A scoring burst of 1-8 without reply in the opening twenty minutes of the second half helped propel All Ireland champions Tyrone to an Ulster Championship preliminary round victory over a dogged Fermanagh side at Brewster Park in Enniskillen on Saturday evening.
The Red Hands had huffed and puffed in the opening half to a fired up Fermanagh side who were unlucky to trail by a point at the interval after Conor Meyler had found the net late in the half moments after Fermanagh had spurned a second goal chance at the other end of the field. Full forward Darragh McGurn brought the sides level early in the second half but then Tyrone reeled off 1-8 without reply to effectively end the game as a contest.
Conor McKenna came on as a substitute at halftime and he brought an energy that had been missing in the visitors and there is no doubt that he played a key role in changing the outcome in favour of the visitors. Not only did he kick two superb points but he played a key role in his side’s second goal with his shot striking the base of the post with fellow substitute Liam Rafferty reacting well to divert the rebound to the net. Unfortunately his evening ended on a sour note when he was straight red carded by referee Joe McQuillan in the 69th minute and no doubt Tyrone will be doing everything in their power to get it rescinded as it looked a harsh call to say the least.
In the opening minute of the contest the Red Hands were dealt a blow when Michael O’Neill, who was playing for Tyrone for the first time since the All Ireland Final, was black carded for a foul on James McMahon. Darragh Canavan opened the scoring in the 4th minute with a fine effort but the home side were quickly on level terms when Sean Quigley not over a free after he had been fouled himself. A great catch from Conn Kilpatrick released Niall Sludden to put the visitors back in front before Fermanagh enjoyed a purple patch. Quigley levelled matters from a “45” and in the 17th minute Fermanagh had a goal chance but Conall Jones blasted over the bar with only keeper Niall Morgan to beat.
Fermanagh were enjoying the better of things at this stage and they began to make their possession count on the scoreboard with Ryan Lyons knocking over a free before adding a brilliant point from out on the left wing to put the home side three clear. Darren McCurry ended a quarter of an hour barren spell for Tyrone from a tricky free and that got his evening up and running as well, he went on to contribute half a dozen points.
Tyrone were struggling but they ended a fourteen minute barren spell with a well struck Darren McCurry free. McCurry and Fermanagh defender James McMahon exchanged points before the former landed a beauty from play from distance. The 33rd minute proved to be key in the context of the game. First of all Fermanagh had a great goal chance when they turned Tyrone over and attacked at pace with Declan McCusker setting up Quigley but he blazed over the bar. Tyrone came straight down the field for the hard working Conor Meyler to exchange passes with Sludden before slipping the ball past keeper Sean McNally with his weaker right foot. Lyons levelled matters with another quality score but it was Tyrone who had the final say of the first half through full forward Cathal McShane to give them a slender one point interval advantage.
Full forward Darragh McGurn equalised on the restart but then Tyrone turned on the style. Kieran McGeary, McCurry (3), McShane, Conn Kilpatrick and Brian Kennedy all landed points before Liam Rafferty finished to the net from close range after a goal attempt from McKenna had come back off the post. McShane and Garvan Jones traded points before McKenna split the posts with a fine effort before substitute Michael Conroy then got his name on the scoresheet as well. McKenna then struck a brilliant point with the outside of his boot that went over via both posts as Tyrone continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over. To their credit Fermanagh kept battling away and they got their reward with late goals from Josh Largo Ellis and Conall Jones to put a better look on the final scoreboard.
Fermanagh: S McNally, L Flanagan, J Cassidy, A Breen, J McMahon (0-1), R O’Callaghan, D McCusker, R Jones, B Horan, R Lyons (0-3, 1F), C Jones (1-1), J L Ellis (1-0), C Corrigan, D McGurn (0-1), S Quigley (0-3, 1F, 1 “45”). Subs: O Kelm for O’Callaghan, G Jones (0-1, 1F) for Corrigan, J McDade for Breen
Tyrone: N Morgan, M McKernan, R McNamee, P Hampsey, R Brennan, F Burns, C Meyler (1-0), C Kilpatrick (0-1), B Kennedy (0-1, 1M), K McGeary (0-1), M O’Neill, N Sludden (0-1), D McCurry (0-6, 2F, 2M), C McShane (0-3, 1F), D Canavan (0-1). Subs: C McKenna (0-2) for O’Neill, L Rafferty (1-0) for McGeary, B McDonnell for Kennedy, M Conroy (0-1) for McCurry, C Shields for Canavan