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Tyrone side strolled to O’Fiaich Cup success

O’FIAICH CUP:  Tyrone 2-15 Louth 0-08.

REPORT BY: Liam Duffy

Mickey Harte’s youthful looking Tyrone side strolled to O’Fiaich Cup success in very cold conditions at Crossmaglen’s St Oliver Plunket Park on Sunday. Harte made only three changes from the team that put Derry to the sword by a similar scoreline a week earlier. Jonathan Monroe was unable to play due to a hamstring injury and was replaced by Kieran McGeary at left-half back, while up front C Meyler and C McShane were replaced by the impressive Lee Brennan and David Mulgrew.

You would have got huge odds on the final scoreline of 2-15 to 0-08 after 28 minutes when Louth, after playing against a very strong breeze led by 0-03 to 0-02. This was due to some solid defensive performances from Patrick Reilly and Darren McMahon. Tommy Durnin worked tirelessly in midfield along with Jim McEneaney, who lined out as a corner-forward, but played around the middle and got on more ball than any other player on the field during the first half. At this stage Mickey Harte would not have been happy with the number of wides (7) and on three other occasions kicking the ball into the Louth goalkeeper’s hands when the ball should have been put over the bar with the aid of the breeze.

Tyrone opened the scoring in the second minute with a nice Ronan O’Neill point from 45 metres out. Despite the strong breeze, and Louth finding it very difficult to get out of their half, Tyrone were not to score again until a Lee Brennan point in the 18th minute. In the meantime Louth registered just one point from a Jim McEneaney free. Declan Byrne levelled matters on 23 minutes with a fine score against the elements. On 25 minutes Tommy Durnin broke up a Tyrone attack and passed to Gerard McSoley , who still had plenty to do, but cut inside and put the wee county ahead for the first time in the game.

What followed from the 28th minute until half time summarises the difference between the recently contrasting fortunes of the two counties. Tyrone scored 1-05 without reply in a 7 minute spell that effectively finished the game as a contest. Louth had put so much effort into keeping the Tyrone attack at bay for so long. They started to commit needless fouls, got the ball moved forward for indiscipline and switched off for the final play of the half which allowed Tiernan McCann to sweep forward unmarked and punch the ball to the net. Half-Time 1-07 to 0-03.

Mickey Harte made four changes at half-time bringing on the experienced Niall Morgan and Peter Harte. He also introduced the very impressive Padraig McNulty in midfield and Mark Bradley up front. Harte and McNulty, in particular, bossed proceedings for most of the second half as Durnin, McMahon and McEneaney began to tire from their first half exertions.

Gerard McSorley got the second half off to a good start for Louth with a point following smart approach work by McEneaney. James Steward scored another point in the 5th minute but that was as good as it got for Louth. Despite playing with the elements, they didn’t get another score until a McEneaney free in the 25th minute and, in truth, didn’t get many other opportunities. In the meantime Tyrone had registered another 1-6 to lead 2.13 to 0.06. Their second goal came from the boot of substitute Conor McAliskey who reacted quickest to a Lee Brennan free that fell short. In general Brennan’s free taking against the breeze was impressive and he finished with a personal tally of eight points, six coming from dead balls.

Tyrone’s ability to play against the breeze was in contrast to Louth’s efforts in the first half. The aforementioned McNulty and Harte dictated proceedings and were well assisted by Richard Donnelly whose efforts were acknowledged by the Tyrone faithful when he was substituted late on. The Red Hand men showed their ability to time their runs correctly and their ball carrier almost always released at the opportune time. The Louth legs were very heavy following their first half efforts and it tells its own story that Tyrone scored more against the breeze than with it in the first half.

The game finished in a very tame fashion with a few late scores from Louth, one a long range free from McEneaney, and possibly the score of the match by Gerard McSorely from out wide on the right.

Colm Kelly will realise he has a lot of work to do and Mickey Harte will continue with his stewardship of the next generation of footballers happy in the knowledge that they are on the right road after coming so close to reaching the All Ireland final only 12 short weeks ago. Final Score Tyrone 2-15 Louth 0-08.

TYRONE: M O’Neill, A McCrory, P Hampsey, H P McGeary, T McCann (1-0) , C Clarke, K-McGeary (0-01), H Og Conlon , R Donnelly, C McCann, R O Neill (0-02 1 f), N Sludden (0-01), P Quinn, L Brennan (0-08 6f), David Mulgrew. Subs N Morgan, M Bradley (0-01), Peter Harte, P McNulty, C McAliskey (1-01),C McShane (0-01)

LOUTH: N Gallagher, P Rath, P Reilly, K Murphy, E Lafferty, D McMahon, D Maguire, T Durnin, D O’Connell, A Reid, M Rafferty, D Byrne (0-01), Gerad McSorely (0-03), B Flanagan, J McEneaney(0-03), Subs K McLoughlin, J Stewart (0-01) T McEneaney, C Bellew.