Two points in the closing minutes from man of the match Damian Casey and Conor Grogan helped Tyrone to an impressive success over Fingal at St David’s yesterday.
Overnight rain forced the National Hurling League game to be switched from the Parnell’s club in Coolock to the College playing fields and, in testing conditions, the Tyrone managerial team will have been delighted by the response of their players.
Trailing 1-12 to 1-10 midway through the second half, Tyrone looked to be heading for defeat when Kilkenny whistler Gavin Quilty issued a second yellow card to midfielder Shea McKiver. However, Tyrone battened down the hatches and fought back in thrilling fashion with Grogan’s strike denying the Dubliners a point that their battling efforts probably deserved.
Cillian O’Flynn earned a late call up to the Fingal team and, he made his presence count with an impressive shift as the hosts tried to build on their opening round triumph over Fermanagh. Eoin O’Connor posted the lead score inside the opening minute and, as Tyrone struggled to settle further points from O’Flynn and Paul McAlister had them 3-0 ahead after only three minutes play.
Damian Casey rifled over a 6th minute free to get Tyrone going and, before the final whistle the young Dungannon star was to make his own indelible mark on the contest with an exhibition of striking on his way to a 0-11 tally.
JM Sheridan and a second from O’Flynn made it 5-1 on ten minutes, but Tyrone were warming to the task as Padraig McHugh, Mike O’Gorman and Conor Casey started to get to grips with a potent Fingal forward division.
Casey knocked over a 65 and then converted a free on 17 minutes only to see the Dubliners retorting via the hurls of Dave Smyth and O’Flynn as they maintained their narrow advantage.
However, as play swung from end to end at a frenetic pace, it was Tyrone, who started to show their worth. Casey added point four to his name before Matthew Mulgrew weighed in with a vital strike on 24 minutes.
A Sheridan free left the score 8-5, but it was Tyrone, who closed the half out in style. Gerard Gilmore fired the sliothar to the back of Craig Harford’s net on 28 minutes and, when wing back Tiernan Morgan hoisted over from distance, Tyrone enjoyed what appeared to be an unlikely 1-6 to 0-8 half time lead.
Fingal started the second half with a spring in their step and three points in the opening seven minutes saw them regain the upper hand. Sheridan pointed on 38 minutes with Danny Butterly and a Sheridan 65 illustrating the confidence of the hosts.
Niall Ring was having a terrific joust with Casey, but Tyrone battled back. Mulgrew opened their account on 43 minutes before Casey levelled the match for the first of six times in the second half.
Sheridan added to his tally and then on 49 minutes Fingal looked set for victory when O’Connor evaded the Tyrone cover to score a goal for a 1-12 to 1-8 lead.
In the 52nd minute Casey raised Tyrone hopes with another free conversion, but soon after Tyrone could so easily have been on the ropes, when McKiver picked up a second cautionable offence. Down to fourteen players Tyrone rose to the occasion in stunning fettle.
Mulgrew and Casey twice hit points as Tyrone brought their unanswered tally to 0-5. O’Flynn restored parity on 60 minutes and as a gripping contest remained in the balance both teams stood toe to toe to the final whistle.
Casey and Sheridan swapped frees in a three minute spell before substitute Paul Graves thought he had won it for Fingal.
It wasn’t to be because Tyrone closed the game out on a high, Casey’s eleventh point of the afternoon levelling the match as injury time approached leaving Grogan to hit what could prove to be a priceless winner.
Tyrone, therefore, now sharepole position with Monaghan after the Farney men upset Roscommon, a very satisfactory start for the Red Hands team.