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Dr McKenna Cup: Thrilling final that was worth the wait

By John Campbell

Derry 2-12 Tyrone 2-11: Derry manager John Brennan’s hopes of seeing his side achieve redemption following their recent 14-point drubbing by Laois in the Allianz Football League have now been partially fulfilled following this dramatic one-point victory over deadly rivals Tyrone in a thrilling Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

But for his Red Hands counterpart Mickey Harte, a third defeat in his side’s last four competitive matches suggests that further remedial action is required before stability can be regained.

If the Ulster Council’s early-season competition proved something of a long, drawn-out saga for a variety of reasons, then secretary Danny Murphy’s prediction that it would provide a fascinating climax was fully borne out.

“I know some people had become frustrated because of the series of postponements, but this final has surely provided confirmation of the real value of the McKenna Cup tournament,” said Murphy.

“We have had some very interesting matches and a raft of new talent has surfaced. The final was certainly worth waiting for.”

The second half in particular was something to savour, when Tyrone mounted a vibrant |recovery operation after finding themselves 1-7 to 0-2 in arrears at the break.

While the capture of the McKenna Cup will afford Derry a measure of satisfaction, the fact that Enda Muldoon roared back into action for the first time this year and that PJ McCloskey and James Conway bedded down much better at midfield, while Paddy Bradley is back to his best form clearly pleased manager Brennan.

“This turned out to be a replica of the league game between the sides earlier in the year. Tyrone came back at us again and showed that they are a very good team. I thought that our second goal was crucial to the outcome, even though it came against the run of play,” said Brennan.

The manager revealed that this was his team’s eighth game in nine weeks and went on to suggest that this had represented a rather demanding baptism for his younger players.

“They have come through very strongly and it was also good to see the likes of Enda Muldoon back in action for the first time this year. The fact that he scored 1-2 into the bargain speaks for |itself,” added Brennan.

“I think all the players deserve full credit for this performance. Tyrone are never easy to play against and they showed their worth especially in the second half when they came back at us so strongly.

“We maybe should have pushed on because of our eight-point interval lead, but Tyrone’s character was such that we found ourselves hanging on.”

Paddy Bradley’s four points from frees and Muldoon’s superbly executed goal formed the bulk of Derry’s first-half scoring, with Sean Cavanagh responding for Tyrone’s meagre two points, one from a free.

But in the third quarter Tyrone proved much more lively and inventive. Martin Penrose (2), Owen Mulligan and the superb Cavanagh (2) all landed points before the latter whipped in a typical opportunist goal that further galvanised the Red Hands.

Derry, though, responded in the 56th minute when defender Ciaran Mullan was on hand to stab in their second goal, which provided the platform for his side’s strong finish, even though Tyrone substitute Stephen O’Neill managed to snatch a late consolation goal when Derry’s concentration faltered.

Tyrone supremo Harte, who was without Enda McGinley, Peter Harte and Niall McKenna but saw the McMahon brothers Justin and Joe make a welcome return to |action, remains philosophical but acknowledges achieving consistency is now a prime goal for his side.

“I was very proud of the way the boys responded in the second half,” Harte said.

“It seemed at half-time as if we were facing an annihilation, maybe the worst defeat we would have suffered since I have been in charge.

“But we battled back strongly and I actually at one stage was beginning to form the belief that we might have taken the match into extra-time.

“I think the manner in which we got back on level terms within 15 minutes in the second half speaks volumes for our character. We had got a firm grip on the game at that stage.

“Tyrone do not normally play in the first half the way they did on this occasion, but they more than made up for it after the break. We can take positives from this match, there is no doubt about that,” added Harte.

|DERRY: D Devlin; C Mullan (1-1), K McCloy, D McBride; B McCallion, A McAlynn, G O’Kane; P J McCloskey, J Conway; M Donaghy (0-1), S L McGoldrick (0-1), E Bradley (0-1), Ciaran McGoldrick, P Bradley (0-6, 0-5 frees), E Muldoon (1-2). Subs: B McGuigan for McCallion, M Drumm for McGuigan, Colm McGoldrick for Conway, B Og McAlarey for Drumm, D Mullan for Ciaran McGoldrick.

TYRONE: P McConnell; A McCrory, D McCaul, P J Quinn; C McCarron, R McMenamin, M Swift; C Gormley, A Cassidy; K Hughes, B McGuigan, S Cavanagh (1-5, |0-3 frees); O Mulligan (0-2), M Penrose |(0-4), M Donnelly. Subs: D Harte for Quinn, Justin McMahon for McCrory, S O’Neill (1-0) for Donnelly, Joe McMahon for McCarron.

Referee: Jimmy White (Donegal).

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