COALISLAND resembled a winter fashion show yesterday as 2,825 paying punters braved the Himalayan conditions as Tyrone secured a solid if unspectacular win over St Mary’s.
Omagh’s Ciaran McLaughlin goaled in his very first start for the county, while Ben McDonnell also looked capable of stepping up to intercounty football in his starting debut for Tyrone.
The official man of the match award went to a St Mary’s man, however. Crossmaglen’s Oisin O’Neill struck three glorious points from play and appears destined to star for Armagh in the coming years.
He opened the scoring for the Sigerson Cup holders with a delightful effort after barely a minute of play. The varsity men doubled their advantage when Darragh Kavanagh popped over a free, and they secured a 0-3 to 0-0 lead when Stephen McConville did the needful after an incisive build-up.
But Tyrone’s captain for the day Peter Harte got on the end of a sweeping counter-attacking move, palming over with the goal at his mercy after a neat build-up from Richie Donnelly and Ronan McHugh.
It had taken Tyrone ten minutes to make the scoresheet, and both teams went a further seven minutes without adding to their tally.
Connor McAliskey battled hard to win a free which Harte popped over but St Mary’s opened up a 0-4 to 0-2 advantage with 19 minutes on the clock when Banbridge player Liam Devlin struck a point from all of 45 metres.
Tyrone were making more and more inroads into the St Mary’s defence, even if they were weren’t at their high-octane best.
McAliskey, who was hemmed in near the endline, hit a lacklustre shot on goal which was turned out for a ’45’.
Peter Harte belied the conditions to arrow over a lovely effort to reduce the deficit to a point.
St Mary’s were still well in the contest and Caolan McConville chipped over from a tight effort to leave the scoreboard reading 0-5 to 0-3 with 21 minutes on the clock.
Seconds later Tyrone pounced for the opening goal. Ronan O’Neill, Peter Harte and Ben McDonnell were all involved in the run up to the goal, which was tidily finished by rookie Ciaran McLaughlin.
Ben McDonnell’s confidently struck point gave Tyrone a 1-4 to 0-5 lead with ten minutes of the half remaining.
St Mary’s nabbed a goal out of nowhere when Mickey O’Neill’s short kick-out was intercepted by Jarlath Og Burns, who finished to the net.
Tyrone were on top at this stage, however, and Ronan O’Neill and Ronan McHugh (2) bagged the final three points of the half to open up a 1-7 to 1-5 lead.
The Red Hands extended their advantage on the other half of the tea-time break as Peter Harte struck over a free with high marks for difficulty.
St Mary’s refused to give up the ghost and scored twice in quick succession through Oisin O’Neill and Darragh Kavanagh.
Tyrone were motoring nicely, however, and the impressive Ronan O’Neill got on the end of a flowing move involving sub Niall Sludden and McAliskey.
The Omagh St Enda’s man scored another before home-town boy Michael McKernan slotted over a point after coming in for Cathal McCarron.
Peter Harte, who started in the half-forward line, roamed all over the pitch in a fine personal outing but his day came to an end when he was black carded mid-way through the second-half.
St Mary’s had lost their shape up front and hit four shots in the space of ten minutes into Mickey O’Neill’s paws. However, Oisin O’Neill scored two more classic scores to keep the scoreboard ticking over in the final 15 minutes.
Tyrone were still on top and kept enough space between the sides with five of the last seven points. Ronan McHugh and Niall Sludden both had goal chances but had to settle for points, while subs Mattie Donnelly and Tiernan McCann also got in on the action as they recorded a fairly facile 1-16 to 1-11 victory.