Darragh Canavan is ‘different gravy’ as Tyrone sweep aside Mayo

Darragh Canavan
Darragh Canavan grabbed 1-4 as Tyrone overcame Mayo at Healy Park Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Allianz National Football League Division One: Tyrone 1-15 Mayo 1-11

From Brendan Crossan at Healy Park

AS time passes, nobody will remember the importance of this win for Tyrone in their bid to stay in Division One, or how the league table looked at the midway point, or how Mayo shaped up, or what kind of spring night it was in Omagh – but everybody will remember Darragh Canavan’s performance.

The way the young Errigal Ciaran maestro played on Saturday night is the reason why we’ll never fall out of love with Gaelic football.

When our faith takes a beating, we will turn to artists like Darragh Canavan to restore it, and we should thank ‘God’ – or his father - for producing such a special talent.

Just before the affable Kevin McStay bid reporters adieu in a small room under the Healy Park stand after a disappointing night for his Mayo team, he was asked for his thoughts on Tyrone’s number 14.

“Darragh is an absolutely superior player,” McStay said. “He’s got everything. We didn’t realise how tough he was.

“In that first half he was fighting for his own ball. He got some and didn’t get some. In the second half he really got into a flow, and everything starts going for you.

“He’s a marvellous player. His father before him was a marvellous player. Yeah, he’s different gravy. He sure is.”

Fresh from his virtuoso display in the Sigerson final for a triumphant Ulster University, Canavan was electric each and every time he got on the ball against Mayo.

Sam Callinan, his marker, was often touch-tight to him but it didn’t make a blind bit of difference. Canavan was operating on a different level.

The signs were ominous for Callinan as early as the seventh minute when Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan found him with a raking pass.

With Callinan and Enda Hession hanging off him, Canavan broke their shackles and fired over the opening score of the night.

He would add a further 1-3 and wreck Mayo’s hopes.

His 48th minute goal had class written all over it, as did Peter Harte’s drilled pass into his club-mate.

Callinan’s positioning and close proximity to his man was perfect – and yet, Canavan’s sheer power enabled him to break free before firing the ball past Rob Hennelly in the Mayo goal.

Canavan’s major was the platform for a home victory, and one that eased their relegation worries following back-to-back losses to Derry and Galway.

Joe Oguz
Joe Oguz helped mount Tyrone's second half comeback against Mayo on Saturday night Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

And if Canavan’s brilliance wasn’t enough, substitute Darren McCurry brought the champagne and helped himself to eight second-half points (six frees).

“Whenever Darren and Darragh are on song they are worth the entrance fee alone,” said Tyrone co-boss Brian Dooher.

“Darren had ‘flu last week so did well to recover. We didn’t think he’d have the energy in the legs after the week he had.”

If Tyrone can keep Canavan and McCurry fit and manage to ease a few more regulars back from injury, they can compete with anybody.

But Dooher was absolutely right to mention the host of young players that have come in this season and more than held their own in Division One.

St Enda’s defender Aidan Clarke has stepped into the corner-back role and looks like he’s been playing inter-county for years. Niall Devlin, an U20 All-Ireland winner, put himself in harm’s way umpteen times and looks a serious operator.

Ciaran Daly is such a clever forward and although he didn’t get on the scoresheet on Saturday night, the Trillick man has already shown he can be one of Tyrone’s reliable shooters in 2024.

The ever-resourceful Seanie O’Donnell has been shuttling from one end of the field to the other and knitting everything together for Tyrone but had to be stretchered off towards the end with what looked like a serious back injury.

Joe Oguz and Conn Kilpatrick began to motor after half-time too, with Mayo having no answer to the new-found intensity the Red Hands played with in the second half.

And that’s exactly the thing: Tyrone are nothing without fire in their bellies.

In the first half, the home side were terrible. Apart from Niall Morgan and Darragh Canavan, Tyrone weren’t at the races.

Mayo weren’t great either in the opening half but they still fashioned a 1-4 to 0-4 half-time lead with Cillian O’Connor – one of four changes to the match programme’s starting team – hammering a 25th minute penalty beyond Morgan.

It is understood Dooher turned the changing-room air blue at half-time, laying into his players with some justification.

“We were playing but we weren’t playing with intensity,” Dooher noted. “We were giving the ball too much, taking shots that weren’t really on.

“We just weren’t playing with the intensity and focus we needed in the first half and we were making mistakes because of that. In the second half, we upped that intensity and focus; we still made mistakes, but we made enough good play too.”

Mayo introduced marquee attacker Ryan O’Donoghue in the 49th minute but Tyrone owned the game at that point.

O’Donoghue managed to find his range twice as did Fergal Boland and the impressive Jordan Flynn, but all of Mayo’s second-half scores were no more than token resistance.

McStay could have fielded a stronger starting XV with Aidan O’Shea also not featuring but reasoned: “It’s the halfway stages of the League, we need to look at fellas. We’ll be looking at the panel over the next 10 days, a fortnight’s time and you have to give them chances.

“The changes weren’t the issue at all and they weren’t changes where it was rookies we were putting on. I think six of them played in multiple All-Ireland finals.

“You’re giving fellas minutes because they’re training hard and training well and deserve the opportunity.”

Both Mayo and Tyrone have two wins apiece now with McStay reckoning six points will be the magic number to stay in the top flight next season.

“This wasn’t good enough in terms of performance or result - and that’s all of us,” McStay insisted.

“I have to go back to Mayo now and figure out why it panned out this way and then resolve to do something about it. So, I’d be expecting something fairly dramatic next Saturday night against our fierce rivals in the province [Roscommon].”

What will be will be for Tyrone and Mayo as they aim to reach that six-point mark sooner rather than later.

Time will move on as it does and talk of league points, permutations and league standings will fade in the collective memory.

But what will stay with those who journeyed to Healy Park on Saturday evening are Darragh Canavan’s imagination and the champagne moments from ‘Dazzler’.

They were pure magic.

Tyrone: N Morgan; C Devlin, P Hampsey, A Clarke; M McKernan, C Quinn, N Devlin; B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick; C Daly, P Harte (0-2, 0-1 free), J Oguz; C Donnelly, D Canavan (1-4, 0-1 free), S O’Donnell (0-1) Subs: D McCurry (0-8, 0-6 frees) for C Donnelly (h/t), B Cullen for M McKernan (h/t), K McGeary for S O’Donnell (67 inj), R Canavan for D Canavan (70+6).
Black card: C Quinn (24-35)
Mayo: R Hennelly (0-1 free); J Coyne, R Brickenden (0-1), S Callinan; M Plunkett, S Coen (0-1), E Hession; D O’Connor, M Ruane; D Duffy, F Boland (0-2), J Flynn; C O’Connor (1-2, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees) T Conroy, C McStay (0-1) Subs: J Carney for D O’Connor (8 inj), R O’Donoghue (0-2) for C McStay (49), E McLaughlin for M Plunkett (49), B Tuohy (0-1) for M Ruane (58), D McHale for D Duffy (63)
Referee: B Crawley (Kildare)