Red Hands dig deep to chop down Oak Leafers
Derry 4-06 - Tyrone 1-16
Tyrone came from nine points down after only 23 minutes to edge a one-point win against Derry in Owenbeg in a richly combative contest for January.
Cuteness might just be the one lesson that Derry gleam from this loss. At half-time, Cathal McCarron came on for Pádraig Hampsey, who had been booked just before the break after wrestling with Emmet McGuckin, who also entered the book.
Seven minutes into the second-half, McCarron and McGuckin clashed. Referee Ciaran Branagan gave two yellow cards, leaving Derry at a numerical disadvantage for the rest of the game.
Oak Leaf boss Damian Barton said: "Surely it's just a forward trying to get space?
"We won two penalties and they ended up with 15 men and we had 14, so how did that add up? I am not getting at Tyrone, but it is very difficult and I thought we defended valiantly and I could not ask more from the players."
Barton's passion was clearly evident as he made a number of excursions onto the playing pitch to issue instructions. Tyrone weren't exactly living a charmed life either with the officials. Justin McMahon got a black card on 17 minutes for disputing a decision too forcefully, a rare example of the rules being correctly applied in the circumstances.
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte said: "We all know that refereeing is not an easy job. "The conditions that prevail at this time of the year makes it even more difficult.
"We have to let the referee do what he will and Justy probably engaged in a way that he would be better not to. He will learn from that and we will have to accept it. If that's a lesson we learn in January, wouldn't it be useful not to fall victim to it later in the year?"
It took the Red Hands an age to get going. After an almost scoreless opening quarter, Benny Heron had the first Derry goal despite the best efforts of Hampsey.
Mark Craig, a Mark Lynch free and an effort from Ryan Bell stretched the home lead before Derry's first penalty. A Heron through ball came loose at the feet of McGuckin, who was upended illegally by Michael O'Neill. Bell put the penalty into the top left corner.
The Tyrone response was fairly ominous. On went Mattie Donnelly as a black card replacement, along with McCarron and Mark Bradley. Sean Cavanagh also followed them on as they reeled off 1-10, with only a single Derry point in response over the next 20 minutes.
Another penalty kept Derry alive. McCarron nudged Lynch and escaped a second yellow card, while Bell drove it low this time.
A flowing move involving substitute Enda Lynn, Lynch and Craig ended up with the latter hitting their fourth goal.
Christopher Bradley added another point to put Derry two points up after Tyrone had spent the previous 20 minutes looking comfortable with the extra man.
However, that also carries the threat of tiring legs, which became a factor in the last 10 minutes.
Donnelly, Ronan O'Neill and Bradley were all fouled as they made to get past the Derry defensive cover, with both sides reverting to the kind of formations we are likely to see in the summer, and Conor McAliskey pointed a trio of resulting dead balls to leave Tyrone in the box seat.
However, Derry can feel aggrieved at how soft some of those frees were, and how they themselves were denied frees in open play. There was a final chance for the Oak Leafs to draw level, but James Kielt's shot from distance fell short.
DERRY: T Mallon; R Ferris, D McBride, O Duffy; D Heavron, C McKaigue, M Craig 1-1; E Bradley, M Lynch 0-2, 2f; C McFaul, C Bradley 0-1, B Heron 1-0; E McGuckin, R Bell 2-2, 2 x penalties, C Murphy. Subs: K McKaigue for Duffy (45m), E Lynn for Heron (47m), J Kielt for Murphy (52m) C McAtamney for E Bradley (57m), S Mulgrew for C Bradley (64m), P Quinn for Ferris (66m)
Yellow cards: Heron (33m), McGuckin (33, and 42m), Kielt (67m), McBride (70m)
Red cards: McGuckin (42m)
TYRONE: M O'Neill; A McCrory, P Hampsey, J Munroe 0-1; C Clarke, J McMahon, N Sludden 0-1; P McNulty, R Donnelly 0-4; D Mulgrew 0-1, P Harte 0-1, K McGeary; D McCurry 0-1, C McAliskey 0-5, 5f, P Quinn 1-0
Subs: C McCarron and M Bradley 0-1, 1f for Hampsey and Clarke (h-time), S Cavanagh 0-1 for Quinn (40m), R O'Neill for McGeary (51m), C McShane for Munroe (70m)
Yellow cards: M Donnelly and Hampsey (33m), McCarron (42m), McAliskey (72m)
Black cards: Justin McMahon (17m, replaced by M Donnelly)
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)