GAA Football

Derry battle but can't close the gap as Tyrone win again at Celtic Park

Derry captain Enda Lynn struggles to contain Tyrone forward Mark Bradley
Andy Watters

Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Derry 0-11 Tyrone 0-22

From Andy Watters at Celtic Park

ONCE again there were 11 points between the sides at the finish, but at least Derry made a game of it for a while yesterday.

Given the personnel they’ve lost in the last 12 months, they deserve credit for that but while they produced occasional moments of inspiration, Tyrone’s slick system and their pace and quality all over the field decided the issue in emphatic style.

After grimly hanging on to Tyrone’s coattails throughout the first half, the Oak Leafers landed three points in 10 minutes after the break to close within three of the Ulster champions.

The outnumbered home supporters at Celtic Park found their voice and roared Derry on, but Tyrone don’t panic - they get mean and they dig in - and that was as close as the Oak Leafers got.

The Red Hands rode out the storm and Mickey Harte revitalised his side with fresh legs. Four of his substitutes scored and 11 Tyrone players were on target in all as they completed three Championship wins against their neighbours for the first time.

A pre-game chat with youngsters from either side had illustrated the contrasting expectations among the fans.

Who’s going to win?

“Derry by a point,” says a lad in a Derry half-zip.

“Tyrone by five,” said his cousin from across the county line.

Derry would probably have been happy with losing by five in the end, particularly after they found themselves five points to no-score behind after 15 minutes.

Peter Harte had missed two sitters before Sean Cavanagh got his hands to Kieran McGeary’s kick pass and drew a foul out of marker Brendan Rogers. The Moy veteran knocked it over himself and added another before Conal McCann – who had his best game for Tyrone at midfield – made it 3-0.

With Derry trapped on the back foot, McGeary, Padraig Hampsey, Tiarnan McCann and Mattie Donnelly charged forward in a pack from their own half. Bradley darted out to win the ball and referee Maurice Deegan awarded him a soft free after an innocuous challenge from Chrissy McKaigue.

Harte knocked it over and when Bradley added another Derry were staring down the barrel.

The clock was at 15.53 by the time Derry at last registered on the scoreboard. Donnelly took down Danny Heavron and Niall Loughlin swung over the free but from there to the break the sides traded blows evenly.

McLoughlin doubled the Derry tally in between two Sean Cavanagh frees and then Rory Brennan broke forward to increase the lead to six. Ciaran McFaul, from the right wing and Heavron’s 50m free kept Derry in touch and – despite their inability to break through the Tyrone defence - they were still just about in the game at the break.

Tiarnan McCann and another Cavanagh free completed Tyrone’s first half scoring while Loughlin’s free left Derry trailing 0-10 to 0-5.

There weren’t many in the ground who gave the home side a prayer of turning over Tyrone’s double-scores advantage in the second half.

Fans on the terrace roared in delight after Bradley left Derry goalkeeper Ben McKinless on the seat of his pants before the throw-in, but the Oak Leafers refused to lie down and McFaul and Lynn did the spadework to set up Niall Keenan for a debut score.

The Cavanagh brothers combined for Sean’s first from play but Lynn tapped over (he might have gone for a goal) and the Brennan’s foul on Heavron opened the door for a Heron free that left it 0-11 to 0-8.

At this point the game was a contest and there were shades of the feisty encounters of the 1990s as Mattie Donnelly and Chrissy McKaigue clashed off the ball – the Trillick midfielder appeared to land a right hook on the Slaughtneil defender.

Derry had prised the door ajar, but they were unable to push through it and their momentum was lost as shots from Heron and Bell drifted wide.

At the other end, Aidan McCrory had the goal at his mercy but he was denied, first by McKinless, then by Keenan on the line. Tyrone’s appeals for a penalty were dismissed and Harte cracked over the ‘45’.

That score seemed to settle Tyrone once again and Sean Cavanagh landed another free before Darren McCurry fired over the first of three points.

Suddenly there were six in it again and any chance Derry had was gone. Their challenge collapsed as Tyrone took complete control.

David Mulgrew, on as a black card replacement for Frank Burns who dragged down Keenan, raced onto Conall McCann’s flick-on from a pin-point Morgan kick-out to join the lengthening list of scorers.

McCurry added a second, then a third and McCann and McClure both raised white flags for the now-rampant visitors. Loughlin replied with a free but there were lots of empty red seats in the stand by the time McGuigan’s free brought Derry’s total to double figures.

Colm Cavanagh and Carlus McWilliams swapped points before Lee Brennan illustrated the comparative riches in this Tyrone panel with two points in an eye-catching 10-minute cameo.

Donegal are up next for Tyrone and news filtered through before the finish that Michael Murphy had injured his knee playing for Glenswilly. Then, afterwards, it was reported that full-back Neil McGee had also been injured in a club game yesterday.

Mind games already in Tir Chonaill? Surely not.

This was a canter for Tyrone, but Donegal could certainly be doing with Murphy and McGee if they are to stop this Red Hand charge on June 18.

Derry: B McKinless; N Keenan (0-1), B Rogers, K McKaigue; C McFaul (0-1), C McKaigue, C McWilliams (0-1); C McAtamney, D Heavron (0-1 free); R Bell, N Loughlin (0-4, 0-3 frees), E Lynn (0-1); D Tallon, E McGuckin, B Heron (0-1 free)

Subs: M Lynch for Bell (47), S McGuigan (0-1 free) for Tallon (55), M McEvoy for McGuckin (62), G O’Neill for Heron (62), C Nevin for McAtamney (67)

Yellow cards: McFaul (35), McGuckin (40)

Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, P Hampsey; T McCann (0-1), R Brennan (0-1), P Harte (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 ‘45’); C Cavanagh (0-1), C McCann (0-2); K McGeary, N Sludden, C Meyler; M Bradley (0-1), S Cavanagh (0-7, 0-6 frees), M Donnelly

Subs: F Burns for McGeary (29), R McNabb for Meyler (h-t), D McCurry (0-3) for Bradley (50), D McClure (0-1) for Sludden (61), L Brennan (0-2, 0-1 free) for S Cavanagh (62)

Yellow card: K McGeary (13), C Cavanagh (40)

Black card: Burns was replaced by D Mulgrew (0-1) (55)

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

Attendance: 10,017

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