Tyrone are “Red” hot favourites as trip to Derry starts Championship buzz again

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It is that time of year again when Tyrone GAA fans will be dreaming of what glory awaits in the upcoming inter-county championship season.

Twelve months ago the O’Neill County travelled to Celtic Park to take on arch-rivals and neighbours, Derry, in round one of the series following a league campaign which had seen the counties meet in Division 2. Tyrone, on route to a first Anglo Celt Cup success in six years, delivered one of their most polished displays of that campaign (outside of the Ulster replay v Cavan) and emerged with 11 points to spare against what was a poor Derry side on the day.

The contest was effectively “done and dusted” by half-time last year as Tyrone fired home three first half goals, and went on to score a comprehensive 3-14 to 0-12 victory.

Ulster SFC quarter-final: Derry 0- 12 3-14 Tyrone
Derry scorers: J Kielt 0-5; D Heavron 0-2; R Bell 0-2; M Lynch 0-1; A McKaigue 0-1; E Brown 0-1
Tyrone scorers: R O’Neill 2-2; P Harte 1-0; D McCurry 0-4; M Donnelly 0-2; C McAliskey 0-2; C McShane 0-1; R Donnelly 0-1; P McNulty 0-1; J Munroe 0-1

A look back at the 2016 Ulster SFC meeting, Tyrone v Derry

The 2016 Ulster champions had ten different scorers in last year’s meeting and one year on they actually go into their championship meeting in a seemingly even greater margin apart. While Tyrone competed, and showed some solid form in Division 1 of the league after another Dr. McKenna Cup success, Derry were relegated from Division 2 and now face the lowly prospect of Division 3 football in 2018.

On that basis it is not difficult to see why Tyrone are “Red Hot Favourites” to book a semi final ticket again. So far in the championship both Monaghan and Donegal, seen as the only real other challengers in 2017 for the Ulster SFC title, have been emphatic first round winners – albeit those wins were against Fermanagh and Antrim.

Tyrone’s challenge would appear tougher and it should still be noted that Tyrone and Derry championship meetings are notoriously tempestuous, intense and fiercely contested derby affairs. Last year’s meeting was the exception to the rule. Remember that prior to Tyrone’s win in Celtic Park in 2016, the O’Neill County had never won a championship game at that venue! Nonetheless, in light of the poor recent form of Derry, it is a game which the Anglo Celt Cup holders will have to win and indeed do so comfortably, if a back-to-back triumph in the series is to be likely.

Mickey Harte is naturally looking ahead to the latest test with the Oak Leaf County as a likely tough championship battle and reads nothing into what transpired in the corresponding head-to-head twelve months ago.

“Derry and Tyrone is always a tough battle. We got away from them last year in the first half, we caught them by surprise and possibly had the game won by half-time. We’re now back at Celtic Park and they will have learned from that and you can be guaranteed it won’t happen this time. We’re looking forward to a real tough challenge from Derry. You need to remember that they were within a kick of a ball of doing what Tipperary did in 2016 and it could well have been Derry in an All ireland semi final last year. So we’re expecting a very serious challenge on Sunday”

Tyrone have been installed as apparent unopposable 1/4 favourites on Sunday with the home side, Derry, available at 4/1 (Paddy Power). Tyrone can be taken at Evens on the -4pts handicap betting while Tyrone are 1/2 to be ahead at half-time and full time – the latter two would have come in comfortably last season. The first-goalscorer market can be seen below with Peter Harte the favourite at 7/1 to find the net first in the tie.

Barton bidding to take Derry to first win over Tyrone…

Sunday’s match will be the seventh meeting between the counties since Damien Barton took the Derry job in October 2015. Tyrone have won all six encounters thus far although Barton points out that his side wasted a glorious chance to beat the Red Hands in the Dr McKenna Cup decider 16 months ago, when Mickey Harte’s men eventually won the tempestuous game in extra-time.

“If we had cleared the wire in the last kick (of normal) time, we probably would have won it. That would have put a different perspective on the rest of our season, perhaps.

“But I don’t really look at it that way. Every day, you have got to go out and perform. Tyrone will have to perform against us. Obviously, we will be starting as second favourites. We certainly will have to put in a big performance to beat them.”

 

Some interesting statistics…

Tyrone will go into the 2017 Ulster Senior Football Championship in a bid for two-in-a-row of title wins and a 15th provincial crown overall – which would incidentally move them into a clear third place in the Anglo Celt Cup roll of honour. Cavan are still away clear at the head of that roll of honour with 37 title wins but have to go back 20 years since their last win (1997) while Monaghan are in 2nd place on 16 wins.

Tyrone Ulster SFC title wins: 1956, 1957, 1973, 1984, 1986, 1989, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2016

The O’Neill County have won back to back Ulster SFC titles on three occasions before. The first of those came 60 years ago in 1956 & 1957 and the next didn’t arrive until 1995 & 1996. Tyrone last achieved the feat with successive title wins in 2009 and 2010.

Ironically the last time Tyrone lost in the opening round of the Ulster Championship, when going in as reigning champions, was in 2008 and although they lost a thriller to Down (AET) by 1-19 to 0-21, Tyrone then regrouped and went on to win a 3rd All Ireland Senior Championship title in that same campaign.

Having won Ulster and All Ireland titles in 2003, Tyrone were convincing winners against Derry in round one of Ulster in 2004. Prior to that they went into the 2002 Ulster Senior Football Championship as holders (having taken the 2001 honours) but lost at the first hurdle to the eventual Ulster and All Ireland champions of that year, Armagh, after a replay!

Tyrone take on Derry in the ulster SFC quarter final with the Minor match at 12pm and the Senior game at 2pm in Celtic Park.

Tyrone manager, Mickey Harte, undoubtedly possesses a most impressive record against our neighbouring rivals, Derry, and all the indicators would suggest a win again on Sunday to add to that tally.

One result that does stand out though to suggest the contrary is from 11 years ago. Tyrone were brilliant All Ireland winners in 2005 (albeit without winning Ulster) and met Derry in the opening round of the 2006 Ulster series. Obviously, Tyrone went into the game as raging hot favourites in Healy Park but incredibly failed to even raise a flag in the opening half, trailing by 0-6 to 0-0 at the break. Derry went on to win the game by 1-8 to 0-5 and that has actually been the only defeat which Mickey Harte, as manager, has tasted at the hands of the Oak Leaf County while it is the only Ulster championship victory for Derry against Tyrone in the past 20 years, since 1997.

Tyrone will name their Championship team for Sunday at the annual Club Tyrone evening this Thursday and of course there is likely to be a few changes to the most recent side which travelled to Kerry for the National League.

All things said, there is nothing more exciting for a Tyrone gael than the excitement, hope and anticipation that the start of a new championship challenge brings. Roll on Sunday. Roll on the Championship!!!

First Goalscorer
Emmet McGuckin
9/1
No Goalscorer
9/2
Peter Harte
7/1
Danny Tallon
12/1
Darren McCurry
15/2
Mark Lynch
12/1
Sean Cavanagh
9/1
Niall Loughlin
16/1
Mark Bradley
11/1
Enda Lynn
16/1
Niall Sludden
14/1
Benny Heron
16/1
Kieran McGeary
16/1
Danny Heavron
25/1
Tiernan McCann
20/1
Conor McAtamney
25/1
Conor Meyler
22/1
Padraig Cassidy
66/1
Padraig McNulty
50/1
Chrissy McKaigue
80/1
Colm Cavanagh
50/1
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