Damien Casey scores big as Tyrone breeze past Fermanagh
Nicky Rackard Cup relegation play-off: Tyrone 3-23 Fermanagh 1-14
DAMIEN Casey inspired the Red Hands with a stunning 1-17 haul as they held on to their Nicky Rackard Cup status with a comfortable relegation play-off win over Fermanagh.
The Ernemen just couldn’t stop the elegant striker as he picked off score after score, before sealing their fate with a brilliant goal.
And Tyrone strode to a 15 points win despite having to play three-quarters of the game with just 14 men.
All is not lost for Fermanagh, who have another chance to avoid the drop when they face the Lory Meagher Cup winners in a further play-off next month.
The home side did look shaky at times, but showed admirable character and self-belief to dig themselves out of difficult situations, with the returning Cormac McHugh starring in defence alongside skipper Aidy Kelly.
Sean Corrigan flashed over the opening point after 15 seconds, but Tyrone were ahead by the third minute, through a Casey free and a neat Sean Og Grogan point.
The visitors continued to press with determination, and were awarded a penalty when JP McGarry was fouled.
Declan McGarry stepped up, but his penalty was superbly saved by Conor McElhatton, with Conor McShea blazing wide from the rebound.
Normal service was soon restored at the other end, with Casey sending in a sideline cut which was collected by Matthew Mulgrew, who nearly ripped the net off with a ferocious finish to the top corner.
Moments later, however, the Red Hands were reduced to 14 men when Morgan picked up a second booking. But the home side re-grouped, and continued to dictate the course of the game. Casey was in the mood, punishing unerringly from frees as they opened up an eight points lead.
But in the closing stages of the half, the handicap of playing with a man short began to tell, and Fermanagh scored five of the last six points, four of them from John Duffy.
Tyrone held a 1-9 to 0-8 lead at the interval, and while they started the second half strongly, they were soon on the back foot.
Sean Corrigan sent over three quality scores, and in the 49th minute he narrowed the gap to a single point with a well taken goal. However, Tyrone refused to panic and responded with conviction, Sean Og Grogan thumping over a long range point, before Gerard Gilmore drilled in the long ball which Casey collected to hit the net for a vital goal on 53 minutes.
It was now show-time for Casey as he tormented the Erne defence, sending over majestic scores from all distances and angles. Fermanagh could manage little by way of response, pulling back points through Declan McGarry and Ciaran Corrigan, but it was all over when Sean Og Grogan capped a wonderful display with a superb goal.
Tyrone: C McElhatton, C McNally, C McHugh, D Rafferty, T Morgan (0-1), A Kelly, R McKernan, C McNulty, C Cross, E Duffin, D Casey (1-17, 0-9 frees, 0-1 65), C Grogan, M Mulgrew (1-0), S Og Grogan (1-4), G Gilmore. Sub: E O’Sullivan (0-1) for Duffin.
Fermanagh: C McGarry, A Breslin, M Teague, O Russell, B Duffy, M Slevin, T Cleary, J Duffy (0-4, 0-2 frees), R Bogue (0-1), JP McGarry, D McGarry (0-1), C McShea (0-1), S Corrigan (1-6, 0-1 free), R Porteus, C Corrigan (0-1, 0-1 free). Subs: R Hyde for Breslin, C McTeague for Russell, J Gavin for McShea
Referee: C Cunning (Antrim).