DERRY GAA: Healy Park ‘storm’ leaves Derry flat

Eoin Bradley takes on Tyrone's Cathal McCarron in Healy Park. (Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com)
Eoin Bradley takes on Tyrone's Cathal McCarron in Healy Park. (Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com)

Tyrone 0-11, Derry 1-08

One point; One decision can have a huge bearing on a team.

Niall Holly leaves the pitch after receiving a second yellow card. ( Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com)

Niall Holly leaves the pitch after receiving a second yellow card. ( Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com)

The aftermath of the Healy Park ‘storm’ still leaves Derry in charge of their own Division One destiny but the importance of that one David Coldrick decision will only be known in three or four weeks.

A little context is needed.

Derry manager Brian McIver is not a man normally prone to exaggeration. In his time in charge of the Oak Leafers he has always accepted defeat or setback with good grace and sportsmanship, even when it must have been difficult for him to stomach.

So when you see the Derry manager so incensed at the final whistle, you tend to sit up and take notice.

Derry's Terence O'Brien scores the only goal of the game in Healy Park on Saturday night (Photograph: Lorcan Doherty / Presseye)

Derry's Terence O'Brien scores the only goal of the game in Healy Park on Saturday night (Photograph: Lorcan Doherty / Presseye)

It wasn’t so much the obvious injury time foul on Fergal Doherty as he attempted to fashion a clearance which would surely have brought Derry a vital two points.

It wasn’t even that the decision was then compounded by a free being awarded against his son, Michael, for a foul on Tiernan McCann that Tyrone were praying for.

No, it was more the culmination of close decisions which saw Brian Og McAlary black carded and Niall Holly receive a second yellow card.

There was little argument on McAlary’s black card for blocking Darren McCurry off the ball. Holly’s was more debatable, especially given similar incidents by men in white were more inclined to be greeted by yellow which is fast becoming a ‘get outta jail’ card for unsure officials.

The Derry manager’s verdict was damning.

“Our man (Fergal Doherty) was fouled on the way out after we had turned the ball over. It should have been a free out and game over,” said the Derry manager.

“It was a home town decision, not a doubt about that and decisions like that were going against us for the greater percentage of the night.”

It is a familiar party line from frustrated managers in the wake of disappointment but it is not one McIver normally peddles.

His frustration was understandable. Doherty certainly looked to be barged as he tried to clear after Derry had seemingly weathered what looked Tyrone’s last roll of the dice. Crucially though, Emmett McGuckin also had the opportunity to retain possession seconds earlier in the Tyrone half but his attempted pass got charged down, allowing the Red Hands to build.

Small margins indeed but they tallied up to a dropped point for Derry. The question now is how important will that point prove?

There was certainly enough amid the driving rain and gale force wind to suggest Derry can dig themselves out of precarious position they find themselves. The weather probably rendered a week’s worth of tactical drills useless. There is no way to prepare to play in such terrible conditions. Shooting, fielding and passing all became a lottery and even the most accurate players on the pitch struggled to work out a gale to was blowing to every corner of Healy Park.

Yet there were plenty of positives. The first half was terrible but the conditions were only partly to blame for that. Tyrone’s new ultra defensive approach also played it’s part.

On countless occasions in the first half and beyond Mickey Harte’s men vacated the Derry half, charging back to their own 45 like men possessed if a ball was lost. It made for a surreal picture. Derry full back Holly was more often at half-forward while Dermot McBride and Oisin Duffy stood isolated from all but each other and Eoin McNicholl inside the Derry half. Had you plucked a footballer from the 70s or 80s and dropped him straight into the Healy Park stand he would have wondered what sport he was watching.

Despite that, Sean Leo McGoldrick was the best player on the pitch. The Eoghan Rua man was everywhere, sweeping up breaks, recycling passess and ferrying possession between the Derry lines. Brian Og McGilligan also did well in the problematic midfield position although it took substitute Fergal ‘Doc’ all but a few minutes to show how Derry had missed him in his absence.

There was a very encouraging cameo from James Kielt while Eoin McNicholl was also excellent. In difficult conditions the Glenullin keeper never put a foot wrong and produced one superb first half stop 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 McNicholl was quick off his line to block.

It was a highlight of a forgettable first half that left the home side one point to the good at 0-4 to 0-3.

Things did improve after the break but the game only really got going in the final 10 minutes.

Benny Heron had registered a well worked point to level proceedings at 0-06 a-piece before McGoldrick shot Derry ahead with the best score of the game.

On 62 minutes the Derry goal arrived and it owed everything to substitutes Emmett McGuckin and Terence O’Brien. Enda Lynn’s high ball was nothing more than a speculative pass but McGuckin turned it into something, out-muscling the Tyrone backline to break the ball down perfectly for O’Brien to roll a lovely finish under Niall Morgan.

It should have been enough for victory but Tyrone never lie down and fought back brilliantly though the nature of that equalising score left the outcome feeling more like a defeat than a draw.

The table still leaves room for manoeuvre. Derry may be bottom but only three points separate them from top of the table Mayo. With the leaders to come at Celtic Park next Sunday, two points could have a huge impact on the table.

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) 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)