GAA: Derry Masters suffer first defeat of season against Tyrone in Dungiven

Tyrone captain captain Conor Gormley and Derry captain Brian Mullan at O'Cahan Park on Saturday.Tyrone captain captain Conor Gormley and Derry captain Brian Mullan at O'Cahan Park on Saturday.
Tyrone captain captain Conor Gormley and Derry captain Brian Mullan at O'Cahan Park on Saturday.
Masters Gaelic Football League

Derry 0-7, Tyrone 2-7

Derry suffered their first league defeat of the 2024 season at sunny St. Canice’s Park, Dungiven on Saturday afternoon.

Two second half goals proved the difference between these two well matched sides, with the reigning All Ireland senior champions, Tyrone, once again showing why they are the standard-bearers in Masters Football.

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The Derry Masters panel before their league game against Tyrone in O'Cahan Park, Dungiven.The Derry Masters panel before their league game against Tyrone in O'Cahan Park, Dungiven.
The Derry Masters panel before their league game against Tyrone in O'Cahan Park, Dungiven.

Despite missing injured talismen, Kevin McGuckin and Paddy Bradley, and a raft of other first teamers, the Oakleaf men ran in 0-3 to 0-2 ahead at half- time. Derry’s lead at the break was no more than they deserved. Indeed, had it not been for the width of the crossbar at the graveyard end of the pitch the home side should have been further ahead.

Gavin Diamond, enjoying a magnificent season so far, broke through a very well marshalled Tyrone defence only to see his rasping shot canon back off the woodwork with the Tyrone ‘keeper well beaten. And this in Derry’s very first attack.

The opening half was an intense but low scoring affair. Eunan Murphy, playing on his home ground, was outstanding in the opening 30 minutes, accounting for three of Derry’s points. Joe Gray, too, eluded his man a couple of times but his finishing uncharacteristically let the Faughanvale man down. James McNicholl was covering every blade of grass and getting through his usual mountain of unsung work.

But in a well contested midfield, Ciaran ‘Papa’ McIvor was probably the stand-out player. The Ballymaguigan man mixed his usual fearless physicality with clever running and high fielding. Indeed, one such towering catch from McIvor led directly to a second Derry goal chance when, once again, Diamond saw his effort denied, this time saved off the line by an alert Tyrone defender with the ‘keeper once more beaten.

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Derry's Eunan Murphy hit 0-4 on his home pitch against Tyrone on Saturday.Derry's Eunan Murphy hit 0-4 on his home pitch against Tyrone on Saturday.
Derry's Eunan Murphy hit 0-4 on his home pitch against Tyrone on Saturday.

The teams went score for score throughout an evenly contested and hard- hitting third quarter. A point from debutant Marty Donaghy and a fourth from Murphy left the Dungiven scoreboard reading 0-5 each. ‘Nugget’ was instrumental in everything that was good about Derry after his introduction – winning ball, holding possession and scoring a second point with that cultured left peg.

A 45th minute goal from Tyrone’s key man, Conor Gormley, however, swung the tie in the visitor’s direction. The former Tyrone great robbed a Derry defender, bore down on goal and buried a crucial goal for his side.

Derry, nonetheless, continued to battle. Jimmy O’Connor began making a few of his trademark runs, Brian Mullan and Rory O’Reilly worked tireless up and down the pitch with full-back Philly Mooney breaking forward on a number of occasions too. But a second Tyrone goal, when an attempted point dropped short only to be fisted home from close range, finally left the O’Neill County with the cushion on the scoreboard they needed.

A third point from Donaghy capped a fine, fine debut for the Oak Leafers. The Claudy ace was in good company with any number of men in red and white producing lung-burning displays. The evergreen Aidy Deery was the pick of Derry defenders, with Conor Doonan and Donal Brolly beginning to rediscover their 2023 All Ireland Intermediate winning form.

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Raymond Wilkinson continued to build on his growing Masters reputation, proving an elusive proposition for Tyrone defenders. Ryan O’Kane, too, produced a sizzling first half full of pace and jinking runs.

Derry pushed for a late goal that might prise open their hopes but Ciaran McIvor saw a late shout for a penalty waved away and Derry’s day was done.

The home side entertain Cavan next with nothing but a victory required to keep their hopes of participation in this year’s Senior Championship alive. And a big shout out too to St Canice’s, Dungiven for their magnificent hosting.

Derry scorers: E Murphy 0-4 (3f), M Donaghy 0-3 (2f).

Derry: Pearse McCallan, Conor Doonan, Philip Mooney, Aidy Deery, Brian Mullan, Jimmy O’Connor, Donal Brolly, Gavin Diamond, James McNicholl, Ciaran McIvor, Rory O’Reilly, Raymond Wilkinson, Joe Gray, Ryan O’Kane, Eunan Murphy. (Subs) Marty Donaghy, Ciaran Mullan, Emmett McGilloway, Joe Bradley, Gareth Murphy, Richard Clarence, Kevin Cosgrove, Liam McElhone, Paul McCloskey, Kevin Donnelly

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