Tyrone senior hurlers remain unbeaten in their league campaign but dropped their first point of the year when they came from four down late in the game to salvage a 2-22 to 2-22 draw against a spirited Longford side. However Michael Mc Shane’s players will feel they should have come away with both points having missed a couple of late chances including a last minute sixty five which tailed off to the right ensuring both teams took something from the game.
This was a highly entertaining game between two very evenly matched sides who both enjoyed periods of superiority. With home advantage Longford were keen to bounce back from their eleven point loss against Armagh last day out. However it was Tyrone who made the better start with a point from Damien Casey and a well fashioned goal from the stick of CJ Mc Gourty inside the first three minutes. Points from man of the match Joe O’Brien, Martin Coyle and Cian Kavanagh reduced the gap before a well taken Darragh Grogan point put Tyrone two points to the good ten minutes in.
The action on the pitch was as entertaining as it was close. A point from midfielder Stephen Creaven and a goal from the talented Cathal Mullane put Longford 1-4 to 1-3 ahead but scores from the industrious Bryan Mc Gurk and talisman Casey tied the game again. The teams swapped three points apiece to remain tied on a score of 1-7 to 1-7. Longford were making good use of the wind but super defensive play from Lorcan Devlin, Chris Kearns and Conor Mc Nally made sure the Longford forwards found space up front hard to come by.
Scores from Creaven and David Buckley put Longford two up with the first half entering the closing minutes. Tyrone goalkeeper Conor Mc Elhatton kept his side in the game with a superb stop from Joe O’Brien. The Longford full forward swapped points with Bryan Mc Gurk before the home side stretched their lead to five with half time rapidly approaching. Mullane and O’Brien were joined by Luke Kelly on the scoring list as Longford mover 1-13 to 1-8 ahead.
Tyrone showed considerable resolve and self belief as they hurled hard to prevent the game from slipping away from them. The superb Tiernan Morgan pointed before scores from Casey and Mc Gourty reduced the gap to two points. Mc Gourty then hit his second goal of the game showing admirable skills and finishing power as he shot hard and low to the net.
The half time whistle sounded almost immediately and Tyrone went in at the break leading 2-11 to 1-13.
Red Hands manager Mc Shane was hoping for a fast start to the second half but instead it was their opponents who seized the initiative with four early points to move three clear. Buckley (2) Mullane and substitute Paul Barden were the men on target in that early spell. Indeed Longford landed seven fine points during the opening ten minutes of the second half with Tyrone only managing a single point from the stick of Damien Casey.
Tyrone looked rattled but Michael Mc Shane introduced fresh legs and made one or two positional switches. Casey converted two opportunities before substitute Michael Little and Tiernan Morgan narrowed the gap to one point. Joe O’Brien landed a long range score to open up a two point Longford lead but points from Mc Gourty and Little tied the game again 2-18 to 1-21.
Mc Gourty then landed a fine individual score from out on the left to put Tyrone one in front. Longford refused to yield and they tied it up once more with another Joe O’Brien point before wing forward Mullane took advantage of a moments hesitancy in the Tyrone defence to fire the sliotar to the net and put Longford three clear with the game entering additional time.
Tyrone could quite easily have given up the battle but Michael Mc Shane’s players showed character and resolve. Collectively they dug deep and landed three super points from Casey (2) and Lorcan Devlin to leave it 2-22 a piece. Indeed the Red Hands had two or three really good chances to take the win but overall a draw was a fair result on the day.