O’Boyle and Ryan Bell, in to the edge of Tyrone’s small square and the ball was duly lumped in to them for, oh, all of the first five minutes until that tactic too was either dropped or forgotten.
Tyrone survived that initial flurry, or what approximated to it, for five minutes or so and duly eased back into second gear.
A long summer stretches ahead for them. Or should do. Hard to tell from this exactly how long that will be.
Scorers for Derry:
J Kielt (0-5, 0-4 frees); R Bell (0-2, 0-1 free); D Heavron (0-2); K McKaigue, M Lynch and E Brown (all 0-1).
Scorers for Tyrone:
R O’Neill (2-2 (0-1 free); D McCurry (0-4, 0-1 free); P Harte (1-0); C McAliskey (0-2, 0-1 free); N Sludden, C McShane, R Donnelly, S Cavanagh, J Monroe, P McNulty (all 0-1).
T Mallon; O Duffy, B Rodgers, K McKaigue; K Johnston, C McKaigue, G McKinless; N Holly, D Heavron; S Heavron, J Kielt, C McFaul; N Toner, E McGuckin, M Lynch.
D McBride for Duffy (30); R Bell for Toner (33); C O’Boyle for S Heavron (HT); E Brown for Lynch (42); G O’Kane for Johnston (46); C McAtamney for Holly (64).
M O’Neill; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann, N Sludden, P Harte; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; C McShane, M Bradley, R Donnelly; R O’Neill, S Cavanagh, C McAliskey.
D McCurry for Bradley (17); P McNulty for R Donnelly (49); J Monroe for McShane (54); K McGeary for Sludden (65); B Tierney for McAliskey (70).
D Coldrick (Meath).
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