Stubborn students make it difficult for Red Hands.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Stubborn students make it difficult for Red Hands. thumbnailTyrone’s Ronan O'Neill in action against St Mary’s Belfast.

A STUBBORN St Mary's side pushed Tyrone all the way at Coalisland, but the experience and class of the home side finally got the job done and secured a second straight win in the Dr McKenna Cup.


A much-changed side from that which crushed Antrim worked hard, but needed a goal from Oma gh's Ciaran McLaughlin to kick-start their challenge.

Ronan O'Neill and Peter Harte weighed in with four points apiece as the Red Hands saw off the students by five to keep themselves firmly on course for a seventh successive McKenna Cup title.

Manager Mickey Harte reflected on a difficult afternoon, with the men from the Ranch pushing his side all the way.

"It wasn't easy. I said that after we beat Antrim, we would meet more stubborn opposition, because they are a side that plays together a lot and they are a side that have a good, cohesive unit and they have a good system of play," said Harte.

"So, I knew it would be difficult to play against them. Having said that I think we created enough chances in the first half to have the game more safely tucked away in our favour but we didn't take those chances and it was a fight to the end." The players had to deal with a firm surface due to a fierce overnight frost, but they produced an entertaining contest for the 2,825 spectators.

"They (conditions) were probably more difficult than people looking would have thought. People were slipping when the ball was coming into them and maybe the ball headed off in a different trajectory than it was expected to," said Harte.

"There are all those things to deal with but it was the same for both teams." The students made the McKenna Cup holders fight right to the end for their five point success.

"I think St Mary's deserve a lot of credit for the way they played that game today, I think it is a credit to them the small numbers they have and probably losing a few players from last year and they are still a formidable outfit." Encour aged Harte was encouraged by the performances of some of his newcomers, who have already shown that they have a future at the highest level.

"Yeah, Ciaran McLaughlin is a good player, and that's why he is with us. I suppose more people would need to see that as the year goes on." He also paid tribute to Michael McKernan, who has impressed in both games to date.

"That's again why we picked him up and now he has been with the under-21s for a few years now too. He is a quality player and we are glad to have him for this part of the McKenna Cup. He could have been with Jordanstown but we decided we needed him with us and we thought that was a good thing."

A win over Cavan at Kingspan Breffni on Wednesday evening will send Tyrone through to the semi-finals, and on course for a seventh straight title success.

"It's what we wanted to do. We want to keep winning games and leave the qualification to the semi-finals in our own hands and we have that at the minute," said Harte.

"We need a result on Wednesday night to put that beyond doubt but it is good for the McKenna Cup that this is a serious game on Wednesday night again. The winners will be guaranteed to be in the semi-finals." The impact of new forwards coach Stephen O'Neill can be seen already, and an onus on attack is emerging.

"We would know that he's an instinctive forward and can do things that very few others can do," said Harte.

"So if he can coach a little bit of that into our forwards, then that will be helpful.

"Other players can get insights as to why he was as effective as he was as a player on the field, and he can coach them about ways of doing things that they mightn't have thought about before.

"And when it's coming from someone who has been there and done it, they fairly well will listen to it." "The days of backs, forwards and all that is gone, we know that. The days of positional sense as it writes on a match programme is gone.

"So it is about football, and every player needs to be able to think like that, to think like an attacker and to work like a defender. That's the way the game's going"

St Mary's went three ahead early on, with Oisin O'Neill, Augher's Darragh Kavanagh and Stephen McConville all on target.

It wasn't until the tenth minute that Peter Harte got Tyrone's opening score, timing his run to connect with Ronan McHugh's cross, his fisted effort flying over the bar when it could easily have ended in the net.

Michael Cassidy, Ciaran McLaughlin and Ronan McNabb impressed at the back as the students pressed again, and the holders countered for a Harte score from a free.

Liam Devlin responded with a point, but Tyrone created another goal chance, Connor McAliskey denied by 'keeper Mark Reid, with Harte converting the resultant '45.

In the 22nd minute, the home side got in for the game's opening goal. Ronan O'Neill, Harte and Ben McDonnell linked neatly, and it was defender McLaughlin who finished the move with an accomplished finish.

Ben McDonnell tagged on a point for a two points advantage, but St Mary's hit back with a Jarlath Og Burns goal in the 31st minute, a poor kick-out punished by an opportunist strike.

Scores from Ronan O'Neill and two from McHugh sent Tyrone in at the break with a 1-7 to 1-5 lead, and they added further points through Harte and O'Neill in the early stages of the second half.

St Mary's kept in touch through the excellent Oisin O'Neill and Kavanagh, but the loss of Harte to a black card on 47 minutes forced Tyrone to re-adjust.

Oisin O'Neill added a couple of superb scores as St Mary's narrowed the gap to two points going into the final five minutes, but Tyrone had quality players to come off the bench, and scores from substitutes Mattie Donnelly and Niall Sludden closed the game out with five points to spare.

Tyrone scorers: Ciaran McLaughlin 1-0, Ronan O'Neill (1 free), Peter Harte (2 frees, 1 '45) 0-4 each, Ronan McHugh 0-3, Ben McDonnell, Mattie Donnelly, Tiernan McCann, Niall Sludden, Michael McKernan 0-1 each.

St Mary's scorers: Jarlath Og Burns 1-0, Oisin O'Neill 0-5 (1 free), Darragh Kavanagh 0-3 (1 free), Stephen McConville, Caolan McConville, Liam Devlin 0-1 each.

Tyrone: Mickey O'Neill: Aidan McCrory, Cathal McCarron, Michael Cassidy; Ciaran McLaughlin, Ronan McNabb, Kieran McGeary; Ben McDonnell, Declan McClure; Richie Donnelly, Conall McCann, Peter Harte; Ronan O'Neill, Ronan McHugh, Connor McAliskey.

Subs: Padraig Hampsey for McNabb, Mattie Donnelly for R Donnelly, Niall Sludden for McAliskey, Frank Burns for Harte (BC), Michael McKernan for McCarron, Tiernan McCann for McLaughlin.

St Mary's: Mark Reid; Kyle Mallon, Jack Hannigan, Miceal Rooney; Colm Byrne, Caolan McConville, Liam Rafferty; Liam Devlin, Oisin O'Neill; Stephen McConville, Conor Meyler, Jarlath Og Burns; Conor Convery, Darragh Kavanagh, Aaron Boyle.

Subs: Ciaran McKeever for Boyle, PJ Drake for Rafferty, Charlie Carr for Devlin, Joe Colton for Convery, Gerard Walsh for Byrne, Ryan McSherry for Rooney.

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).


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