HURLING: Red Hands finish with just eleven, but bag crucial win

�Russell Pritchard 23rd December 2014
Tyrone GAA presents their new Kit for 2015/2016 season at the their launch in Tyrone GAA Centre, Garvaghey, Co.Tyrone.
Tyrone Hurler, Damien Casey
�Russell Pritchard / Presseye
�Russell Pritchard 23rd December 2014 Tyrone GAA presents their new Kit for 2015/2016 season at the their launch in Tyrone GAA Centre, Garvaghey, Co.Tyrone. Tyrone Hurler, Damien Casey �Russell Pritchard / Presseye

The result may have been forecast by many as Tyrone got their National League challenge back on track but, with five minutes left of this Division 3A joust, the mother of all upsets was on the cards.

At that stage, Tyrone trailed 1-12 to 0-11 at Garvaghey, but an astonishing statistic was that they’d been reduced to twelve players.

Kevin Ryan’s men would finish the action with eleven, but they showed commendable bottle to dig themselves out of relegation quagmire by reeling off the final six points to rescue the unlikeliest of wins.

Damian Casey supplied five on his way to an impressive 0-12 contribution, but the Dungannon man had an off day by his usual high standards with the orders coming from the sideline to change free-takers midway through the second half.

However, it is testimony to Casey that when the pressure was on he stepped up in style to deliver the telling blows that has revived hopes of challenging for possible promotion.

Those fine margins weren’t lost on manager Ryan who stated: “Okay, Tiarnan (Morgan) was dismissed in the last couple of minutes, but we had twelve there for a good while. That effort and the intensity they put in with twelve men is what they should be doing all the time. That is what first division teams do. The spirit they showed was fantastic because if we lost we were looking at a relegation battle, but now with two games remaining we are looking towards a potential league final.”

Warks goalkeeper Michael Cremin denied Sean Og Grogan an early goal, at the expense of a 65 that came to nothing before the visitors opened the scoring via a Pauric Crehan free on six minutes. Matthew Mulgrew restored parity and, even though Casey, with two fantastic strikes, edged Tyrone 3-1 in front, they were struggling with the basics.

First touches left a lot to be desired and on several occasions Tyrone took the wrong options, allowing Warks to settle. The industry of Willie Allen, Pauric Treacy and Chris Brough in defence was reciprocated in attack where John Reddan, Crehan and late replacement Colm McBride yielded five unanswered points in twelve minutes.

Midfielder Liam Reale led the charge and, with Tyrone clocking up the wides Joe Meagher, Reddan, Treacy from a 65 and, Crehan all raised white flags for a 6-3 advantage.

Aidan Kelly pointed following a battling passage of play with two further Casey strikes levelling the contest for a third time, but Warks continued to look the better team and two outstanding scores from defender Jac Quinn and Ogie Long allowed them to enjoy an 8-6 interval lead.

And Tyrone were facing an uphill struggle as Cavan referee James Clarke red-carded Padraig McHugh for directing the sliothar towards the match official as frustration surfaced.

Within 15 seconds of the restart skipper Kelly trimmed the deficit but Warks’ deployment of the extra man in defence quelled several promising sorties. Crehan nailed a free only for Gilmore and Casey to haul the favourites level entering the final quarter.

Crehan and Casey swapped frees to maintain the status quo before a Conor Robins point heralded another period of visiting pressure. That dominance yielded a goal on 53 minutes when Shane Morrissey tapped home from close range after goalkeeper Conor McElhatton stopped his initial effort, 1-11 to 0-10.

Casey retorted from another placed ball, but the wheels were coming off the home wagon because keeper McElhatton was straight red carded for voicing his views to the umpire with Crehan tapping over the softest of frees. Moments later Mulgrew was also red-carded and, while Casey knocked over a free Tyrone looked to be chasing a lost cause.

But, with Justin Kelly moving outfield to provide much needed stability Tyrone rose to the challenge in style. Conor Grogan, Casey, Gilmore and Chris Cross responding in a herculean revival. Casey and Justin Kelly narrowed the gap from play before a tenth from Casey levelled the issue for a 6th time entering injury time.

Warks coughed up two frees that Casey converted for 0-17 to 1-12 before the hosts were down to eleven. Morgan collecting a second yellow as he desperately stopped Crehan going for a match winning goal. What a finish and, with Louth up next weekend, Tyrone are still firmly in title contention.