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Tyrone triumph boosts efforts to keep Dr McKenna Cup

Tyrone 2-9 Antrim 0-6

By John Campbell

Published 14/01/2016

Up close: Antrim’s Michael McCann under pressure from Padraig McNulty at Healy Park
Up close: Antrim’s Michael McCann under pressure from Padraig McNulty at Healy Park

Holders Tyrone made it three wins out of three in the Bank Of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup when they had a comfortable nine point victory over Antrim at Healy Park.

It was a contest that never rose to any great heights with only one point from play scored on the night.

After scoring a goal in the opening attack of the game the home side never looked back as they established a nine point interval advantage.

The least said about the second half the better as the standard from both sides was poor and the only crumbs of comfort that the visitors will take from the game is that they managed to draw 0-4 each with their opponents in the second period.

Tyrone led 2-5 to 0-2 at the interval and they were full value for that advantage despite failing to score a point from play.

The home side were led by Sean Cavanagh, who was a late replacement for All-Star Mattie Donnelly, and they got off to a dream start. The game was only 25 seconds old when an effort for a point from Lee Brennan dropped short and full forward Padraig McNulty punched the ball to the net past keeper Chris Kerr.

Tyrone were playing with a lot of men behind the ball but when they attacked they did so at pace and the Antrim defence struggled to cope.

Ronan O'Neill and Brennan both converted frees before keeper Niall Morgan sent a sweetly struck "45" straight between the posts for a 1-4 to 0-0 lead after 18 minutes.

As the half wore on the Saffrons began to enjoy more possession but they were unable to make an impact against the mass Tyrone defence and more times than not they went across the field or backroads. O'Neill landed a superb free from out on the left touchline and Morgan got a second "45".

It took Antrim 33 minutes to open their account via a fine free from distance from Michael McCann and that was followed by a successful "45" from the boot of substitute Colm Fleming.

The opening half though finished in style as far as Tyrone were concerned with an outstanding goal.

Justin McMahon played the ball down the right wing to Brennan and after that it was all about the talented teenager as he went past a couple of defenders before finishing in style low to the net past a stranded Kerr.

That left the hosts well on top at the short whistle.

Tyrone were able to use their full compliment of substitutes in the second half safe in the knowledge that they had the game won but there is no doubt their performance dipped.

The second half was less than 60 seconds old when Cathal McShane cut in from the left wing to hit a brilliant point, the only one from play on the night.

Any hope that the sizable home support had that the Red Hands would turn on the style soon disappeared though.

Morgan knocked over a long range free with Brennan on target from a placed ball but Tyrone were to score just once more in the remaining 28 minutes of the game.

To their credit the Saffrons played a lot better in the second half although at no stage did they look like getting in for the goal that they required to try and make a game of it.

Fleming knocked over three frees with McCann on target from a placed ball as well.

Substitute McAliskey had the final say for the home side who now meet neighbours Fermanagh in Sunday's semi-final showdown.

Tyrone: N Morgan (0-3, 1f, 2 "45s"), A McCrory, C McCarron, HP McGeary, B Tierney, J McMahon, P Harte, H Og Conlon, C Clarke, S Cavanagh, M Bradley, C McShane (0-1), L Brennan (1-2, 2f), P McNulty (1-0), R O'Neill (0-2,2f). Subs - C McAliskey (0-1, 1f) for Cavanagh, M Donnelly for McCrory, D McCurry for O'Neill, J Monroe for Harte, P Quinn for Brennan, N Sludden for McShane

Antrim: C Kerr, K O'Boyle, J Dowling, J McGreevy, J Laverty, J Crozier, B Sinnott, J Carron, S McVeigh, M Armstrong, K Niblock, M McCann (0-2, 2f), P Kelly, B Neeson, D Nugent. Subs - C Fleming (0-4, 3f, 1 "45") for Kelly, O Hamill for McGreevy, P Gallagher for Sinnott, C Duffin for Armstrong, P Kelly for Dowling

Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh)

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