Someone forget to tell Mickey Harte’s men of the potential pitfalls in Tullamore on Saturday.
Straight from the get-go, Tyrone were sharp, purposeful, intelligent and committed in their play — sadly for the neutral, Offaly lacked both the awareness to unsettle their opponents and the physical strength to compete in the trenches.
The home side lined out with an extra defender in the shape of Derek Kelly, but the backfired because debutant Ryan McKenna followed Kelly out the field and played a huge part in Tyrone’s link play. With Darren McCurry leading the line immaculately, the Red Hands wasted no time in settling into a machine-gun assault on the scoreboard.
“A mighty wee player, very accurate, very confident” was the way Harte described Edendork’s McCurry.
“He has the ability to back up that confidence. We’d be very fond of what he can offer”.
Tyrone had the advantage of the wind in the first half and while they settled into a pattern of dominance around the middle third – not based on kickout control as much as their utter dominance of the tackle situation, both on and off the ball – they quickly found the range of passing to provide the ammunition for McCurry and his colleagues to do damage.
“The breeze was significant and we used it very well, our forwards’ finishing was excellentm,” said Harte.
Efficiency was certainly the key theme here. Tyrone were 15 out of 18 in terms of first half conversion, with most of the point coming from no more than 30 yards, the result of hard running creating countless overlaps in the scoring zone.
Peter Cunningham finally opened Offaly’s account with a point from a free in the 31st minute, by which time Tyrone had put 14 points on the board.
Any faint hope Offaly would make a contest of the second half was quickly blown out of the water. The visitors stretched their lead to 19 by the 45th minute (0-20 to 0-1), their scores coming from Conor Clarke (2), McCurry, Cavanagh and Ciarán McGinley.
At that stage the visitors declared and Offaly began to create some scoring opportunities, including the game’s first goal chance. Substitutes Dan Currams and Ciarán Hurley combined well to create the opening but Hurley’s shot crashed against the crossbar.
Tyrone’s inability to raise a green flag was possibly Mickey Harte’s only concern and they ticked that box with ten minutes remaining, substitute Ronan O’Neill rounding off a fine cameo with a neat finish from ten yards.
O’Neill was a surprise inclusion in the Tyrone squad, having attended his grandmother’s burial that morning, but he made the trip worthwhile with three fine scores.
Scorers for Tyrone: D McCurry (0-8, three frees), S Cavanagh (0-6, five frees), R O’Neill (1-2), Matthew Donnelly (0-3), Mark Donnelly, C McAliskey, C Clarke (0-2 each), C McGinley, K Coney (free) (0-1 each).
Scorers for Offaly: K Casey 0-4 (2fs), Peter Cunningham 0-1f, P Bracken 0-1, C Hurley 0-1, B Darby 0-1.
OFFALY: A Mulhall; S Sullivan, P McConway, B Darby; N Darby, D Hanlon, E Carroll; J Brickland, A McNamee; G Guilfoyle, P Cunningham, D Corbett; D Kelly, N McNamee, K Casey.
Subs: P Bracken for Brickland (15 mins), C Hurley for Guilfoyle (23), D Currams for Kelly (27), R Allen for A McNamee (40), W Mulhall for Carroll (49).
TYRONE: P McConnell; C McCarron, D McBride, R McKenna; C Clarke, P Harte, C Gormley; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh; Matthew Donnelly, C McGinley, Mark Donnelly; M Penrose, D McCurry, C McAliskey.
Subs for Tyrone: Joe McMahon for C Cavanagh (HT), R O’Neill for McCurry (52), A Cassidy for Clarke (57), K Coney for Penrose (60), J Lafferty for Matthew Donnelly (65).
Referee: David Coldrick.