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COUNTY| Teamwork Key But Winning Individual Battles Still Counts.

Sunday 06.03.2016
Team Talk Mag



Saturday night in Omagh and once again a large crowd turned out for another derby meeting between Tyrone and Derry. Some of those in attendance were no doubt expecting fireworks between the teams considering Tyrone’s recent Dr Mc Kenna Cup Final win against the Oak Leaf side and the trash talking that followed it.

However what the spectators were treated to, in the first half anyway was a very competitive and entertaining game that was played at a serious pace. Both sets of players moved the ball quickly and with purpose meaning that there was little or no time for them to get involved in anything other than playing the game.

That approach seemed to suit Tyrone best and by half time they were four points clear and looking stronger with each passing minute.

The third quarter is always a key time in any game and so it proved on Saturday as Tyrone came out and upped the pace. With Mattie Donnelly now at six, Ritchie Donnelly in the middle and Conor Meyler at wing forward Tyrone bossed the game from the restart. They enjoyed huge amounts of possession and created chance after chance. Indeed had it not been for some wayward finishing and poor decision making the result could have much worse for Derry.

The Oak Leafers were chasing shadows at times and barely hanging on. However when Tiernan Mc Cann spotted Sean Cavanagh off the shoulder on fifty minutes the game was up for Derry. The big Moy man finished to the net as Tyrone moved seven points clear of their neighbours.

Derry emptied the bench in an attempt to get back into the contest but in truth Tyrone could have won by more. The game was sealed with a fine goal from the boot of attacking corner back Aidan Mc Crory following another nice pass from Mc Cann. Four wins from four starts in the league has put Mickey Harte’s side well on target for an immediate return to the top flight.

There was much to admire from this display not least the defensive work of the entire team with everyone from corner forward Ronan O’Neill to goalkeeper Niall Morgan doing their fair share. Indeed so dominant was the Tyrone defence that the much vaunted Derry full forward trio were all replaced well before the end of the match.

While the result was very much down to the team there were several individual performances worthy of mention. Once again Colm Cavanagh’s work rate and contribution to the cause were huge and as an example to his team mates he has few peers. However what was even more pleasing was the role played by Trillick man Ritchie Donnelly who landed four superb points from play as well as working his socks off for the team. The younger Donnelly certainly took his opportunity on Saturday night and will have given the manager lots of food for thought.

An interesting stat from the game was the 100% return on free kicks from Ronan O’Neill. The inability to convert these has been something of an issue for Tyrone lately with a scoring return of less than fifty percent in some games. Several players have been entrusted with the task since the start of the season but none have really stepped up to the mark in terms of what is required in the modern game. Well at least not until the last two games.

Omagh man O’Neill has worked hard at his game and is now getting back to the sort of form and work rate that made him such a highly regarded youth prospect. He looks much fitter and leaner and on Saturday night was just as likely to be spotted back in his own defence supporting the full back line as he was creating and converting chances at the other end.   He finished the game with six points with five free kicks taken and five converted.

 It is quite a while since Tyrone has enjoyed that sort of return from frees awarded. That sort of scoring accuracy allied to an increased work rate could well give Ronan O’Neill the vital edge in securing a regular starting place on the team. He is currently playing with confidence and with enthusiasm and looking more and more like the player he was before injury robbed him of two years of inter county football.   



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