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Resilient Tyrone fight back but miss final shot

Tyrone 3-15 Galway 1-14

Running away with it: Tyrone’s Cathal McShane steers clear of Galway’s John Daly
Running away with it: Tyrone’s Cathal McShane steers clear of Galway’s John Daly
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Tyrone turned a seven-point deficit at half-time into a seven-point winning margin on the final day of the Allianz football leagues, but were denied a place in next Sunday's final with Monaghan falling to Mayo.

The game began shortly after an impeccably-observed minute silence for the victims of the hotel tragedy in Cookstown on St Patrick's Day.

This was an entirely different looking Red Hands outfit than the one that scored just once in the first half of their league opener drubbing by Kerry and were dismissed a week later at this venue by Mayo.

A point rescued at the death in their third game against Roscommon was a huge turning point and manager Mickey Harte was upbeat afterwards.

"After the first three games things didn't look pretty. The next four games after that proves that we were right to think there is something good in this team," Harte said.

"They couldn't be in the All-Ireland final a few short months ago and be as poor as some people would have suggested after three games. We always felt we were better than that and we were very pleased with the last four games."

Galway looked sensational early on, but certain elements of their performance contributed to their manager Kevin Walsh's sense of anti-climax, particularly after missing out on a league final place next weekend against Kerry.

"I said at the start there was good and poor, the first half was good, second half poor," Walsh added.

"There are lessons to be learned again, over the whole league there were 20 minutes in the second half against Dublin that was poor, that whole second half here was poor, but overall we can't be too critical.

"It's a lost opportunity to get to the league final that wasn't one of our goals at the start," the Killanan man added ruefully.

The flow of the game could easily be attributed to the wind tunnel that is Healy Park and how it frames so many games for and against Tyrone, but once they got motoring and took advantage of a couple of breaks, they followed up their good work from last week in beating Dublin.

Galway were impressive in the first half, conducted superbly by Shane Walsh who tortured his marker Padraig Hampsey. They grabbed a goal midway through the opening half when an Antaine OLaoi shot fell some way short and the diminutive Danny Cummins deployed his incredible leap to get a hand to it above Niall Morgan.

Walsh lit up the first half, summed up in the incredible point a minute from half-time when Galway goalkeeper Ruairi Lavelle's kickout found Walsh from a distance of 90 metres.

He ran at Hampsey directly and got beyond him to shoot a glorious point that began another trio of Galway scores It wasn't that Tyrone were poor, but their key men were isolated.

A stream of points followed as Morgan struggled to find white shirts with his kickouts to leave Galway 1-11 to 0-7 ahead at the break.

Tyrone tagged two points back on the resumption before Cathal McShane fielded a long delivery from the superb Michael Cassidy before being upended in the square. Peter Harte buried the penalty beyond Galway goalkeeper Ruairi Lavelle.

"Goals are very important in games and Petey is a good striker of a penalty," his uncle said.

"Once we got that and the early points with it, it gave us the confidence that this game was within our touching distance.

"When you are seven points down, it looks like a tall hill to climb and no matter how you claw that back, it still keeps the gap, something that is hard to chase.

"The fact we held them out for so long, we went ahead before they got a score, which was really crucial to win this game."

Five minutes later, disaster struck for Galway. They had held the ball for over three minutes when a loose pass by Sean Andy OCeallaigh hung in the air on its way to Lavelle. Matthew Donnelly anticipated well and got fingertips to knock it loose, before side-footing it to an empty net from 35 metres.

It took Galway 17 minutes to get their first point of the second half with a Walsh free, but by then, Tyrone had them figured out. Kieran McGeary was switched onto Walsh and blotted him out while Eoghan Kerin was given a black card for an incident involving Peter Harte.

"Kieran is a very good man-marker, he's good for a dedicated task. He had the help of the breeze in the second half so Shane hadn't as much to play with as he had in the first half, so you couldn't exactly say it was just the one thing that caused the other," said Harte.

Kyle Coney's introduction shows the value of a ballplayer being held back until the game opens up as Tyrone outscored their guests 1-6 to 0-2 after Walsh's levelling free.

The final goal came in injury time when substitute Conall McCann profited from Lavelle's inability to deal with a high delivery, the Killyclogher man knocking it home.

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