13-man Tyrone sink Derry in extra time to win McKenna Cup

Red Hand get the better of Ulster rivals as January ends with blood and thunder clash

 

Tyrone 1-22 Derry 1-17 (AET)

January was never supposed to be like this.

Tyrone and Derry dispensed with the predictable routine of pre-season skirmishes and opted instead for a full-blooded, high octane version of a compelling rivalry in Saturday night’s dramatic Dr McKenna Cup final.

13-man Tyrone fought back from three points down in a final quarter which reached championship levels of intensity to force extra time.

No-one quite knew how they got there, although a heated row in the corner of the Athletic Grounds pitch which led to the dismissals of Tyrone pair Cathal McCarron (straight red) and Ronan McNamee (two yellows) and saw Derry manager Damian Barton sent to the stands after needlessly running down to get involved, undoubtedly galvanised the Red Hands.

Darren McCurry nailed a free in the sixth minute of stoppage time, after four minutes had been signalled, to force a 0-15 to 1-12 draw and Tyrone were the stronger team in extra time. They hit six unanswered points in the opening period, with McCurry drilling home a late penalty to seal a fifth McKenna Cup in a row for Mickey Harte.

Having already lost a couple of early season rumbles to Tyrone, Derry were determined to lay down a marker ahead of the league and Ulster championship battles to come.

They should have won it in normal time, yet at the end of a gripping 100 minute encounter they were the ones left counting the cost.

Enda Lynn, their best player on the night, was stretchered off near the end with a suspected broken ankle while Brendan Rogers had to be taken to hospital with a facial gash sustained straight after the throw-in.

Afterwards assistant manager Tony Scullion fretted about the injuries, but was happy with the new life that’s been breathed into a rivalry he described as “healthy”.

“All over Ireland people would come to see Tyrone and Derry play and it’s life and death. When it comes to Derry and Tyrone, that makes football.”

Derry scored an unanswered 1-4 in a ten minute spell in the first half, Ryan Bell with the goal after his penalty was initially blocked by Niall Morgan, and they led by 1-5 to 0-4 at the break.

The introduction of Conor Meyler, Darren McCurry and Niall Sludden, who kicked 1-8 between them, ignited Tyrone.

They still trailed by two when the melee erupted in the 65th minute. Lynn’s point put Derry 1-12 to 0-12 ahead, but the drama was only starting.

Meyler replied instantly with a point and a free and then in the sixth minute of stoppage time, Sludden was fouled and McCurry levelled with the equalising free.

Somehow, Tyrone had salvaged the situation to finish level and the momentum was with them. They hit six points in a row, Cathal McShane with two of them, to lead 0-21 to 1-14 at half time before McCurry drilled home a late penalty.

“You would need a month’s training to deal with that kind of pressure and intensity,” said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

“Some people disrespect the McKenna Cup but we never did that. It always brings teams on. The rest of the season will determine how good that was.”

Tyrone: N Morgan; C McCarron, R McNamee, HP McGeary (0-1); T McCann (0-1), J McMahon, B Tierney; C Cavanagh, C Clarke; H Og Conlon, M Donnelly, C McShane (0-3); L Brennan (0-4, 2f), R O’Neill (0-1), P Quinn

Subs: P McNulty for Clarke (HT), C Meyler (0-3, 1f) for Conlon (HT), C McAliskey (0-3, 3f) for Quinn (HT), D McCurry (1-3, pen, 1f) for O’Neill (47), N Sludden (0-2) for McMahon (51), J Munroe (0-1) for McShane (66), P Hampsey for Tierney (72), C McShane for HP McGeary (76)

Derry: T Mallon; C Mullan, M Craig, K McKaigue; G McKinless, C McKaigue, D Heavron; B Rogers, E Bradley (0-2); E Lynn (0-3), J Kielt (0-3, 2f), B Heron; S Heavron, C O’Boyle (0-1, f), R Bell (1-1, f)

Subs: C McAtamney (0-1) for Rogers (1), C Bradley (0-1) for S Heavron (32), O Duffy (0-1) for Craig (41), C Kearns (0-2) for Heron (49), D McKinless for Bell (53), N Forrester (0-1) for G McKinless (59), G McWilliams (0-1, f) for Kielt (79), P Quinn for D Heavron (81), S Mulgrew for Kearns (83)

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)

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