THERE was lots of talk beforehand about the clash in Celtic Park last weekend, but in reality, the fireworks on the pitch failed to appear.
The game itself was an entertaining encounter, but it lacked the incidents and excitement that we all thought that would come with it.
There was a lot of talk in the media about Mickey Harte’s position on the sideline on Sunday, but I was in and around a few bars in Derry on Saturday evening, andspeaking to supporters from both Tyrone and Derry, no one seemed to have a major problem with it.
Personally, I think the whole issue is blown out of proportion and in fact it added a little spice in a good way because the attendance at the game on Sunday was something you would see at a championship match.
I was keen to see Derry up close and personal to see how they were shaping up. Coming away from the game, there are some things that impressed me and there are some areas where I noticed they still need to do a lot of work.
There is no doubt that they are seriously well conditioned and they know exactly what way they want to play so that keeps them competitive within games at the very least.
We know by now what we are going to get with this Derry team in terms of being comfortable in possession and breaking lines.
One area where I was impressed last weekend was their tactical approach to the game. In the first half Niall Morgan struggled badly on his kick-outs.
Granted there was a very strong breeze, but it was Derry’s positional set-up that caught my eye.
Tyrone, like most teams nowadays, bunched together in the centre of the pitch. Rather than going, man-to-man, or positioning themselves zonally, Derry placed Conor Glass away out on his own on the left hand side of the pitch, and they did the same with Odhrán Lynch on the other wing.
Neither of those two players were remotely interested in picking up an opponent: they basically took Niall Morgan’s space away from hitting it into those areas.
Conor must have plucked three or four in the first half alone, which gave Derry the template to push forward.
Another area that caught my eye, and I’m sure of the Derry supporters will be happy with, is the emergence of young Cormac Murphy to the set up.
For the last few years, when it came to the crunch, the big teams knew that if Shane McGuigan’s taken out of the equation, then a huge part of Derry’s scoring power goes with him. This young lad may just change those dynamics.
His running power is something to behold and he carved the Tyrone defence wide open on a number of occasions and he finished the game with three points to his name.
All in all, Derry will be happy with a start to the National League and as we already knew they won’t be far away at the end of the season.
Coming away from the game you got the sense that a lot of people were disappointed with Tyrone‘s display.
I posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the game that I felt that Tyrone would have a big say in this year’s championship. The number of people who shot that down surprised me.
Now if you were at the game you would have witnessed the Tyrone forwards carving Derry open at will on a number of occasions and were it not for some poor shooting they could have won the game.
Tyrone created a mountain of scoring chances and they hit 11 wides in the second half alone. When you consider that they were missing key players, such as Peter Harte, Conor Meyler and big Kilpatrick, then you will see why I’m optimistic about their chances later on in the year.
They have serious running power and in the two Canavan brothers they have two players who can see a pass that nobody else on the pitch can see.
On the big days, this will be the key to unlocking those well-structured defences.
Before I sign off on this game, I want to touch on the pass by young Ruairi Canavan for the goal chance in the first half.
The vision that the young lad showed us is exactly what I’m talking about, and for anybody who hasn’t seen it, I want you to go back and watch it again because those little things are the things that separate the average players from the special players.
So my message this week is write Tyrone off at your peril.