Tyrone travelled west for their All Ireland Group Two opener with Connaught Champions Galway at Pearse Stadium in Salthill on Saturday evening. The Red Hands lost out by three points in spite of a spirited display in a game that was played in difficult conditions.
The home side played wind assisted in the first half and kept Tyrone at arm’s length for long periods especially after Tyrone were reduced to fourteen men following the sending off of Frank Burns. The Red Hands battled hard throughout but every time they got within striking distance of Galway last year’s beaten All Ireland Finalists were able to pick a pass or take a score and frustrate their opponents.
Galway reached the break leading 0-7 to 0-4 at the break. Considering the circumstances Tyrone would have been reasonably happy with that scoreline having lost Burns to a straight red card for a high tackle on Jack Glynn in the 19th minute.
It looked a rash challenge more than anything else but the visitors were dealt a further blow seven minutes later when keeper Niall Morgan was black carded by referee David Gough. Despite being two men down for the ten minutes Tyrone only conceded two points to stay in contention.
The home side opened the scoring in the 8th minute with a well taken point from the dangerous Shane Walsh but sixty seconds later the sides were level when midfielder Conn Kilpatrick played a good ball into Edendork club mate Darren McCurry who turned sharply to split the posts.
The next kickout broke for Walsh to run through to score and a mistake at the back from the next kickout could have cost Tyrone a goal only that centre half forward Johnny Heaney elected to take a point. Darragh Canavan responded for the Red Hands from a free after Mattie Donnelly had been fouled and in the 13th minute the sides were level with a well taken score from centre half back Cormac Quinn following a patient buildup.
Galway though were looking sharp at this stage and two quick points from Cillian McDaid and Walsh saw them move 0-5 to 0-3 in front after a quarter of an hour. A few minutes later Burns received his red card and Galway moved three clear with a quality effort from out on the left wing from midfielder Paul Conroy.
To their credit though Tyrone dug deep and worked hard to retain possession especially after losing Morgan for ten minutes, defender Peter Harte taking over between the sticks. It was a spell when the game could have gone away from them but despite Peter Cooke pointing from the right wing Galway failed to use their two man advantage. With Morgan back on the visitors had the final say of the half with a well struck free from the accurate McCurry.
Tyrone picked up were they had left off on the restart with the hard working Mattie Donnelly firing over a great score after a flowing move that he was twice involved in. With the extra man though Galway were always able to retain possession by take short kickouts and they worked one fown the field for Peter Cooke to cut in from the left wing to fist over via the right hand post.
Galway though were unable to put away a dogged Tyrone side with the influence of Peter Harte becoming greater as the contest wore on. A strong run from Harte saw him find Canavan who was fouled and the latter converted the resulting free himself to leave it a one point game, 0-8 to 0-7.
That was as good as it was to get for Tyrone however as they could never get on equal terms. Galway had that advantage numerically and they used it wisely when the need arose.
A handy enough free awarded saw Walsh split the posts before he turned provider for a superb score from Matthew Tierney. McCurry though responded with a brilliant effort from play from out on the left wing after selling his marker a dummy only for Galway midfielder Paul Conroy to split the posts with his weaker left foot to keep their opponents at arms length.
Conor Meyler then got forward for a superb Tyrone score before Galway looked as though they had finally broken the visitors resistance when McDaid and substitute Robert Finnerty both split the posts to push them four clear with just over ten minutes left to play.
Tyrone though showed great character to take the fight to Galway again with Harte powering through for a fabulous score before McCurry scored another free. Walsh and McCurry were both on song and they exchanged points from frees before the influential Damien Comer got his only score of the day.
A sixth Walsh score kept Galway in control but McCurry’s 7th of the contest left only a single score between the sides with the game in injury time. Right at the end McCurry sent in a dangerous high ball in from the left wing which substitute Michael McGleenan tried to get on the end of with his fist but the danger was cleared.
Galway: C Gleeson, J McGrath, S Kelly, J Glynn, D McHugh, J Daly, C McDaid (0-2), P Conroy (0-2), J Maher, M Tierney (0-1), J Heaney (0-1), P Cooke (0-2), I Burke, D Comer (0-1), S Walsh (0-6, 4F). Subs: C Sweeney for Glynn, R Finnerty (0-1) for McHugh, T Culhane for Burke, C Hernon for Maher
Tyrone: N Morgan, M McKernan, R McNamee, P Hampsey, C Meyler (0-1), C Quinn (0-1), P Harte (0-1), B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick, F Burns, M O’Neill, J Oguz, D McCurry (0-7, 5F), M Donnelly (0-1), D Canavan (0-2, 2F). Subs: N Devlin for O Neill, S O Donnell for Oguz, M McGleenan for McNamee, R Canavan for D Canavan