GAA Football

Tyrone thoroughbreds bounce back late on to defeat underdogs Derry

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte was pleased with how his team responded to Derry taking the lead late on.
Picture Seamus Loughran
Kenny Archer at Healy Park

2019 Ulster SFC preliminary round: Tyrone 1-19 Derry 1-13

Kenny Archer at Healy Park

WHEN Derry hit the front for the first time it looked like the Ulster favourites might fall at the first fence – but there was a kick in the Tyrone thoroughbreds and they bit back for victory.

It must have felt like a kick in the teeth, or somewhere even more painful, to the underdogs.

The point squeezed over by visiting sub Christopher ‘Sammy’ Bradley in the 62nd minute, following a rocket goal by his Slaughtneil clubmate Shane McGuigan, was greeted with a mixture of disbelief and delight from the crowd of just over 10,000.

On the pitch, though, the Red Hands responded immediately from the re-start with a brilliant goal from one of their own subs, Darren McCurry cleverly finishing off a superb cross-field kick-pass from Richie Donnelly, to the evident relief of manager Mickey Harte:

“We knew we had good people on the bench and we could get a good impact on the game. Darren McCurry has been biting at the bit this last while and we knew he was full of energy, ready to come into this game. And he is a good finisher as well.

“I think it was brave of him, because he could have taken a point and it would have been a good score, but it wouldn't have been a winning score. The fact he put that goal away was the winning of the game.”

The hosts scored five more points after that, but Derry boss Damian McErlain agreed that McCurry’s precise low shot was the decisive moment:

“‘Sammy’ put us one up, that was the time – and then they scored the goal straightaway from that, that was the killer blow for us.

“We’re pleased with the performance, etc, disappointed that there was six in it at the end, we didn’t feel that it was a six-point game. That’s the ruthless end of it and the gap we have to bridge, I suppose.”

Despite the disappointing nature of the defeat, the Magherafelt man managed to smile at the suggestion they would have planned to go ahead at that stage:

“Ideally you’d have been getting into the lead at that particular point in the game – possibly even later would have been more ideal, but it’s a position I’d have taken from you before the match.

“We’re learning, big-time, and we’ll have to learn quick as well, but it was a very good performance and we can take a lot from it.

“The effort was absolutely tremendous, we’ve come on leaps and bounds this year as a team.

“We can’t ask for any more from the boys – we went toe to toe with Tyrone in Omagh. All the patronising before the match was hard to listen to, so I’m glad we came out and delivered a performance.”

Derry definitely did that, but it still wasn’t enough.

Although Harte labelled it a ‘no-win situation’ for last year’s All-Ireland Finalists, Tyrone were still obviously happy to emerge victorious, and in the manner that they did so, he acknowledged:

“That's it. I suppose it was a no-win situation for us. We were supposed to win the game and we believed we were good enough to win the game but we know there are always exceptions to the rule and those exceptions happen from time to time. We were eight or nine minutes away from that exception happening today.

“But the response that our team gave to respond to that goal and going one behind was something that, it's good to have that experience. If you didn't have that experience you wouldn't know if you could do it or not.

“So it said a lot about our players to come back with the underdogs looking to be in a class position - to stay in the game as long as they did and hit us with a sucker punch. It looked like the script was written and then we responded”.

Tyrone progress to meet Antrim. Derry progress – just not in Ulster.

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