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Harte is eager to build on joy of six

Tyrone 2-13 - Derry1-07

By Declan Bogue

With Derry already beaten and Tyrone picking off long-range scores for fun, the final whistle that confirmed they had just captured their sixth consecutive Dr McKenna Cup was more akin to a golf clap.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in Newry on Saturday night was the visit of James Brokenshire, sitting to the right of Ulster Council President Michael Hasson, the first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to attend a GAA match in this country.

In that uncertain moment when you don't want to appear too happy about winning a McKenna Cup, Tyrone boss Mickey Harte said: "We have done well in the McKenna Cup in the last six years. If you look back at our progress over that period of time, we weren't too bad.

"We were in a league Division One final and we have been in an Ulster final and won it, and we have been in All-Ireland semi-finals, so I don't think there's any way you can say doing well in the McKenna Cup mitigates against doing well the rest of the season.

"So we'll take it as a positive and we'll try and build on it."

His opposite number Damian Barton was asked the direct question that avoiding injury was more important than competing bald-headed for the trophy, as his players turned in a performance drenched in naivety.

"Emotionally and physically they were on a different level as the game wore on. Our defence played valiantly but I think there was so much coming through the middle third it was very hard to cope," he said.

"Obviously we had a couple of players we couldn't call upon. Without demeaning this, we got our final last week in terms of how the guys responded. Tyrone are very slick and they are ahead of most teams at the moment, certainly us.

"The league game in Omagh last year, only three people started who were out there tonight and I think if anything it is a synopsis of where we are from last season."

Derry found some joy early on with the long ball to Emmet McGuckin, with the rest of the forward line withdrawn to give him plenty of space. Harte soon rumbled it after the first couple of possessions and with Enda Lynn withdrawing to a sweeper role for the Oak Leafs, Harte stationed spare man Matthew Donnelly on McGuckin's toes, while man-marker Cathal McCarron was on his heels.

The tide went Tyrone's way in an eventful two minutes. Matthew Donnelly blocked down a Neil Forrester shot and the ball was moved upfield with pace and Derry's shape distorted. Some quick hands from Ronan O'Neill and Padraig McNulty led to Colm Cavanagh picking up a collector's item of a goal.

Soon after, McGuckin gathered a loose ball and transferred to James Kielt, who put Ryan Bell through. He opted for power rather than placement, though, and his shot rattled the crossbar and came back out.

From that point on, the Red Hands took control and restricted Derry to 40 minutes without a score from play.

Donnelly excelled in his new role at centre-back, aided in part that Derry had nobody to mark him as he took up the style of a point-guard in basketball, decorating his man of the match performance with superb points in either half, showcasing his burst of speed and his masterful technique of ball striking.

Their second goal arrived with a neat Peter Harte penalty, while the Oak Leafs' major came in injury-time when Niall Loughlin steered home a Mark Craig shot.

Overall, Mickey Harte was pleased with a month that started in disaster as three players were injured in a bruising defeat to Cavan - Connor McAliskey ruled out for the season - and ended in another trophy lifted by Peter Harte (left).

"It's great that we turned around a first day defeat, which didn't look pretty when it happened to us," he reflected.

"We picked up a lot of injuries and it wasn't a good day for us, but I think there's great resilience in the boys. They rolled up their sleeves and had to fight for a semi-final place.

"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."

They will now get ready for the visit of Roscommon to Healy Park in the first National League game this Sunday.

TYRONE: N Morgan; A McCrory, J McMahon, P Hampsey; C McCarron, M Donnelly (0-2), P Harte (1-2, pen, 2f); C Cavanagh (1-0), P McNulty; D McClure (0-1), N Sludden (0-1), C Meyler (0-1); M Bradley (0-2), C McCullagh (0-1), R O'Neill (0-2)

Subs: S Cavanagh for C Cavanagh (HT), D McCurry for Bradley (HT), C McCann (0-1) for McCullagh (44), R McHugh for Harte (59), C McShane for Sludden (59)

Yellow cards: C Cavanagh (35), McClure (48), Mc Shane (66)

Black cards: 0 Red cards: 0

DERRY: T Mallon; N Keenan, C Nevin, R Murphy; N Forrester, O Duffin, P Hagan; C McAtamney, M McEvoy; E Lynn, J Kielt (0-3, 3f), N Loughlin (1-0); M Lynch (0-2, 2f), R Bell (0-1), E McGuckin (0-1)

Subs: M Warnock for Hagan (HT), P Coney for McEvoy (44), M Craig for Duffin (51), G O'Neill for McAtamney (51), B Grant for Kielt (58), C McGroogan for Murphy (61)

Yellow cards: McGuckin (25), Coney (48), O'Neill (63)

Black cards: 0 Red cards: 0

Referee: Sean Laverty (Antrim)

Attendance: 4,618

 

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