Tyrone hurlers took to the field on Saturday evening for the first time in over a decade without the talent that was Damian Casey. The opening Division 2B game against London took place at the home pitch of the deceased Tyrone legend. Unsurprisingly it was a night that was packed with many poignant moments as his former team mates delivered an incredible performance to defeat London in a high scoring game 1-26 to 3-16.
The home side settled after the concession of a first minute goal and matched their highly fancied opponents stroke for stroke and score for score before a final brace of points from Mickey Little saw the Red Hands record an opening night league win.
A large crowd was present as both teams took to the field and even from before the throw in there was a sense of expectation about this game. London struck first when Tyrone failed to clear their lines and Jack Goulding hit the net cutting in from the right. Mickey Little opened Tyrone’s account with a converted free but Goulding and Ronan Crowley added points to put London four clear with four minutes on the clock. Credit to the home side they refused to panic and points from Sean Duffin (2) and Lorcan Devlin had Tyrone very much back in the game.
Eoin Mc Hugh and CJ Mc Gourty swapped points as both sides created chances. Sean Glynn struck for a point to put London two clear before Lorcan Devlin was quickest to react when a high ball into the goalmouth caused panic in the London defence and flicked the sliotar to the net.
With fifteen minutes gone and after a poor start Tyrone led 1-5 to 1-4 in what was fast becoming a very high standard and memorable contest. Further points from Little and Mc Gourty extended the Tyrone lead but London responded with scores from Crowley and centre half forward Conor O’Carroll to narrow the gap to one. Duffin hit his third point of the game before wing back Ruairi Slane struck over a fine score to put the Red Hands three clear again.
London landed their second goal of the game when Goulding found space in the Tyrone defence to level things again before a Goulding point had London in front once more. Mc Gourty replied with a fine strike from distance as the pace and quality of the game increased and Crowley landed a further free which was matched by another Mickey Little score to send the teams off at the break on a score line of London 2-8 Tyrone 1-11.
The second half saw Little open the scoring to put Tyrone ahead again but London responded with points from Goulding and Crowley. Back came Little with a brace of frees to put Tyrone in front in this highly entertaining match. Crowley converted another free to tie things again before Duffin landed his fourth point of the game to leave the score 1-15 to 2-11 with forty four minutes on the clock.
There was little between the sides and once more London levelled courtesy of Conor Mc Cormack before Little edged Tyrone in front once more. Corner forward Liam Dunphy made it a two point lead with his first score of the game and almost immediately Ruairi Slane scored one of the points of the night after a superb run and strike.
With fifteen second half minutes on the clock Tyrone led 1-18 to 2-12 but London showed their quality with points from Crowley (2) and Mc Hugh (2) to put the visitors ahead again. Minutes later the gap was four points after Niall Broderick capitalised on a defensive lapse in the Red Hand rearguard and with nine minutes left on the clock Tyrone found themselves 3-16 to 1-18 behind.
Mickey Little lifted the crowd when he converted a brace of frees before a superb Chris Kearns point left the bare minimum between the teams with four minutes remaining. Questions were being asked of Tyrone once more as Eoin Mc Hugh made it a two point contest with time running out. A fine Ruairi Slane score gave Tyrone hope before another Chris Kearns point levelled the scores as the clock showed seventy minutes.
Jack Goulding showed his quality once again to put London ahead with a converted free but they were dealt a blow when they lost a man to a straight red card and Tyrone capitalised on the extra space. Substitute Conor Grogan tied the game with a brilliant score as Tyrone pushed up in search of the win. They were rewarded deep in injury time with a brace of Mickey Little frees to send the large crowd present home happy as Tyrone began their season with a 1-26 to 3-18 win.
Tyrone scorers: Mickey Little 0-11, Lorcan Devlin 1-1, Chris Kearns 0-2, Sean Duffin 0-4, CJ Mc Gourty 0-3, Ruairi Slane 0-3, Liam Dunphy 0-1, Conor Grogan 0-1,