DERRY GAA: Derry denied by controversial late Tyrone free

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Tyrone 0-11, Derry 1-08

Derry were denied two precious league points by Darren McCurry’s controversial late free in horrendous conditions at Healy Park on Saturday night.

Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh and Derry's Oisin Duffy. Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh and Derry's Oisin Duffy. Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

The Oak Leafers were one point in front after substitute Terence O’Brien’s excellent 62nd minute goal but had lost Niall Holly to a second yellow card as well as Brian Og McAlary to a black card before Tyrone drew level.

Michael McIver gave away the late free but Brian McIver was furious after it appeared Fergal Doherty had been fouled moments earlier as he tried to clear, a clearance that dropped short and paved the way for the Tyrone attack that brought the levelling score.

The point leaves Derry sweating on thier Division One status and makes next week’s visit of Mayo to Celtic Park a must win game.

In almost impossible conditions for both teams, Tyrone’s ultra defensive set up saw the home team often deploy 15 men inside their own half and seek to break if they could turn over possession in the Derry half. The gale force wind and driving rain made shooting from distance a lottery as Derry hit eight first half wides and Tyrone four in a forgettable first 35 minutes.

Derry's Mark Craig and Tyrone's Connor McAliskey and Sean Cavanagh.'' Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

Derry's Mark Craig and Tyrone's Connor McAliskey and Sean Cavanagh.'' Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

Things started well for the home side though after Com Cavanagh’s mazy first minute run ended with a neat finish to put Tyrone one up. Daniel McKinless had already had already seen two efforts caught by the wind and dragged wide inside the opening two minutes before Eoin Bradley, making his first Derry start since 2013, levelled matters from an eighth minute free following a foul on Enda Lynn.

For the next 11 minutes the two teams struggled to fashion any productive football although Derry were indebted to keeper Eoin McNicholl who was called into action when Padraig McNulty sent Aidan McCrory clear on 16 minutes. With Dermot McBride biting at his heels, the Tyrone man still managed to get his shot away but the Glenullin No. 1 was quick off his line to produce a excellent close range save.

James Kielt was introduced for Barry McGoldrick for his first taste of action in 2015 but it was Mickey Harte’s men who went in front after Sean Cavangh took a pass from Connor McAliskey to fire over the bar. The one point lead became two when Darren McCurry belied the conditions to send a brilliant free between the posts.

Derry needed a response and got it when Carlus McWilliams sent in a long shot which Bradley looked to get a touch on as it bounced over Niall Morgan’s bar. If the scorer of that point was in doubt, Derry’s third was definitely not as Sean Leo McGoldrick picked out Bradley to turn superbly and send over the best point of the half to level at 0-03 a-piece.

Derry had a couple of possible goal chances through McKinless but another Sean Cavanagh free edged Tyrone in front again to end 35 minutes which will have did little to warm the 3,735 souls hearty enough to brave Healy Park.

Derry started the second half well with Bradley drawing a free and Kielt sending the resultant kick over to level the game before Brian Og McAlary foolishly got himself black carded for blocking McCurry off the ball. He was replaced by Michael McIver as McCurry exacted a degree revenge by sending over a free to put Tyrone 0-5 to 0-4 up.

Connor McAliskey then extended that lead with a quite brilliant score from the left.

Morgan saw another free catch the wind and come back off the upright before Kielt showed him how to do it with a long range free which was brought back in by the breeze.

That score brought Derry back to within a point and they levelled with Benny Heron’s fantastic score at the end of a Derry patient build-up.

Tyrone substitute Cathal McShane could have hit the net with his first touch after a slip in the Derry defence put him clear but the corner forward’s audacious chip was ill judged in the conditions and easily saved by McNicholl.

That miss proved costly five minutes later when Lynn sent a high ball in which was broken down by substitute Emmett McGuckin in his first meaningful piece of play since coming on seconds earlier. McGuckin’s touch was perfect for fellow substitute O’Brien who showed composure beyond his years to roll a lovely low finish under Morgan and into the net.

The goal put Derry 1-07 to 0-06 but McCurry quickly reduced the deficit to three before disaster struck for Derry with a harsh second yellow card for Niall Holly which left the Oak Leafers facing the last few minutes a man short.

Sean Cavanagh grabbed a free but the visitors responded to the setback in the best possible style with Michael McIver’s sending over a brilliant point to put a goal between the sides again with five minutes left.

It looked like being enough, even when Mattie Donnelly and PJ Lavery brought it back to a one point game. However it was heartbreak for Derry when McCurry’s injury time free, hotly disputed by Derry, ensured a share of the spoils for Tyrone.

Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Aidan McCrory, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron; Ronan McNabb, Justin McMahon, Peter Harte; Colm Cavanagh (0-1), Padraig McNulty; Tiernan McCann, Mattie Donnelly (0-1), Barry Tierney; Darren McCurry (0-4, 4f), Sean Cavanagh (0-3, 2f), Connor McAliskey (0-1). (Subs) Conall McCann for P McNulty, 48mins; PJ Lavery (0-1) for C Cavanagh, 55mins; Cathal McShane for C McAliskey, 55mins

Derry: Eoin McNicholl; Oisin Duffy; Niall Holly, Dermot McBride; Brian Og McAlary, Kevin Johnston, Sean Leo McGoldrick (0-1); Mark Craig, Brian Og McGilligan; Carlus McWilliams, Benny Heron (0-1), Enda Lynn; Daniel McKinless, Eoin Bradley (0-3, 1f), Barry McGoldrick. (Subs) Conall McCann for P McNulty, 48mins;

James Kielt (0-2, 2f) for B McGoldrick (inj) 16mins; Michael McIver (0-1) for B Og McAlary (Black Card), 41mins; Terence O’Brien (1-0) for D McKinless, 49mins; Fergal Doherty for M Craig, 49mins; Emmett McGuckin for J Kielt 61mins; Liam McGoldrick for C McWilliams, 68mins.

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)