Mickey Harte salutes Darren McCurry magic in Tyrone's victory over Derry
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte had one man more than most to thank after they came through a surprisingly difficult Derry challenge in their Ulster Championship preliminary round game, winning 1-19 to 1-13 at Healy Park, Omagh.
Shane McGuigan's sensational goal brought Derry level and a pointed free from Christopher Bradley put the Oak Leafs into the lead for the first time with eight minutes of normal time left.
But up popped Darren McCurry, off the panel last year, with a winning goal in the next minute.
"Darren McCurry has been champing at the bit this last while and we knew he was full of energy, ready to come into this game. And he is a good finisher as well," said Harte.
"I think it was brave of him, because he could have taken a point and it would have been a good score, but it wouldn't have been a winning score. The fact he put that goal away was the winning of the game."
If there was patronising of Derry going on before this game, there was nothing of the sort from Harte afterwards.
The visitors produced a very credible challenge here, one that was not predicted but nonetheless extracted the very best out of Tyrone to win the game in the final stages.
“We have been preparing a long time for this,” stated Harte.
“And they believed that they could cause an upset. I suppose it has happened in the past, you look back to 2006, they weren’t supposed to win that game and they did.
“So everything is possible in sport and you have to be ready for all eventualities and potential outcomes. While we were in a bit of control from time to time, we let it slip badly before half time.”
Derry manager Damian McErlain isn’t a media luvvie by any stretch, but that’s not to say he doesn’t take notice of the conversations going on around him as he reflected: “The effort was absolutely tremendous, we’ve come on leaps and bounds this year as a team.
“We can’t ask for any more from the boys — we went toe to toe with Tyrone in Omagh.
“All the patronising before the match was hard to listen to, so I’m glad we came out and delivered a performance.”
As to whether he expected to be in the lead at such a late stage of the game, he said, “Ideally you’d have been getting into the lead at that particular point in the game — possibly even later would have been more ideal, but it’s a position I’d have taken from you before the match.
“We’re learning, big-time, and we’ll have to learn quick as well, but it was a very good performance and we can take a lot from it.”
A discernible difference between the two was the quality of the replacements Tyrone used. They had the luxury of bringing on Colm Cavanagh as an early sub for the injured Brian Kennedy, and replaced him late on when he was riding the donkey close to the tail.
The game was sealed of course by another sub, Darren McCurry and his goal.
“It’s a squad game now and it’s good to get gametime,” added Harte.
“It doesn’t matter in what you play in, the Championship has got a different flavour to it and players need to experience that and understand it.
“That’s a real good preparation for us going into the next game. We are playing another game against opposition that were in the division that Derry were in this year.”