Pre-match rhetoric such as banana skin and ambush in the run-up to Sunday’s championship bout between Sperrin rivals Derry and Tyrone at Celtic Park proved unfounded as the visitors eased their way to an emphatic victory.
This fifth derby instalment this season was expected to be the most compelling, but it turned out to be the most comprehensive victory as Tyrone made it five on the trot.
Mickey Harte’s side, strongly fancied to challenge for a first Anglo-Celt Cup in six years,they justified that tag with an impressive opening display that simply blew Derry away. Three goals underlined the dominance in establishing a 3-8 to 0-6 interval lead. Ronan O’Neill poached two of them with Peter Harte’s major on cusp of the short whistle effectively ending the match as a contest, Tyrone registering a first senior championship triumph at the Maiden City.
Harte, Tiernan McCann and Cathal McCarron were industrious throughout, while Colm Cavanagh delivered another energy-sapping display in the engine room alongside Mattie Donnelly to snuff out the Derry threat after a fairly competitive opening quarter.
Defending in numbers and countering at speed, Tyrone’s pace, movement and support tore the Derry rearguard to shreds with Richard Donnelly, O’Neill, Sean Cavanagh and Connor McAliskey posing considerable problems.
Derry finished the match with thirteen after the black-carding of Ciarán McFaul (having seen yellow earlier) and, straight-red carding of skipper Chrissy McKaigue for elbowing Colm Cavanagh, when the outcome was a formality.
After a promising seventeen minutes Derry collapsed, became ponderous in attack, hesitant in defence - and over-elaborated moves were regularly turned over by a Tyrone outfit at a higher pace.
A James Kielt free provided the first score, but Tyrone’s response was an indication of what was to come. Brendan Rogers coughed up possession and in a devastating counter-attack O’Neill gathered Richard Donnelly’s long ball before sidestepping the cover to slam to the empty net for 1-0 to 0-1.
Sean Cavanagh hit a trademark point and, as both teams defied testing conditions they served up some thrilling fare and scores. Danny Heavron hoisted over from distance, McShane and O’Neill splitting the target as Tyrone moved four clear. Mark Lynch and an exquisite strike from Kielt kept it even and, when Kielt tapped over a close free for a one point deficit, the match was living up to its billing.
That was as good as it got for Derry and, by the time they registered again, Tyrone had established complete domination. O’Neill added a free and, showed great awareness to poach an opportunist goal, when he toe-poked home a rebound after keeper Thomas Mallon had denied Cavanagh.
The introduction of Darren McCurry for injured Mark Bradley bolstered the Tyrone attacking options, the Edendork man teeing up Mattie Donnelly for a tidy score. McAliskey nailed a free and poor kick-outs punished in style, McAliskey and McCurry pointing in the space of a minute.
Derry’s patient approach suited Tyrone who were content to absorb pressure until defender Karl McKaigue ended a 20minute barren spell for the hosts on 36 minutes. Tyrone sealing things a minute later, the Cavanaghs combining beautifully to send the supporting Harte in for goal number three and a healthy eleven point advantage.
Derry threatened briefly on the restart with route one football that saw Cailean O’Boyle and Kielt missing goal chances before McCurry meandered through to tap over. Tyrone’s workrate dropped considerably with five of their six points from substitutes.
Kielt retaliated with a free only to see Richard Donnelly finish a super move. Derry hit four as Ryan Bell landed a free and gem from play and, after sub Eoghan Brown pointed, Heavron kicked another peach, 0-11 to 3-10, Derry having lost McFaul to a black card.
Sub Padraig McNulty fisted over with McCurry and Kielt exchanging frees as the intensity and frequency of the challenges increased. Derry losing McKaigue to a straight red for reacting to a foul by Cavanagh before iovertime points from Jonathan Munroe and a sublime McCurry effort rubberstamped an emphatic win and a clash with Cavan or Armagh.
Derry: Thomas Mallon, Oisín Duffy, Brendan Rogers, Karl McKaigue, Kevin Johnston, Chrissy McKaigue, Gareth McKinless, Niall Holly, Daniel Heavron, Shane Heavron, James Kielt, Ciarán McFaul, Niall Toner, Emmett McGuckin, Mark Lynch. Subs: Dermot McBride for Duffy, Ryan Bell for McGuckin, Cailean O’Boyle for S Heavron, Eoghan Brown for Lynch, Gerard O’Kane for Johnston, Conor McAtamney for Holly
Scorers: James Kielt 0-5, Daniel Heavron 0-2, Ryan Bell 0-2, Karl McKaigue 0-1, Mark Lynch 0-1, Eoghan Brown 0-1
Tyrone: Michael O’Neill, Aidan McCrory, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron, Tiernan McCann, Niall Sludden, Peter Harte, Colm Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly, Cathal McShane, Mark Bradley, Richard Donnelly, Connor McAliskey, Sean Cavanagh, Ronan O’Neill. Subs: Darren McCurry for Bradley, Padraig McNulty for R Donnelly, Jonathan Munroe for McShane, Kieran McGeary for Sludden, Padraig Hampsey for McCarron, Barry Tierney for McAliskey
Scorers: Ronan O’Neill 2-2, Darren McCurry 0-4, Peter Harte 1-0, Connor McAliskey 0-2, Sean Cavanagh 0-1, Cathal McShane 0-1, Mattie Donnelly 0-1, Richard Donnelly 0-1, Padraig McNulty 0-1, Jonathan Munroe 0-1
Referee: David Coldrick, Meath