TYRONE may not have been at their best at Brewster Park last Wednesday night but they still had too much in the locker for hosts Fermanagh in a keenly contested McKenna Cup game, writes Kevin Kelly.
The Erne men really took the match to their opponents in the opening stages as they built up a four point lead but Tyrone kept in touch with the impressive Martin Penrose scoring a penalty to bring them back to level terms at the break. Derrylaughan’s Ciaran Gervin grabbed the visitor’s second goal of the night six minutes into the second period but Fermanagh showed that they were up for the fight with three unanswered points restoring equilibrium. It was anybody’s game at this stage but Tyrone had the finishing kick as they pulled away from their opponents in the closing stages with a series of points.
At times in the first half Tyrone look weary after their exploits against Donegal the previous weekend but Fermanagh failed to take advantage as they should have been at least three or four points clear at half time. When the contest was there to be won it was Tyrone who took their chance with both hands and there were a number of pleasing aspects about the performance. Donaghmore’s Damien McCaul returned to action after two years of injury nightmare and he acquitted himself well while Cathal McCarron impressed at full back for the second game running.
Coalisland’s Steven McNally made his senior county debut and certainly didn’t look out of place while Derrylaughan’s Ciaran Gervin put in an enormous amount of work throughout the field and took his goal with some aplomb. Sean Cavanagh once again lined out in midfield and weighed in with three points from play while Penrose looked dangerous every time he gained possession and finished with an impressive haul of 1-4.
Tyrone made two changes before the start of play with Aidan McCrory and Mark Donnelly replacing PJ Quinn and Stephen O’Neill, but it was Fermanagh who looked the sharper side from the start with Barry Owens and Barry Mulrone strong in the heart of defence and James Sherry working hard in midfield and Paul Ward causing problems in attack. Ward, Tomas Corrigan and Hugh Brady all had points with Tyrone’s sole response coming from Cavanagh. Things could have been worse for the visitors had Corrigan’s first time shot not flashed wide off the target when a goal was there for the taking.
The Red Hands made good their escape and when Brian McGuigan was bundled over inside the box Penrose expertly tucked away the spot kick past keeper James McGrath. A Penrose free then put Tyrone in front for the first time and even though Terry O’Flanagan levelled matters from a placed ball there is no doubt that the visitors would have been the happier side the way things stood at the break.
It took half a dozen minutes for the opening score of the second period to arrive but it proved to be a crucial one with Gervin coolly slotting the ball on the ground to the net past the reach of McGrath after a mistake by Mulrone. Fermanagh responded in style though and they were quickly level again thanks to points from Corrigan, Peter Sherry and Tommy McElroy. It was a game that looked destined to go right to the wire but that’s when Tyrone found another gear with Paddy McNeice, McGuigan, Cavanagh and Penrose all landing points as they eased away from the hosts to maintain their perfect start to the season.