Tyrone and Derry play down impact of result at Healy Park
BOTH sides were playing down the respective impacts of Tyrone’s latest sparring success in Healy Park on Saturday night.
Tyrone’s nine-point victory was comprehensive in the extreme. Only for spurned goal chances by Barry Tierney and Sean Cavanagh, and a succession of second half wides, the margin could have been wider.
Derry held themselves in the game until midway through that second half, at which stage they remained just three points down.
But once Cavanagh found the net off the back of a poor kickout from Eoin McNicholl, the game completely ran away from the visitors.
“Obviously we’d be pleased with bits of it, but you don’t need to be a genius to know we were wayward with a lot of our finishing, particularly in the second half,” said Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.
“It was about winning and getting two league points. It has no bearing on what went before and it will have no bearing on what’s coming later. It’s a standalone game. We wanted the two points and we’ve got them.”
Those two points keep them at the top of the table and, having recorded comprehensive wins over both Derry and Galway, it would be a huge disappointment for Tyrone were they not to achieve promotion from here.
“From ever we went into [Division Two], we would have been disappointed if we didn’t get out of it.
“We were very disappointed we went into it last year, because we played good enough football in most of our games not to go there.
“A couple of results went against us, a draw here and points dropped there.
“We did hurt because of that because I think we were good enough to stay there. But the league table didn’t tell any lies. We had to go here for this particular season, and I hope it’s this season only.”
Their success was founded on their domination of the kickout battle at both ends.
Niall Morgan’s speed and accuracy of delivery were a huge asset as they constantly caught Derry napping with lightning-quick restarts.
At the other end, Eoin McNicholl was hampered by a lack of options. Just as in their two previous McKenna Cup meetings, Tyrone put the full press on the Derry kickout and dismantled it.
If Tyrone can replicate that success when they meet in Celtic Park on May 22, then it will surely be the Red Hands who progress to an Ulster semi-final.
“Well it all depends on the personnel on the field,” argued Harte.
“Derry have another goalkeeper who’s very accurate with his kickouts [Thomas Mallon]. Tonight the goalie that was in was under a bit more pressure.
“I think the other man is better at pinging passes, and that will make a difference as well. I don’t think we can really write a script for the next game because of that.”
It was a sobering 70 minutes for Derry, who headed into the two-week break looking strong and now find themselves swimming against the tide.
Comprehensive defeats at the hands of the two promotion favourites has left Derry’s fate out of their own hands. Three wins from their last three games may not even be enough.
“I thought that they punished our every mistake,” said deflated Derry coach and Edendork native Brian McGuckin.
“We were making basic mistakes. An experienced team like Tyrone will always do that.”
Aside from the impact on their promotion hopes, there is the psychological scarring of a fourth defeat of the season to their Championship opponents.
“You’re playing one of the top teams in Ireland out there, and you have to take it on the chin. We are where we are,” said McGuckin.
“We’ve improvements to make and hopefully we’ll learn from the games to date and put in a more spirited performance when we meet them again, and hopefully turn them over.”