Tyrone appear to have lost their ruthless streak but Derry have no such problems

Darragh Canavan came good at big moments during the second half of Tyrone's win over Armagh Picture by Philip Walsh
Darragh Canavan came good at big moments during the second half of Tyrone's win over Armagh Picture by Philip Walsh Darragh Canavan came good at big moments during the second half of Tyrone's win over Armagh Picture by Philip Walsh

TO say that Tyrone rode the donkey too close to the tail on Saturday evening, would be an understatement.

Four points to the good at half-time. A man to the good, and Armagh’s talisman and free-taker Rian O’Neill in the dugout. It really should have been more comfortable than it was.

But that ruthlessness we associated with Tyrone teams of old, doesn’t seem to be there right now.

The heart-in-the-mouth moment when Niall Morgan slipped at the end easily could have ended up in a goal that would have left the Red Hands blushing with embarrassment.

The 8-4 score-line at half-time perhaps flattered Tyrone a little as Armagh had missed three really good goal-chances.

Had Conor Turbitt, Jason Duffy or Jarly Óg Burns converted these opportunities this game could have been very different.

Credit to Niall Morgan for pulling off two top-drawer saves, but Tyrone had their chances too with an effort from Peter Harte smashing off the post. The sending-off was a defining moment and having watched in back a few times, I don’t think Rian O’Neill can have too many complaints.

When iT was still 15 v15, the terms of engagement from Armagh on the Tyrone kickout was to concede and begin to make contact at the opposition ‘45’. I’m not sure if this ultra-cautious approach bore much joy.

Tyrone’s fourth point by Darren McCurry made a mockery out of that strategy as the ball was easily worked up the pitch without any contact coming from the Armagh defensive structure.

I feel making gains from the opposition kick-out has been a problem for Armagh as they struggle to get an effective full press in place when required.

An interesting stat is that Tyrone scored 0-9 that originated from unopposed short kick-outs. Of course, after the sending off Armagh had to be more conservative, but it was the scores they coughed up prior to this by just letting Tyrone have the ball. Ironically, when they had to go for broke, a man down with 10 minutes to go, they actually got joy off the Niall Morgan restart. Andrew Murnin was a colossus at winning possession around the middle in the last quarter.

In terms of the match-ups, Tyrone had the measure of the Armagh key men but at the other end it was the story of the two Ds.

Darren McCurry was the tormentor in the first half with a hat-trick of scores from play. Darragh Canavan picked up the mantle in the second with some moments of breathtaking brilliance that one might say ‘he didn’t lick aff the grass’.

With time almost up there were a couple of occasions at the weekend when teams needed a goal but strangely the player took the point only for full-time to be blown from the next kick-out. Armagh’s Oisin Conaty was one, but the exact same thing also happened in the Mayo v Louth game yesterday.

After the last couple of games, Derry had come in for criticism that they were becoming just too reliant on Shane McGuigan.

I pointed this out in my column last week and how concerning it was that they failed to generate any scores from midfield or defence against Monaghan.

Yesterday they had no such bother as they ran rampant at Donegal with devastating effect. Goals from Newbridge men Conor Doherty and Padraig McGrogan were big moments but the energy from the likes of Conor McCluskey and Gareth McKinless to break lines and create openings was huge.

Attaining scores from all over the pitch again and 0-4 from the impressive Paul Cassidy were signs that Derry are still a force to be reckoned with.

Donegal battled gamely with plenty of sniffs at goal themselves and they definitely asked some questions of the Derry defence and kick-out. Up top Oisin Gallen was excellent but Derry’s ability to carve out and convert chances was on a different level.

Donegal will rue a first half where they converted just six out of 16 chances compared to Derry who scored 0-9 from just 11 shots.

Just a point behind, the Jason McGee goal-chance on 25 minutes was a big moment in the game for Donegal. A brilliant double save by Odhran Lynch and Brendan Rogers, was followed up by a Ciaran Thompson ‘45’ that was kicked wide.

From the next kick-out Derry went up the field and Shane McGuigan kicked a lovely score from out on the left. Instead of being two points up, Donegal were trailing by two. Two soon became four as Derry won long consecutive long kick-outs at both ends. As much as Donegal battled gamely in the second half and refused to be put to sleep, the Oak Leafers looked like they could score with ease every time they went forward.

The post Ulster-final hangover looks to be have been well and truly shaken off.