Another false dawn for Derry minor football! All the promise of the win over Donegal remained unfulfilled after 60 frustrating minutes.
Derry had enough possession and scoring chances to give Tyrone a much better battle than they did but all the old familiar failings surfaced the longer the game progressed.
Certainly Tyrone looked a different side from that which had struggled past Armagh in the opening round, and even had Derry played to their full potential, they still might well have fallen short.
But the Oak Leafers didn’t help themselves. It wasn’t through lack of preparation or lack of nous along the line. Paul McIver and team tried everything to get it going, but it just never happened.
All the positives, every good thing they did against Donegal, was forgotten in St. Tiernach’s Park on Saturday afternoon, and it resulted in an ultimately one-sided spectacle.
Over the years much has been said about Derry teams being unable to cope with the physical strength of other teams and that was again evident in this game at Clones!
After the game, McIver pointed to the battle of Padraig Hampsey and Ryan Bell on the edge of the square. Bell towered over him, and he’s the biggest minor in the county, but he hadn’t room to breathe in Clones.
Hampsey stood tall and strong on the edge of his own square and he kept Ballinderry’s starlet scoreless.
“Look at Ryan, he’s as big a minor as you’ll get anywhere and he just couldn’t get past Padraig Hampsey, who’s half the size of him.
“Their conditioning is different, their development squads must be doing something different from we’re doing. You can come up against the like of Donegal and do ok, but Tyrone and Armagh are the yardstick.
“We do have footballers, loads of footballers, but there’s just something missing. What it is, we need to figure it out and sort it fair and quick,” said McIver.
Derry struggled all over the park. One of the biggest problems was the one thing the Donegal game suggested they’d altered – their use of the ball. Time and again Derry carried the ball into tackles and lost it. They were taking solos with the head down when against Donegal, they looked up and moved the ball sharp. Against such good opposition, it was always going to prove disastrous.
“The boys were so good and so composed on the ball against Donegal, and against Tyrone, nothing. They looked nervous, worried,” added McIver.
Only two of Derry’s starting front six registered from play, and one of them, Danny Tallon, was replaced before the interval as the underdogs struggled to make the ball stick up front. They had held a slight advantage in terms of possession in the first 30 minutes, but Tyrone’s use of the ball was much better.
It looked ominous at the interval. Michael Donnelly’s team hadn’t played particularly well, they hadn’t really got Mark Bradley into the game, and yet they led 0-06 to 0-03 and seemed to have the measure of things even by that stage.
Conor McAtamney made a fight of it at midfield but it was another area in which Tyrone, having brought Anthony Devlin into the side in place of Sean Molloy, were superior.
When Bradley, who had hit 2-09 in their Ulster opener, began to show well at the start of the second half, Derry moved quickly. He hit two quick-fire points in two minutes upon the restart, and McDonnell was hauled ashore, with Conor Gallagher going in. The substitute got a lot closer to Bradley and kept him to just one further score, which came in the final few minutes.
By the same token, Declan Brown and Gareth McKinless as a roaming wing-back were two of Derry’s best players. The latter, son of Ballinderry manager Martin, was relentless. He ran himself to a standstill and it’s hard to remember him losing a ball all day.
With a quarter of the game to play, Derry’s best chance of getting back in the game fell to him when he made a 60 metre supporting run to take the ball from Conor Murphy, but his low shot was brilliantly tipped around the post by Daire Martin.
The Tyrone keeper had made an equally important stop early in the first half, when McKinless was again involved in setting up Gerald Bradley, but the Slaughtneil man scuffed his low shot and Martin spread himself well to get enough on the ball to stop it.
McKinless also set up Derry’s first score by doing something the Oak Leafers didn’t do enough of. He threw himself into a block at midfield, disrupting the delivery and starting a counter which resulted in Danny Tallon swinging over from the right wing.
That was after four minutes and it would be a further 40 minutes before Ciaran McFaul would register Derry’s next score from play, though even then there were only five in it and a comeback wasn’t out of the question.
But it never looked likely.
Tyrone’s Indian sign continues, deservedly, undoubtedly. They were cuter, smarter, sharper, better. Even Derry at full-tilt would have struggled. But the disappointing thing is that, in front of a decent smattering of Oak Leaf fans, they didn’t see the real Derry.
Derry - Christopher Bradley; Declan Brown, Michael Sweeney, Ryan McDonnell; Gareth McKinless, Conor Carville, James Kearney (0-02f); Peter Cassidy, Conor McAtamney; Ciaran McFaul (0-01), Ryan Dougan, Terence O’Brien (0-02f); Gerald Bradley, Ryan Bell, Danny Tallon (0-01); Replacements - Neill McNicholl for Danny Tallon (24); Conor Gallagher for Ryan McDonnell (33); Conor Murphy for Gerald Bradley (40); Ruairi McElwee for Ryan Dougan (47); Daryl Mullan for Ryan Bell (56).
Tyrone - Daire Martin; Ruairi Mullan, Padraig Hampsey, Caolan Harvey; Ruairi Kelly, Conor Mallon, Peter McKenna (0-01); Rory Brennan (0-01), Anthony Devlin (0-01); Kieran McGeary, Sean Hackett, Ruairi Sludden (0-01); James McGahan (0-05, 0-03f), Daniel McNulty (0-01), Mark Bradley (0-04); Replacements - Caolan Corr for Ruairi Kelly (35); Ruairi McGlone for Ruairi Sludden (50); Cormac O’Neill for James McGahan (59); Diarmuid Carroll (0-01) for Kieran McGeary (60); Michael Cassidy for Daniel McNulty (60).
Referee - Brendan Rice (Down).