Tyrone are off to flyer in the hunt for seven McKenna Cup wins in row
Tyrone 4-20 Antrim 2-11
Holders Tyrone experienced little difficulty in getting their 2018 Bank of Ireland McKenna Cup campaign off to a winning start when they proved too strong for Antrim at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh last night.
After a slow opening quarter, the Red Hands — chasing a seventh successive title — assumed control, and in truth it was as good as over by the break as they established a 1-10 to 0-4 advantage.
In the second half they kept the scoreboard ticking over, although Antrim deserve credit for battling on to the end.
Tyrone captain Mattie Donnelly opened the scoring with a fine effort from play before his Trillick team-mate Lee Brennan knocked over a 45.
CJ McGourty then opened Antrim’s account with a fine effort from the right, but Tyrone replied with points from Connor McAliskey (2) and Darren McCurry.
McGourty responded with a brace for the Saffrons but it was Tyrone who continued to dictate. Cathal McShane and Donnelly both registered before Frank Burns landed a trio of wonderful points from distance.
In the 31st minute, Tyrone carved open the Antrim defence with a flowing move involving Brennan, Hugh Pat McGeary and Niall Sludden, with the latter finding Padraig McNulty who gave keeper Padraig Nugent no chance with an assured finish.
Antrim had the final say of the half with McGourty’s third of the night.
Tyrone picked up where they had left off on the restart with McCurry converting a free and following that up with a point from play.
In the 41st minute, Antrim got through for a goal chance but Ruairi McCann was unlucky to see his shot come back off the bar.
Seconds later the ball was in the net at the other end and again it was Sludden who provided the assist with McAliskey clinically finishing past Nugent.
McGourty and McShane exchanged points before Antrim scored a 54th minute goal when Callum Duffin palmed in from close range after Matthew Fitzpatrick did well to keep the ball in play.
Tyrone continued to dominate with substitute Ronan McHugh pointing twice either side of a fortunate goal from Burns when his effort from the left wing went over the head of keeper Nugent.
Duffin replied with an Antrim point, but then McCurry unselfishly set up Sludden, who hammered to the roof of the net, which meant that all starting six of the Tyrone forward line had scored.
To their credit, Antrim kept plugging away with Ryan Murray kicking four points and Fitzpatrick palming into the net past keeper Niall Morgan from a couple of yards out.
Man of the match Burns then took his personal haul to 1-4 with another quality point before McCurry found the range again as well. McShane almost capped a fine display in midfield with a late goal but he put the ball over the bar with the last kick of the game.
Belfast Telegraph Digital