GAA Football

Tyrone second half rally sees Mickey Harte's men sign off League in style

Peter Harte's penalty eight minutes after half-time kick-started the Tyrone revival at Healy Park yesterday. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

Allianz National Football League Division One: Tyrone 3-15 Galway 1-14

THERE was a nice bit of symmetry in Omagh yesterday as Tyrone’s League campaign of two halves climaxed with a game that saw them trail by seven at the break before cruising across the finish line with seven to spare.

Hopes of an unlikely Division One final appearance may have been dashed by Monaghan’s defeat in Mayo but, considering they had only one point after three games, the Red Hands won’t be too disappointed.

Instead the players will head back to their clubs for the start of the Tyrone leagues this weekend full of belief in where they are headed after four wins on the bounce.

Yesterday’s game played out a whole lot differently to the previous weekend’s cracking of the code in Croke Park, but there were similarities that will have warmed the soul of Mickey Harte as Championship approaches.

Once again, Cathal McShane played the role of human wrecking ball to a tee. He ended up with four points to his name but also won the crucial penalty – converted by Peter Harte – early in the second half, after being dragged to the ground by Sean Andy O Ceallaigh.

That got the Red Hand revival up and running.

And as the Tribemen threatened late on after closing the gap to three in added time, it was McShane who knocked the ball into Conall McCann’s path following a delicious diagonal ball towards the edge of the square from substitute Darren McCurry. The Killyclogher man couldn’t miss as he calmed any lingering nerves among the Healy Park faithful.

Much has been said and written about Mattie Donnelly in the past month or so and, again, he justified the hype. The Trillick man finished the game with 1-4 from play including a superb opportunistic goal from 30-odd metres following a shocking mix-up between full-back O Ceallaigh and goalkeeper Rory Lavelle.

Harte will also have liked how, for the second week in-a-row, Tyrone gritted their teeth having conceded a goal in the early stages.

Against the Dubs they responded well following Cormac Costello’s fifth minute strike, a stark contrast to some of their recent meetings with Jim Gavin’s men. And yesterday they didn’t panic when Danny Cummins rose above Niall Morgan to fist home 17 minutes in.

The ease with which Galway were getting some of their scores towards the end of the first half, the wind at their backs, won’t have sat so easily with Harte.

The lightning pace and direct running of Shane Walsh were causing Padraig Hampsey serious bother, while some of Galway’s approach play inside was Corofin-esque at times.

But it was the kick-outs that were killing Tyrone time and again.

Whereas Morgan’s were picked off repeatedly by men in maroon jerseys, Lavelle’s were providing the springboard for so much of Galway’s attacking play as they rattled off six of the last seven points to hold a seven-point lead heading down the tunnel.

Yet the same side that had scored 1-11 by that stage managed only three more in the entire second half. Having finished the first with such a flourish, they reverted to type after the break, pulling 15 men behind the ball in a bid to stifle Tyrone’s attempts to get back into the game.

That approach failed miserably, and those goals from Harte and Donnelly inside 12 minutes left them shell-shocked as the Red Hands continued to run riot.

Whether carrying or kicking, they were picking holds in a normally watertight Galway defence, and the Tribe’s challenge collapsed yet further when corner-back Eoghan Kerin was shown a black card in the 56th minute.

Just as he was about to return to the action, wing-back Gary O’Donnell was shown a second yellow in the space of three minutes and took Kerin’s place on the bench.

Tyrone, for whom Colm Cavanagh was also imperious as the comeback gathered momentum, deserve immense credit for their second half approach but take nothing away from Galway - this was an extraordinary collapse.

Despite the deficit at the break, Harte felt that flattered the Tribesmen and remained confident that the Red Hands could come again.

And his decision to switch Kieran McGeary onto Walsh in the second half paid off handsomely.

“Kieran is a very good man-marker, he’s good for a dedicated task,” said the Tyrone boss, whose attention now turns to their May 12 Ulster Championship date with Derry.

“He had the help of the breeze in the second half so Shane hadn’t as much to play with as he had in the first half, so you couldn’t exactly say it was just the one thing caused the other.

“But Kieran’s deployment on him negated him to a certain extent but, again, he was playing against the breeze, there wasn’t as much ball available to him and it wasn’t as easy to kick points from 30, 40, 50 and even 60 yards as he did. Those things contributed to a different outcome.”

Despite his side’s second half capitulation, which saw the Tribesmen miss out on a potential Division One final spot, boss Kevin Walsh remained philosophical.

“There are lessons to be learned again,” he said.

“Over the whole League there were 20 minutes in the second half against Dublin that was poor, that whole second half here was poor, but overall we can't be too critical.

“At the same time it's a lost opportunity to get to the League final that wasn't one of our goals at the start but when you give yourself an opportunity it's a bit disappointing.

“In the second half we didn't play for the first 10 or 15 minutes. Losing a few breaking balls at the start put us under pressure and then discipline cost us a bit and a few silly mistakes."

Tyrone: N Morgan; R McNamee, HP McGeary; C Cavanagh, P Hampsey, M Cassidy (0-2), B McDonnell; B Kennedy, R Donnelly; K McGeary (0-1), N Sludden, C Meyler, P Harte (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees); M Donnelly (1-4,), C McShane (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 mark). Subs: K Coney for B McDonnell (42), M McKernan for HP McGeary (42), D McCurry (0-1) for Sludden (64), C McCann (1-0) for R Donnelly (69)

Yellow card: C Meyler (30)

Galway: R Lavelle; E Kerin, S A O Ceallaigh, D Wynne; G O’Donnell, J Daly, G Bradshaw (0-1); T Flynn, C Duggan; F O Laoi, S Walsh (0-6, 0-4 frees), J Heaney (0-4); D Cummins (1-0), M Daly (0-2), A O Laoi (0-1, free). Subs: C D’Arcy for Duggan (HT), S Kelly for F O Laoi (42), E Brannigan for Cummins (57), K Molloy for Bradshaw (65)

Black card: E Kerin (56)

Yellow cards: J Heaney (30), S A O Ceallaigh (37), G O’Donnell (64, 66)

Red card: G O’Donnell (66)

Referee: C Reilly (Meath)

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