Defending champions Tyrone made it two wins out of two in this season’s McKenna Cup when they defeated Antrim with the minimum of fuss at Casement Park in Belfast yesterday afternoon, writes Kevin Kelly.
Two goals from centre half forward Peter Harte helped Tyrone to a deserved 2-6 to 1-4 advantage at halftime and when they tagged on four of the opening five points in the second half it was all over bar the shouting.
Mickey Harte handed senior debuts to Dean McNally and Sean Warnock with Plunkett Kane, Tiarnan McCann and Conor McAliskey all making their first starts after coming off the bench a week earlier in the victory over Derry.
Star of the show for the winners was Darren McCurry, who weighed in with splendid points from play. The Edendork teenager was in superb form, causing havoc in the Antrim defence every time he gained possession.
Not far behind him was Coalisland man Kane, who gave a brilliant display in the middle of the field. Sean Cavanagh, who had hit seven points in the win over Derry, was targeted by the Saffrons as the man to stop and he was held and dragged at off the ball throughout.
That paved the way, though, for Kane to prove his worth and he took the opportunity with both hands, hitting two fine points as well as providing the assist for Harte’s second goal of the game. Tyrone now host UUJ on Wednesday night in their final group game and it’s difficult to envisage them not advancing to next Sunday’s semi-final were they would face the best runner-up in the three groups.
Tyrone captain Stephen O’Neill opened the scoring in the fifth minute from a free after he had been fouled himself for what proved to be their only score from a placed ball until keeper Niall Morgan knocked over a 45 for their final point.
Sixty seconds later the visitors grabbed a bizarre goal when Antrim full back Paul Doherty committed the cardinal sin of going across his own square and his attempted pass was blocked by Harte and the ball ended up in the net.
It was an early blow for the home side but they wasted no time in responding and after midfielder Sean McVeigh had opened their account they drew level when Kevin Niblock converted a 9th minute penalty after he had been fouled himself.
Wing half back Ronan McNamee then joined the attack to land a brilliant score before Kane got his first point with his weaker left foot. A Colm Fleming free and a Micheal McCann effort from play saw Antrim get back on level terms but that was as good as
it got for them as they managed only one further score in the remainder of the half.
Aidan McCrory, Paddy McNiece and Kane combined for the latter to lay the ball off to Harte and when his first shot was blocked the Errigal Ciaran man made no mistake at the second time of asking to send to the net for a lead that his side was never to
McCurry scored twice either side of Kane’s second point to leave them well on top at the short whistle.
Fleming opened the second half scoring for Antrim from another placed ball but any notion that they had of mounting a comeback was quickly dispelled.
McNamee landed another beauty with McCurry, O’Neill and substitute Johnny Lafferty all scoring as well by the end of the third quarter.
Antrim had their moments with left half back Justin Crozier’s fierce shot producing a brilliant save from Red Hands keeper Morgan. Cavanagh was then narrowly wide with a goal chance before Crozier got the home side a badly needed point.
Great play from Mattie Donnelly and McCurry saw them twice exchange passes before the latter fisted the ball over the bar before Morgan came to his side’s rescue at the other end of the field with a superb fingertip save at the expense of a point from defender Tony Scullion’s shot.
A long ball forward from Conor McAliskey saw McCurry field it before splitting the posts again before Antrim substitute Paddy Cunningham responded with a well-taken brace at the other end of the field.
Morgan then converted that 45 after Cavanagh’s goalbound shot had been saved by Antrim keeper Chris Kerr and, while the home side
had the final say through Conor Murray, it was well over by that stage.