Tyrone are McKenna Cup winners for the sixth year in a row but they surely didn’t expect to get it as easy against a very disappointing Derry side in the decider at Pairc Esler in Newry on Saturday evening.
The result was never in doubt and manager Mickey Harte was happy with the way that things went.
“That’s ideally what you want out of the McKenna Cup, giving game time and still getting results, and we have managed to balance that pretty well for the last five or six years,” he said.
“And that’s the challenge always, to be competitive, to give new players a chance and still be in the competition as long as possible. It’s a good way to finish the month, but that’s over now, that’s done, and it is now all about the National league that begins next Sunday.”
Tyrone seemed to run at will through an overworked Derry defence with the off the ball movement a sight to behold for the majority of the seventy odd minutes.
“They do work hard on the training field, and we do a lot of ball work on the training field, and they know the style of play that we want them to play with,” said Mickey.
“And I suppose you only hope that they progress during the year, and as the season gets tougher and the challenges get harder, they’ll be able to bring that sort of preparation to bear.
“That was good tonight, we did do some really good movement up the field. Probably as usual, with the conditions that prevailed, there was a few mishandlings, a few wrong shot selections, a few wrong pass selections, but that’s all part and parcel to be progressing to be better than you were the last time out, and I think that was a good performance.
“We were very conscious that the last time we lost the McKenna Cup final, in 2011 against Derry, and they were 1-7 to 0-2 up at half-time, and the next time they scored, we were 1-8 to 1-7 up, so if that was able to be done by us back then, we had to be in our guard that they wouldn’t do the same for us.
“So it was critical that we would start well, and Conor Meyler’s point at the start of the second half was just exactly what we needed to not let the gap close, but widen it before it got a chance to close. And that’s what happened, and I think that’s what kept us ahead of the game.”
Apart from the opening ten minutes this was complete one way traffic with Derry getting their goal three minutes into injury time at the end of the game.
On the night Derry managed only two points from play but while their display left a lot to be desired you have to give credit to Tyrone.
They never looked back from the moment midfielder Colm Cavanagh found the net in the 17th minute as they gave a superb display of attacking football that their opponents simply couldn’t match. Even though the result was a foregone conclusion long before the final whistle the winners played as though there was only a point or two in it, giving Derry no time on the ball with places in the starting fifteen for next weekend’s National league opener with Roscommon up for grabs.
Emmett McGuckin and James Kielt had Derry points either side of a Tyrone score from Ronan O’Neill but that was the only time that Derry would register in the first half. Declan McClure levelled matters before good work from Niall Sludden, Ronan O’Neill and Padraig McNulty resulted in Cavanagh blasting the ball to the net.
Sixty seconds later Ryan Bell was unlucky to see his shot for a goal cannon off the bar but even if it had gone in it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game. Tyrone made good their escape with points from Peter Harte, O’Neill, Mark Bradley and man of the match Mattie Donnelly as they established a 1-7 to 0-2 interval lead.
Within twenty five seconds of the restart the hard working Conor Meyler had added to Tyrone’s advantage before a free from Kielt ended Derry’s barren spell. Harte and Kielt exchanged efforts from frees before Ryan Bell got Derry’s second and last point from play. Donnelly and Cahir McCullagh added t Tyrone’s tally before Kielt weighed in with his third free of the contest.
In the 58th minute O’Neill was brought down for a penalty and team Captain Harte made no mistake with his conversion from the spot. Substitute Conall McCann then got his name on the scoresheet as the incisive running from Tyrone continued to put Derry on the back foot. Mark Lynch blasted over a Derry free while Niall Loughlin half volleyed to the net past Niall Morgan late on but it only served to put a better look on the scoreboard on a night to forget for the Oak Leaf County.
Tyrone – Niall Morgan, Aidan McCrory, Justin McMahon, Cathal McCarron, Padraig Hampsey, Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Colm Cavanagh, Padraig McNulty, Declan McClure, Niall Sludden, Conor Meyler, Mark Bradley, Cahir McCullagh, Ronan O’Neill. Subs – Sean Cavanagh for Colm Cavanagh, Darren McCurry for Bradley, Conal McCann for McCullagh, Ronan McHugh for Harte, Cathal McShane for Sludden
Scorers – Peter Harte 1-2, Colm Cavanagh 1-0, Mattie Donnelly 0-2, Mark Bradley 0-2, Ronan O’Neill 0-2, Declan McClure 0-1, Niall Sludden 0-1, Conor Meyler 0-1, Cahir McCullagh 0-1, Conal McCann 0-1
Derry – Thomas Mallon, Niall Keenan, Conor Nevin, Ronan Murphy, Neil Forester, Oisin Duffin, Peter Hagan, Conor McAtamney, Michael McEvoy, Enda Lynn, James Kielt, Mark Lynch, Emmett McGuckin, Ryan Bell, Niall Loughlin. Subs – Mark Craig for Duffin, Gavin O’Neill for McAtamney, Patrick Coney for McEvoy, Michael Warnock for Hagan, Barry Grant for Kielt, Conor McGroogan for Murphy
Scorers – James Kielt 0-3, Niall Loughlin 1-0, Mark Lynch 0-2, Ryan Bell 0-1, Emmet McGuckin 0-1
Referee – Sean Laverty, Antrim.