Tyrone too strong for Derry in McKenna Cup opener at Celtic Park

Derry's Paul McNeil bids to stall Darragh Canavan of Tyrone during the McKenna Cup match at Celtic Park on Thursday night Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
From Patrick Owens at Celtic Park

2019 Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup: Derry 0-11 Tyrone 0-20

MICKEY Harte’s Tyrone got their new season under way with a routine victory over Derry at Celtic Park last night.

The visitors, who have won five out of the last six Dr McKenna Cups, led by two points at the break but held Derry scoreless for 24 minutes and pulled away in the second half.

Last year’s All-Ireland finalists top their group before heading off on their end-of-season trip to Thailand.

Harte fielded only Niall Morgan, Tiernan McCann, Niall Sludden and Cathal McShane from the side that lost September’s All-Ireland decider to Dublin.

After a cagey opening five minutes, Tyrone opened the scoring when Brian Kennedy’s pass was won by DD Mulgrew for an advanced mark and he kicked the Red Hands’ first score of the 2019 season.

Derry were soon level. Conor Mulholland got a hand to a pass over the top, leading to play switching up the left wing and Enda Lynn curled over to level the game.

Damian McErlain welcomed Gareth McKinless back to the panel and he sat back in the pocket. The Derry man intercepted another Tyrone attack and when Jason Rocks’s pass found Ryan Bell, he fired the Oak Leafers into the lead.

McKinless gave Derry an attacking impetus coming from defence.

Ryan Dougan allowed Kyle Coney to drop off and the 2008 All-Ireland minor winner’s passing gave Tyrone’s attack a plentiful supply.

For Tyrone, Niall Morgan was quickly initiating attacks with swift kick-outs, with Red Hand players winning all but one in the first half.

Tyrone were soon level through a Darren McCurry free. Then when Niall Sludden’s shot was deflected behind for a 45, Morgan trotted to dissect the posts and Tyrone were 0-3 to 0-2 ahead.

A Rocks ball was won by Gareth McKinless for another mark and he levelled the game in what was an evenly-contested opening half.

Ben McDonnell blazed over the bar to put Tyrone ahead again and when Derry were blown up for four consecutive handpasses, Niall Morgan stretched Tyrone’s lead from a free.

As Tyrone looked like pulling away, Enda Lynn cut the ball over the bar, with Morgan off his line, and minutes later Lynn passed for debutant Eamonn McGill to point.

Sean Quinn began to attack from deep for Derry and he played in Ciaran McFaul who banged over a beauty from under the stand on the half-time whistle, with Tyrone leading 0-9 to 0-7.

Early in the second-half Ryan Bell’s neat flick up set Emmett Bradley on his way for a point and the lead was down to a single point.

For the next 20 minutes, Tyrone took total control of the game. McCurry fired over from the tightest of angles and when a Derry attack broke down, Cathal McShane saw them into a three-point lead.

Referee Paul Faloon didn’t issue a card all night, as it was a game played in an open fashion, between two teams who will meet in Ulster Championship action next May.

Niall Sludden kicked two wonder scores, either side of a Conan Grugan point – the reward for his efforts alongside Derrylaughan’s Brian Kennedy on his debut.

Man of the match Kyle Coney continued his playmaking masterclass in the second half as Tyrone continued their dominance.

With neither goalkeeper tested, there could’ve been two goals in the closing stages. First it was recent Colleges’ Allstar Ben McCarron who blasted over the bar from close range.

At the other end, Darragh Canavan set-up Ronan O’Neill for a chance but he pulled his shot to the left and wide.

O’Neill (free) and Canavan with a point on his debut ensured Tyrone eased to victory, with an impressive 11 different players on the scoresheet.

Tyrone: N Morgan (0-2, 0-1 45, 0-1 free); L Rafferty, R Brennan, C Meyler; T McCann, A McCrory, B McDonnell (0-2); C Grugan (0-1), B Kennedy; N Sludden (0-2), K Coney (0-1), C McShane (0-2), D McCurry (0-5, 0-1 free), D Mulgrew (0-2, 0-1 free), R Sludden (0-1 free).

Subs: D Canavan (0-1) for D Mulgrew (45), M Murnaghan for T McCann (45), R McNamee for B Kennedy (52), R O’Neill (0-1 free) for D McCurry (58), D McClure for C Grugan (62)

Derry: O Hartin; S Quinn, C Mulholland, E Concannon; G McKinless (0-1 free), E McGill (0-1), R Dougan; E Bradley (0-2), P Cassidy; C McFaul (0-1), C Bradley, P Coney; J Rocks, R Bell (0-3, 0-1 free), E Lynn (0-2).

Subs: P McNeill for C Mulholland (42), P McGrogan for G McKinless (48), B McCarron (0-1) for S Quinn (52),

Referee: P Faloon (Down)

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