Tyrone earn first McKenna Cup win

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Tyrone earn first McKenna Cup win thumbnailColm Cavanagh in action for Tyrone as they defeated Ulster University at the weekend.

TYRONE kept their Dr McKenna Cup hopes alive with a 13 points win over Ulster University at Carrickmore, where they came good in the second half to take control.

Ulster University...1-7

The game was switched from snow-bound Healy Park, and 1,335 spectators turned up to witness a contest played in a firm sod at Pairc Colmcille.

The home side led by just two points at the break, but turned up the tempo after the restart, and the students were unable to compete.

The holders can still qualify for the semi-finals if they score a big win on Wednesday evening over a Donegal side that has already been eliminated from the competition.

Manager Mickey Harte was disappointed at the lack of intensity in the opening half, and with various other aspects of his team's approach.

“It's about that final pass, it let us down a number of times, never mind the wides. It's just decision-making, we maybe kicked instead of passed and a number of times that last pass which would've been the critical pass went to the wrong player," he said. "That happened in the malaise of the first-half and you have to say we did get a response.

“Disappointed with our performance in the first-half, we were lethargic and sort of going through the motions and allowing them to dictate the pace of the game.

“That didn't serve us well with the result that we weren't far ahead of them at half-time. We asked for much more energy and pressing from our players and I think we got that."

But Harte was encouraged by the quality of finishing from a handful of players who are pushing for inclusion in the starting fifteen in the league, principally Lee Brennan and newcomer Ronan McHugh, who claimed a combined total of 1-10.

“They're young lads and they're going to be good footballers. It takes players time to mature, they'll have good, bad and average days and so will every player.

“It's nice to see people who can finish around a forward line and then when they mature into what's required at senior level then they can become a force to be reckoned with.

“It was a case of getting the Christmas cobwebs out of the system. I wouldn't have been very happy with our first-half performance and we were a bit lethargic and we were letting them dictate the pace of the game. We needed the scores to give ourselves a chance of staying in this competition."

The result and the winning margin were crucial to Tyrone, but their manager reckons UU will not be overly disappointed to be bowing out of the competition.

“I am quite sure they [Ulster University] are not all that excited about staying in the competition, they just want the games for match practice in preparation for the Sigerson.

“A lot of their key players were not there which made it more disheartening for us that they weren't playing their best side by any means and they were holding their own with us. We needed more from our players in the second half and I half to say we did get that."

Niall McKenna's deployment at full forward was one of several experimental calls Harte will make in the early stages of the season as he seeks a winning formula.

“We try many things in the course of the season. He's played there before, it's a question of experimenting to see how things work. There's a lot of variables in that. There's the quality of the opposition, there's many things that come into play. It's an experimental job at the moment and we'll see where that takes us."

Tyrone were missing several players due to commitment to university sides and injury, and Harte had to call up a handful of U21 players to make up a match-day squad.

“We're very grateful for the U21 management for releasing three of their players to us.

“It was a new experience for them too and with all the injuries we have, with Mattie being suspended, with players with their colleges and Pomeroy still in the All-Ireland series, we'd 19 players of our own fit and available so it was nice to have those three lads on stand-by."

Ulster University suffered a pre-match blow with the withdrawal of Donegal trio Ryan McHugh, Paddy McBrearty and Lorcan Connor, but displayed courage and confidence as they set about sparking a shock at Pairc Colmcille.

They frustrated the home side in the opening quarter, with Lee Brennan's two early scores cancelled out by Ruairi McGlone and Daire Gallagher, two of a handful of Tyrone natives playing against their own county.

But in the 16th minute, the county side struck for a goal. Peter Harte played a one-two with Cahir McCullagh and crossed for Niall McKenna to palm home at the far post.

Harte, Niall Sludden and Johnny Munroe were always willing to take the game to their opponents, while Colm Cavanagh, on his first appearance of the season, grew in stature as time wore on.

However, UU were always dangerous on the break, with Gareth McKinless a constant driving force and target man Niall Madine always a threat up front.

Ronan McHugh knocked over a couple of points, and Harte had just nudged Tyrone into a two points lead when the visitors got in for a goal, Madine punching Barry Grant's long delivery to the net.

Tyrone, having played with wind advantage, held a slender 1-8 to 1-6 interval lead, but they stepped up the intensity on the restart, and got their reward with a brilliant goal in the 39th minute.

Colm Cavanagh slipped the ball to McHugh, and he gave replacement goalkeeper Ronan McGeary no chance with a rocket to the roof of the net from ten yards.

McGeary was soon in action again, this time saving superbly from Padraig Hampsey, who got on the end of a move involving Niall Sludden and Justin McMahon.

The students were restricted to sporadic raids, and their only score of the second half came from a Gallagher '45.

But it was his Trillick clubmate who was doing all the damage at the other end, firing over a string of stylish points as the margin mounted.

Declan McClure was also on target, and Ronan O'Neill came off the bench to help himself to three scores as the Red Hands coasted home.


Teams and scorers:

Tyrone - Mickey O'Neill, Padraig Hampsey, Justin McMahon, Cathal McCarron, Ronan McNabb, Peter Harte (0-2), Johnny Munroe (0-1), Colm Cavanagh, Padraig McNulty, Declan McClure (0-1), Niall Sludden, Cahir McCullagh, Lee Brennan (0-7), Niall McKenna, Ronan McHugh (1-3).

Subs - Darren McCurry for McNulty, Ronan O'Neill (0-3) for McKenna, Michael McKernan for McCarron, Ben McDonnell for Cavanagh, Niall Kelly for McCullagh, McCullagh for Munroe.

Ulster University - Sean Fox, Cillian McCann, Ruairi Kelly, Damien McKeown, Cathal Boylan, Gareth McKinless, Daire Gallagher (0-3), Shane McGahon, James Kearney, Mattie Walsh, Ruairi McGlone (0-1), Ronan McAlinden (0-1), Terence O'Brien (0-1), Niall Madine (1-1), Barry Grant.

Subs - Ronan McGeary for Fox, John Fitzgerald for McAlinden, Kory Colgan for McGahon, Ryan McAnespie for Grant, Ciaran O'Neill for Gallagher, Eoin McParland for McKinless.


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