Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh admitted he was surprised by a lack of Derry physicality as the Red Hands eased past the Oak Leafers at the first hurdle for the second season running.
It was a contest that the visitors controlled from start to finish and the Moy man paid tribute to the players who came off the bench to hit 0-7 between them as it finished 0-22 to 0-11.
“You could see the strength and depth that we had coming off the bench today,” said Sean.
“I think whenever it was 0-11 to 0-8, we sprung a few fresh legs and the likes of Darren McCurry, David Mulgrew and Lee Brennan were getting into spaces and kicking points. Their introduction made the game a bit easier than we anticipated to be honest.”
Tyrone led by double scores at the break, 0-10 to 0-5, before Derry had their best spell of the game on the restart as they closed the gap to three. The winners though refused to panic as they went through the gears but Cavanagh felt Derry are capable of progressing further in this year’s championship.
“That was probably the only part of the game that we can look back on and say that we could have pushed on more,” he admitted.
“You try to kill the game in the third quarter but in fairness Derry did come back into it. Derry will probably be disappointed with the way that they played as a whole but I think that as the year goes on, they will certainly improve. They were in this position last year and they regrouped and were only a kick of the ball away from doing what Tipperary did.
"They will try and match that again this year and I suppose from our point of view it is a case of job done. We were expecting a contest, a serious contest, and it probably surprised us that we didn’t get the level of physicality that we expecting but we know that we are going to get it the next day.
"It will be Clones, it will be a physical battle and the guys that came on the day showed us that we have serious talent in this squad right now and that will be severely tested in three weeks’ time.”
That will be a repeat of last season’s final against Donegal when Cavanagh, Peter Harte and Ciaran McGeary all came up with late eye catching points to win the day for Tyrone and Cavanagh knows that it won’t be easy.
“I suppose Donegal swatted us aside in Ballybofey a couple of months back and we don’t forget that,” said the Moy man.
“I’m sure that they will be expecting something similar in the semi-final in Clones and it is up to us to make up that ground and we will keep our heads down in training and work hard.”