Tyrone retained McKenna Cup to make it five in a row when holding off neighbours and bitter rivals Derry to win a pulsating decider 1-22 to 1-17 at Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
Played before a crowd in excess of seven thousand, the holders demonstrated great resolve and character to come from a seemingly impossible position at the end of seventy minutes to force extra time.
This game had absolutely everything, super scores, sendings-off, nailbiting finish, a couple of penalties and several outstanding individual displays.
Having elected to play into a very strong breeze Derry defended resolutely and restricted Tyrone to three points in the opening twenty minutes.
With Enda Lynn, James Kielt and Emmet Bradley outstanding for the Oak Leafers Derry bossed the opening period and deservedly reached the break 1-5 to four points in front.
Kielt and Lee Brennan traded early points and after both sides had a barren spell Derry got on top in the closing stages of the half.
Kielt and Lynn both split the posts before the Oak Leafers were awarded a 29th minute penalty after Cailean O’Boyle was fouled by Ronan McNamee.
Ryan Bell, who had converted two penalties in the group game between the two counties, saw his spot-kick saved by Niall Morgan but the full forward followed up to send the rebound to the net.
Ronan O’Neill got a much needed point for Tyrone but it was Derry who had the final say of the half through Emmett Bradley to leave it 1-5 to 0-4 at the interval.
Mickey Harte made three changes for the second half with the most significant being the introduction of man of the match Conor Meyler.
The flame haired Omagh man was simply superb as he took the game to Derry and led the Tyrone charge.
Points from Darren McCurry, Niall Sludden, Cathal McShane and Connor McAliskey brought Tyrone back into contention but Derry maintained their three point lead and looked set to end Tyrone’s grip on the competition, Christopher Bradley and Lynn among their marksmen.
As the tension grew in the closing stages Tyrone had defenders Cathal McCarron, red card, and McNamee, double yellow, sent off while Derry’s Daniel McKinless also departed on a second yellow while manager Damian Barton was also dismissed.
Three points adrift it looked as though Tyrone’s grip on the McKenna Cup was going to be loosened but they had other ideas with Meyler landing a brace of points before fellow substitute McCurry sent the game into extra time when he held his nerve with a free with the last kick to leave it 0-15 to 1-12.
Tyrone now had the momentum and, although Derry landed the first two scores of, Tyrone hit six in a row to move four clear at midway.
Damien Barton’s team managed to narrow the gap to two but Tyrone pair Kieran McGeary and McAliskey combined to create a goal chance which saw the Clonoe attacker felled just as he was shooting.
McCurry stepped up to convert the resulting penalty in style to put the icing on the cake as the Red Hands ran out five point winners.