The 2023 season got off on a winning note for Tyrone when they emerged comfortable seven point winners over Fermanagh in their opening McKenna Cup game at O’Neills Healy Park on Wednesday night.
The Red Hands may not have been at their best in the first half but after leading by three points at the break they upped the tempo in the second half and were always in control. Managers Fearghal Logan and Brian Dooher handed senior Inter County debuts to Nathan McCarron, Cormac Quinn, Niall Devlin, Dalaigh Jones, Ryan Jones and Conor Cush from the start and when Aidan Clarke, Peter Og McCartan and Emmet McNabb were all introduced as second half substitutes it meant that a total of nine players played their first competitive game for the Red Hands. All of them acquitted themselves well, particularly Ryan Jones who earned the man of the match award.
Both sides will be disappointed with their first half performance. On too many occasions possession was given away too easily with some wasteful passing and the ball being brought into the tackle too often. Tyrone had to wait until injury time in the first half for their opening point from play, a well work effort from Conor Meyler quickly followed by a confident strike from Cathal McShane, to give the home side a 6-3 advantage.
Frees from Peter Harte had gave Tyrone an early lead, but the crowd had to wait until the 18th minute, for the next piece of meaningful play. Good work from Cush and Meyler released debutant Niall Devlin who’s shot was well saved by McNally. Minutes later Tyrone forced another goal chance Ryan Jones soccer style effort whizzed past the post with the keeper caught up the field.
A Ryan Lyons free gave Fermanagh their first score before Garvan Jones and Cathal McShane swapped points. Further frees from Harte and King the other scorers in a lacklustre half.
The second period saw a different Tyrone from the throw in Brian Kennedy set up Conor Cush to extend the lead. Although Diarmuid King kicked a free to reduce matters and Nathan McCarron made an important block, that was as good as got for the visitors. Tyrone began moving through the gears. Points from Ryan Jones, Cathal McShane Richard Donnelly and Conor Meyler reflected Tyrone’s dominance.
With Cormac Munroe outstanding at full back and Padraig Hampsey making some timely interceptions Tyrone repelled Fermanagh challenge. Tyrone used the opportunity to introduce several subs, Darragh Canavan movement and creativity saw fellow subs Liam Nugent and Emmett McNabb get on the score sheet. The hard working Dalaigh Jones emulated his brother Ryan with a debut point.
In reply Fermanagh kicked the score of the game through Ronan McCaffrey and a long range point from Eoghain McManus. Ultan Kelm got a consolation goal with five minutes remaining. Tyrone finished strongly with points from Mattie Donnelly and scores from Dromore club mates Emmett McNabb and Niall Sludden. Plenty of positives for the management team to ponder as they plan for next Wednesday’s clash with Derry in Owenbeg.
Tyrone: N Morgan, N McCarron, C Munroe, P Hampsey, C Quinn, P Harte (0-3, 3F), N Devlin, B Kennedy, R Donnelly (0-1), D Jones (0-1), C Meyler (0-2), R Jones (0-1), C McShane (0-3, 2F), M Donnelly (0-1), C Cush (0-1). Subs: M McKernan for Devlin, D Canavan for Kennedy, L Nugent (0-1) for Cush, N Sludden (0-1) for R Jones, A Clarke for McCarron, P Og McCartan for Quinn, E McNabb (0-2) for D Jones, D Mulgrew for Meyler
Fermanagh: S McNally, L Flanagan, C Cullen, J Cassidy, R McCaffrey (0-1), S McGullion, O Kelm, B Horan, S McGullion, J L Ellis, G Jones (0-1), R Lyons (0-1, 1F), U Kelm (1-0), C Corrigan, D King (0-2, 2F). Subs: D McCusker for O Kelm, C McShea for Corrigan, C Jones (0-1, 1F) for G Jones, E McManus (0-1) for King