Derry produced a superb second half fightback from seven points down to secure an opening Division One point against Tyrone in a game Brian McIver will believe they should have won.
Derry stirred in the final quarter and could have gone on to win a game they looked to have lost after keeper Thomas Mallon made an uncharacteristic slip which gifted Tyrone’s Darren McCurry his side’s second goal.
Derry had started with a real purpose, James Kielt knocking over a first minute free before Tyrone shocked the home support with a superb goal 90 seconds later. The Oak Leafers were drawn toward the ball along the 45m line and when the impressive McCurry got free he was able to pick out midfielder Conor Crugan in acres of space. The Tyrone No. 9 strode forward before firing a low, left footed finish past Thomas Mallon. If the goal was against the run of play, Derry did not let it unsettle them as captain Mark Lynch responded immediately with a point before repeating the trick two minutes later to leave it 0-3 to 1-0 after only six minutes.
Both sides went for the win as time began to run out, but Gonor Grugan’s late shoot off the outside of the boot was as close as either side came with Derry left to regret a number of missed chances which should have brought victory.
Derry: Thomas Mallon; Declan Brown, Chrissy McKaigue, Dermot McBride; Aidan McAlynn (0-1), Mark Lynch (0-4, 2f), Sean Leo McGoldrick; Fergal Doherty (0-1), Patsy Bradley; Gerard O’Kane (0-1), James Kielt (0-2, 1f) , Enda Lynn (0-3); Ciaran McFaul (0-2), Emmett McGuckin (0-1), Benny Heron. (Subs) Declan Mullan for B Heron, H/T; Cailean O’Boyle (1-0) for C McFaul, 48mins; Ciaran McGoldrick for E McGuckin, 63mins;
Both sides made changes at the interval, Declan Mullan entering the fray for Derry but it was Tyrone who picked up where they had left off with points from McCurry and Shea McGuigan before Lynch got Derry’s first score of the half.
The visitors were on top and emphasised this with a Mattie Donnelly point before they were gifted a second goal.
To their credit Derry didn’t drop their heads Five points down, Derry needed a goal and substitute Cailean O’Boyle provided it within three minutes of replacing Benny Heron.
It was anyone’s game now but Derry had the momentum with Lynch (free), Gerard O’Kane with an outrageous 50m effort, and Fergal Doherty drawing Derry level at 1-15 to 2-12 with five to play.
Both sides poured forward in a bid to win the match and secure two vital points but were left to settle for a share of the spoils.