Dr McKenna Cup Round 1
By Alan Rodgers
NORMAL service was resumed in the Dr McKenna Cup last night as Tyrone got their New Year campaign off to the perfect start by edging fairly comfortably past their nieghbours from Fermanagh.
It was all in stark contrast to last year’s stuttering start to the competition for the then reigning All-Ireland champions. But the lingering memory of that thumping against Cavan was firmly forgotten as the set up an intriguing second round clash next week against Ulster champions, Derry.
The Red Hands fielded six debutants, and included a member of the 2021 Sam Maguire Cup side on every line. It made a difference, too, as they eventually established their authority on proceedings following a shaky enough opening period.
Early pointed frees from Peter Harte looked set to settle Tyrone. But their hopes of pressing ahead were dashed as a number of chances were missed. There was little to enthuse the sizeable attendance in that first quarter as both teams worked hard to try and create openings.
The best opportunity, though, fell to Tyrone when Niall Devlin forged forward only to see his shot well-saved by the Fermanagh goalkeeper, Sean McNally.
There was plenty of end to end football as Tyrone’s experienced campaigners led by example. Cormac Munroe worked well at midfield, Niall Morgan came out to good effect, while further upfield Peter Harte, Conor Meyler and Mattie and Richard Donnelly were poised and committed in possession.
For all that, though, Fermanagh also had their chances. Garvan Jones and Ciaran Corrigan worked well, and were twice within a point of the Red Hands. Points from Ryan Lyons and Garvan Jones increased their total and briefly caused Tyrone some minor concerns.
As the tempo increased during the second quarter, so too did Tyrone’s sharpness all over the field. Ryan Jones was just wide with a good goal chance, as they finished that first half in a flourish.
Three points in quick succession saw them take control. First Peter Harte fired over a free after good work and a foul on Conor Meyler. The Omagh man then made space for himself to score the best point of that first half, and then Cathal McShane made space for himself to also score.
That left them 0-6 to 0-3 and fairly comfortable at half-time. More of the same was demanded from them on the resumption, as they sought to maintain the momentum of that strong finish to the first half.
Early points at the start of the second half from Ryan Jones and Conor Cush further boosted Tyrone. A pointed free courtesy of Cathal McShane made the score 0-9 to 0-4, as Tyrone’s greater levels of urgency began to yield the desired dividend.
They were defending well, too, with Cormac Munroe, Padraig Hampsey and Cormac Quinn to the fore in making important interceptions. Only a couple of disappointing wides prevented them from putting the tie beyond reach entering the final quarter.
Fermanagh, however, fared little better. Brandon Horan, Garvan Jones and Ryan Lyons tried hard, but found the Red Hand defence in continued resolute mood.
Now was the time for them to press ahead and register the points required to ensure there was little to no chance of Fermanagh battling back in the closing stages. They responded as well, and soon extended the advantage to seven thanks to a brace of well taken points in quick succession.
First, good teamwork helped create the space for Richie Donnelly to fire over. Moments later, Conor Meyler raced through to leave the score 0-11 to 0-4 in favour of the Red Hands.
Those final 10 minutes or so produced a scoring flourish, but there was never any danger of Tyrone letting things slip. As the team managers gave seven substitutes the chance to impress, Dalaigh Jones, substitute, Emmett McNabb with two points and Mattie Donnelly all fired over to leave them 0-14 to 0-6 ahead.
Fermanagh’s only respite was a well-taken goal. It came courtesy of Ultan Kelm who fired low and hard to the net to reduce the deficit. However, that goal proved to be a shortlived boost for the visitors as Tyrone quickly re-established their control.
Late points from Mattie Donnelly, Emmett McNabb and Niall Sludden completed a fairly comfortable seven point victory which leaves them well-placed as they prepare for an important clash against Ulster champions Derry next Wednesday night.
Tyrone: Peter Harte 0-3 (3f), Cathal McShane 0-3 (1f), Conor Meyler 0-2, Emmett McNabb 0-2, Conor Cush 0-1, Ritchie Donnelly 0-1, Liam Nugent 0-1, Dalaigh Jones 0-1, Mattie Donnelly 0-1, Niall Sludden 0-1, Ryan Jones 0-1.
Fermanagh: Ultan Kelm 1-0, Diarmuid King 0-2 (1f), Eoghan McManus 0-2, Ryan Lyons 0-1, Garvan Jones 0-1, Ronan McCaffrey 0-1.
Tyrone: Niall Morgan, Nathan McCarron, Cormac Munroe, Padraig Hampsey, Cormac Quinn, Peter Harte, Niall Devlin, Brian Kennedy, Richard Donnelly, Dalaigh Jones, Conor Meyler, Ryan Jones, Cathal McShane, Matthew Donnelly, Conor Cush.
Subs: Michael McKernan for N Devlin (half-time), Darragh Canavan for B Kennedy (44), Liam Nugent for C Cush (57), Niall Sludden for R Jones (57), Emmett McNabb for D Jones (62), Peter Óg McCartan for C Quinn (62), David Mulgrew for C Meyler (69).
Fermanagh: Sean McNally, Luke Flanagan, Che Cullen, Jonathan Cassidy, Ronan McCaffrey, Shane McGukkuib, Oisin Kelm, Brandon Horan, Stephen McGullion, Josh Largo Ellish, Garvan Jones, Ryan Lyons, Ultan Kelm, Ciaran Corrigan, Diarmuid King.
Subs: Declan McCusker for O Kelm (49), Conor McShea for C Corrigan (49), Eoghan McManus for D King (54), Conal Jones for G Jones (54).