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Red Hands are made to sweat

Tyrone 1-14 Limerick 0-8

By Orla Bannon

On a day when the National Cycling Championships brought Omagh to a standstill, Mickey Harte was relieved to get Tyrone back in the saddle - even if they did suffer a few bumps along the way.

Tyrone only led by 0-6 to 0-4 at half time with Limerick, who after a nervous opening ten minutes, grew in confidence the longer they stayed in the game.

Four points in an eight-minute spell after half time stretched Tyrone clear and with Ian Ryan having an uncharacteristic off day with his free-taking, Limerick wilted in the closing 20 minutes.

A six-week lay-off may have been partly to blame for how flat his team were in the first half of yesterday's All-Ireland SFC qualifier in Healy Park, but it can't totally explain away why they failed to free-wheel past a team who just hung on to Division Three status this year.

"The scoreline did flatter us but I don't care about that," said Mickey Harte.

"The first game is always a very dangerous game because you're not well prepared for it. Donegal have arrived in the Ulster final since they beat us and we've been kicking our heels since.

"I was pleased with how we pushed on in the second half on a day when things weren't going for us. We've to prepare for what awaits us now in the draw, and I suppose gives us a taste of how difficult that might be."

Conor McAliskey top-scored with six points but it was the introduction of Mark Bradley towards the end of the first half which really injected some much-needed urgency into Tyrone.

The diminutive forward got on a lot of ball and freshened up a lethargic forward line. The half-forward line had malfunctioned in the first half, but suddenly there was impetus to their work and Tiernan McCann, Ronan O'Neill and Rory Brennan all scored from play.

Things had started well enough for the home side, in front of 5,225 in Omagh, with three points in the opening 11 minutes. Mattie Donnelly stroked over a long-range first minute point while Sean Cavanagh (free) and a McAliskey point put the home side seemingly in control.

McAliskey was involved at both ends of the field, drilling a shot wide of the near post and then making a superb interception at the other end after his marker, cornerback Robert Browne, made a run in behind the Tyrone defence.

Midfielder Gearoid Hegarty scored Limerick's first point after 15 minutes but by that stage, the visitors suffered their first black card dismissal after Cillian Fahy was sent off after six minutes. Darragh Treacy also got a black card before half time.

Tyrone had a goal disallowed in the 17th minute when over-elaboration led to Cathal McCarron being blown for a square ball.

Peter Harte made a strong run through the middle and laid the ball off to McAliskey. He lobbed it back across to McCarron who was already in the square.

McAliskey's free put Tyrone 0-4 to 0-1 ahead in the 21st minute. Limerick dangerman Ian Ryan scored his first from a tight angle and Browne's free brought the visitors back to within a point.

Darren McCurry nailed a free but his manager was not in a patient mood and whisked his marquee forward off after a poor first-half showing. It was a hard game to watch with no intensity or sense of purpose.

Limerick goalkeeper Brian Scanlon used the wind to nail a '45', and McAliskey chipped over a nice point on the run to make it 0-6 to 0-4 at the interval.

Tyrone moved things around with Mattie Donnelly moving to full-forward and Aidan McCrory pushing up, and a quick flurry of scores gave the home team the cushion they'd been looking for.

McAliskey's free was quickly cancelled out by Cian Sheehan's point, before a classy point from Ronan O'Neill put Tyrone three points up.

Tiernan McCann scored and then Bradley hit one from a tight angle and suddenly, out of nowhere, Tyrone were five points up by the 45th minute and looking a bit more relaxed.

When Gearoid Hegarty's fisted effort hit the side netting, after a Ryan free came off the upright, it killed off their challenge.

Tyrone: M O'Neill; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McNabb, Justin McMahon, P Harte (1-0); C Cavanagh, M Donnelly (0-1); T McCann (0-1), R O'Neill (0-1), R Brennan (0-1); D McCurry (0-1, f), S Cavanagh (0-2, 1f), C McAliskey (0-6, 4f). Subs: M Bradley (0-1) for McCurry (32), Joe McMahon for McNabb (63), D McBride for C Cavanagh (65), R Donnelly for Justin McMahon (68), C Clarke for Harte (70)

Limerick: B Scanlon (0-1, a '45'); J McCarthy, S O'Dea, R Browne (0-1, f); I Corbett, C Fahy, S Cahill; T Lee, G Hegarty (0-1); D Treacy, C Sheehan (0-1), S Buckley (0-1); D Neville, P Nash, I Ryan (0-2, 1f). Subs: B Fanning for Fahy (BC, 6), M Brosnan for Treacy (BC, 35), P Ranahan for Lee (53), K Moore (0-1, f) for Nash (55), C Phair for Neville (67), G Noonan for Cahill (69)

Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).

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