GAA Football

Tyrone beat Derry to set up McKenna Cup final against Armagh

Tyrone Brian Kennedy's and Derry's Jack Doherty in action at the Athletic Grounds Picture by Philip Walsh
Kenny Archer at The Athletic Grounds

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup semi-final: Tyrone 0-14 Derry 1-8

THE names Harte and Canavan have history of being a winning combination for Tyrone teams and so it proved once again.

Manager Mickey Harte was able to send on nephew Peter and the ‘son of Peter’, Darragh Canavan, for the second half to ensure a 10th consecutive Dr McKenna Cup final appearance for the Red Hands.

Young Canavan turned the clock back around a quarter-of-a-century with the manner of his point, knocked to the ground but bouncing up and spinning clear before taking his score.

Unusually, boss Harte spoke about an individual player unprompted afterwards, saying of Darragh: “I like to see that other young man that came in there too. I saw one or two jinks that brought me back in time.

“He has that ability to put panic into defences. Obviously he’s a light young lad yet, he’s still maturing, and the physicality of it is a challenge for him.”

Darragh has the bravery and determination of his dad too, Harte pointed out: “It [the physicality] doesn’t deter him, he’s ready to go for everything, and he has got that ability to evade tackles. He’s game, he’ll go for everything, it doesn’t matter if he makes a mistake, it doesn’t bother him, he just picks up the pieces and goes on.”

However, it was ‘Petey’ who made the real difference in this match, reeling off five points after Derry had re-taken the lead with a
well-taken if slightly contentious goal from Patrick Coney 10 minutes into the second half.

The whistle went when Enda Lynn caught a kick-pass from Christopher ‘Sammy’ Bradley for an attacking mark – but although the Tyrone defence stopped, Derry didn’t, and the Loup lad fairly rifled the ball to the net from Lynn’s lay-off.

That gave Derry a 1-7 to 0-8 advantage, a lead they probably deserved on the balance of play up until that stage, but it was to be their last score for more than 25 minutes as Peter Harte and Tyrone took control of this game.

Harte converted four frees in the face of a strong wind, one of which he forced by hassling and harrying Chrissy McKaigue into over-carrying in his own defensive area, where the Slaughtneil man had dropped deeper.

Even when Derry ended their scoring drought in added time, through a Shane McGuigan free, Harte responded with a point on the run and then for good measure laid the ball off for Kyle Coney to conclude the scoring.

Still, it was a measure of how well Derry performed overall, particularly before the break, that their boss Damian McErlain admitted: “We are coming off a bit disappointed because in the second half we coughed up ball there at the end when there was still only a point in it for a 10-minute period. When we got tired we started carrying the ball into tackles a bit.

“There were a few wee habits that probably cost us being even more close there at the end but overall I am very pleased with the effort.”

The Magherafelt man sent out his strongest side so far, although the full-back line was still young and inexperienced.

Apart from the McKaigue brothers, their serious quality was up front, especially in the corners of the attack, where Bradley and Lynn posed repeated problems with their movement and passing.

However, young wing-backs Coney and Jason Rocks also caught the eye, with McErlain acknowledging the impressive nature of their displays:

“They are two good players, two Loup players. They are good lads and good footballers with plenty of legs and well fit for the modern game.

“We are pleased with the game today. We probably could have had another couple of goal chances in the first half.

“We dominated most of it, on the front foot I might add. There was no such thing as us coming to set up defensively. We came here to play and we did that.

“There has been a bit of progress over the last few games, the boys are working well together. We are fairly pleased with the progress but we know there is still loads of work to do.”

The task for Mickey Harte will be to whittle down his options to a matchday panel for the League, albeit with the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup final first, next Saturday evening, venue to be decided by the toss of a coin today.

In contrast to Derry, this Tyrone team probably included only two or three first-choice players, although the challenge for many of the rest was to show that they should be regarded in that category for the season ahead.

Big midfielder Brian Kennedy showed his obvious aerial ability and running power, while Ben McDonnell advanced well and Michael Cassidy was tough and tenacious in the tackle, but too many other Red Hands were sluggish, second to the ball and slow when they did get possession.

Not so Derrylaughan man Kennedy, as Harte said: “Brian Kennedy is immense there, just in this year. His physical presence and his ball-winning ability, his tackling and turnover qualities are so good, and it’s great to see it.

“And Petey has been at that for years, as well as every other aspect of his game, which I think is good to watch as well. They’re setting an example for more to follow.”

Despite playing against that stiff breeze, Derry were the better side before the break and really should have turned around with a lead.

On the half-hour Bradley looked like he’d sent Lynn in for a goal with a superbly threaded cross-field kickpass but the Greenlough man chose to fist a point.

Tyrone made the most of that reprieve, reeling off three quick scores to level matters by the break, at six points apiece.

The entrance of Harte and Canavan, as well as the lively Liam Rafferty of Galbally, lifted the Red Hands, and meant Tyrone could edge away from Derry, but both teams can take positives from this close encounter.

Mickey Harte was happy with the test, and also with getting another game before Division One commences:

“Derry showed from early on that it was going to be a bit of a battle, scores were going to be hard to come by, there was plenty of defenders back marshalling their own sector of the field, and we found it difficult enough to break them down.

 “When they went three up in the first half, it didn’t look very good for us, but we made a good surge at the end of the first half to pull it back to a drawn game.

“That ultimately was very important, because if we had gone in to the second half three points down I think we would have had a huge task on our hands to take something out of this game.

 “So it was a struggle right through the second half. Maybe our experience and that bit of quality that we brought in at half-time made a difference…

“We like to have the McKenna Cup to experiment with players, and we have introduced eight or nine players this year. We want to see what they can do and how far they can go at this level.

“Maybe it’s not for them just now, but we get a hint of what they might do in the future, so it’s good to get five games to be able to do that and give them a reasonable amount of game-time.”

As for their final opponents, he concluded: “I think Armagh have set their sights on winning something early on this year, and this is their first opportunity to win something, so I think they’ll dearly want it as much as we do. It makes for an interesting final.”

Tyrone: B Gallen; A McCrory, HP McGeary, M McKernan; B McDonnell (0-1), R Brennan, M Cassidy; D McClure, B Kennedy; C McCann (0-1), K Coney (0-2), C McShane; L Brennan, R O’Neill (0-2, 0-1 free), R Sludden (0-2 frees)

Substitutes: D Canavan (0-1) for L Brennan (h-t); P Harte (0-5, 0-4 frees) for O’Neill (h-t); L Rafferty for McCrory (h-t); D McCurry for Sludden (49); F Burns for Cassidy (71).

Yellow cards: McCrory (29); McClure (37).

Derry: T Mallon; E Concannon, C Mulholland, S Quinn; P Coney (1-0), K McKaigue, J Rocks; C McKaigue, C McFaul; R Dougan, J Doherty, P Cassidy; C Bradley (0-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ‘45’), S McGuigan (0-2 frees), E Lynn (0-2).

Substitutes: C McAtamney for Doherty (47); G McKinless for Dougan (57); N Toner for Bradley (57); D Hughes for Mulholland (63).

Yellow card: Rocks (29).

Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)

Attendance: 2,928

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