The Ulster Championship made a welcome return to our screens on Sunday, albeit as part of a deferred broadcast where most people knew the outcome already.
But let’s not get bogged down on the untapped resources many of our broadcasters are missing out on and instead take a second to compliment the football on show.
It was supposed to be a walkover, a foregone conclusion, a classic case of Division 1 versus Division 4, however, what transpired was a game littered with everything we love about championship football.
A beautiful summer’s day, red-hot atmosphere, the white-heat of championship and a huge scare for the favourites. The perfect introduction to the 2019 Ulster Championship, the only thing lacking was an underdog win.
Tyrone looked comfortable for most of the game until the 55th minute when Shane McGuigan hit the net to bring Derry level and throw a huge spanner in the works.
Mickey Harte’s men were able to edge back in front through a Cathal McShane free before the Derry men kicked two points back-to-back to edge them in front for the first time in the game.
All of a sudden, with 17 minutes to go, a shock looked on. The Division 4 side looked poised to dump the All-Ireland finalists out of Ulster on their home patch.
However, the mark of a great side is how they react when they are put to the pin of their collar and boy did Tyrone come roaring back to kill off the Derry challenge and remind us all why many people are tipping them as the best-equipped side to deal with Dublin.
As is so often the case, winning goals, magical points and textbook defending at key periods of the game often come by the way of some individual piece of brilliance. However, Tyrone’s goal 32 seconds after Derry took the lead heading into the home stretch, was a play that came straight off the training ground.
When Chrissy Bradley knocked over a point with seven minutes of normal time remaining, Derry’s tails were up. They had just taken the lead for the first time, they had momentum and they were going to go for the jugular.
However, Tyrone turned on the style at the perfect moment and it paid dividends. Niall Morgan raced to take the kick-out which he sent long into the middle of the field.
The ball went long towards Richie Donnelly. Two Derry players went to contest the kick-out but Frank Burns opted to peel off his midfielder anticipating the break.
Donnelly was extremely smart in his approach. He could have taken the mark but he knew the goal was on if he could execute the flick to Burns.
As Burns collected the ball, there was a spike in the atmosphere as the Tyrone support sensed blood.
Burns carried it deep into the Derry scoring zone before spotting Darren McCurry all alone in front of the goal. McCurry had just been introduced and seemed keen for the ball.
Burns played the crossfield pass to McCurry.
McCurry trapped the pass but a Derry defender looked to close the space instantly. The Edendork man was in his element at this stage, stepping inside, leaving the defender in his wake and firing into the bottom corner to put Tyrone two up and kill the game off.
Derry went one-up with seven minutes left. Despite the gap in league divisions, you would have expected most teams to kick on from here and at least set up a somewhat nervy finish. However, the speed in which Tyrone bounced back and rattled the Derry men was executed with such power, poise and panache that they simply had no answer.
It also showed the mental toughness of this Tyrone side. Mickey Harte has built a squad who don’t shirk when the pressure is on. We’ve seen it already this season. After three league games, many were calling for Mickey Harte’s head as Tyrone were deemed not fit for the top table but they rallied to win their final four games in impressive style.
When the game needed a match-winner, Tyrone had several.
The Red Hands continue to evolve and will only get better as they navigate their way to the business end of the championship. They will be serious contenders to stop Dublin’s drive-for-five.