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Antrim 1-10 Tyrone 2-13

By Declan Bogue

If the purpose of January football is to uncover players that may play a big part in the summer months, then Mickey Harte is already there after watching his inexperienced Tyrone team blow Antrim aside on their way to a six-point victory in Casement Park.

Darren McCurry, who played in the inside forward line alongside Conor McAliskey, terrorised his marker Sean Finch throughout and hit five points.

It remains a puzzle just why this marking assignment was allowed to continue throughout the entire game.

But it played a large part in securing the points for Tyrone, who now look all but through to the semi-final stages with UUJ coming to Healy Park on Wednesday night to complete the group stage games.

While Harte continues to reveal little about how Tyrone are evolving with one eye on that Ballybofey date in the Ulster Championship, he will be heartened by the development.

Niall Morgan was safe in goal throughout and nailed a ‘45' late on.

Johnny Lafferty came on with 25 minutes left on the clock and showed his aerial ability from kickouts in dominating break ball and catching cleanly.

Overall, they are in rude health with Ronan McNamee also showing up well and Aidan McCrory looking commanding in a sweeper role.

After the game, Antrim boss Frank Dawson optimistically declared himself disappointed to have lost the game by such a margin, but his first match along the sideline against another county boss — especially one as thoughtful as Mickey Harte — will have made up his mind regarding a few matters.

Barring a moment of indecision — or a lack of players showing for a pass — from Antrim goalkeeper Chris Kerr that indirectly led to Peter Harte's goal on six minutes, the Saffrons netminder pulled off a string of brilliant stops, two from the onrushing Sean Cavanagh in the last 10 minutes particular highlights.

There was little he could do to prevent the overall pattern of play, however.

While Antrim hung on in the first half through a Kevin Niblock penalty — awarded when Ronan McNamee barrelled into the back of Niblock as he went to greet Justin Crozier's floated hand-pass across the face of goal — and a succession of free kicks converted by Colm Fleming, a purple patch in midfield from Plunkett Kane drove Tyrone into a position of authority.

While Antrim stationed Sean McVeigh on Sean Cavanagh and negated the normally influential Moy man, they probably weren't banking on the contribution of Kane.

Putting Harte through on 27 minutes for his second goal was an example of his calmness in possession and again, he could be a face for the future as Tyrone face up to their long-standing midfield weaknesses.

That second goal for Harte came dulled Antrim, who took 27 minutes to register their next score from play.

In the meantime, Harte had withdrawn his two deep-lying playmakers Stephen O'Neill and Peter Harte to tremendous applause from the travelling support.

Antrim now face Derry at Celtic Park on Wednesday with both in a chance of making it through to the semi-finals.

Antrim: C Kerr; K O'Boyle [Capt.], P Doherty, S Finch; T Scullion (0-1), D McCann, J Crozier (0-1); S McVeigh (0-1), S McCarron; C Murray (0-1), K Niblock (1-0, 1xpen), C Fleming (0-3, 3f); M McCann (0-1), M Herron, M Pollock. Subs: J Laverty for McCann [half-time], B Herron for Fleming [45m], R Murray for Pollock [49m], P Cunningham (0-2) for Niblock [56m], P McNicholl for Doherty [66m]

Tyrone: N Morgan (0-1, 1x'45') ; A McCrory, C McCarron, D McNally; R McNamee (0-2), C Gormley, S Warnock; P Kane (0-2), S Cavanagh; T McCann, P Harte (2-0), P McNiece; D McCurry (0-5), S O'Neill [Capt.] (0-2, 1f), C McAliskey. Subs: D Carlin for Gormley [27m], Mattie Donnelly for McNiece [half-time], J Lafferty (0-1) for Harte [45m], Joe McMahon for O'Neill [54m], Mark Donnelly for Carlin [57m]

Referee: Ciaran Branagan [Down].

Belfast Telegraph


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