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Mark Bradley returned to Tyrone action against Meath on Sunday.
Mark Bradley returned to Tyrone action against Meath on Sunday.

Allianz FL D1: Tyrone make winning start with defeat of Meath 

Allianz National Football League Division One


By Michael Devlin at Healy Park

The return of Mark Bradley was a highlight of Tyrone’s afternoon as the Red Hands began their Allianz League campaign with a five-point win over Meath at Healy Park.

The Killyclogher forward was making his first inter-county appearance since the 2018 All-Ireland final, and he marked his comeback with two points in the second half on what was a satisfactory display by Mickey Harte’s team.

After a strong first half showing where they trailed the hosts by just a point, Meath simply shut down after the break and failed to score in the game’s third quarter.

Tyrone meanwhile were noticeably more fluid after the interval and were able to build up a winning lead that the Royals, who battled gamely until the end, were never able to peg back.

Darren McCurry, who has been in scintillating early-season form so far this year, put in another terrific scoring display with 1-6 for the Red Hands, while Liam Rafferty also stood out.

Meath arguably looked the better team for large swathes of the first half and could have struck for a goal in the first half when Cillian O’Sullivan cut a dash for the posts only for Niall Morgan to come out and smother his effort.

A McCurry free got Tyrone off the mark, but Meath were spritely at the other end and again nearly got in for a goal when James McEntee located Ben Brennan in the area, only for the Naomh Colmcille man to squander possession. An Eamon Wallace point then got the Royals on the scoreboard by the ninth minute.

The game’s first goal would come at the other end however, with Ronan O’Neill prising open the Meath defence with a delightful deft pass for McCurry to fire past Dominic Yorke.

Soon after though Meath would get the goal their play deserved when Brennan played in Bryan McMahon who slipped the ball under the advancing Morgan.

The visitors then took the lead for the first time Thomas O’Reilly finished off a flowing counterattack move that involved Joey Wallace and O’Sullivan.

McCurry was continuing to carry the scoring burden for Tyrone, and he sent over a free before jinking onto his right foot to float over a score in the 25th minute. McCurry’s Edendork club mate Morgan then followed up with a 45’, and Tyrone were again two up.

Meath widened their scoring spread when Joey Wallace and Bryan Menton both popped up for scores to level the game once more, but it was Tyrone’s Liam Rafferty who had the last scoring action of the half, giving the hosts a one-point lead to take down the tunnel at halftime.

Meath manager Andy McEntee opted to replace goalkeeper Dominic Yorke with outfielder Barry Dardis for the second half. Yorke himself was a replacement for Andrew Colgan before the throw-in.

It was a disjointed start to the second half, but Tyrone were getting the scores on the board through O’Neill and McCurry. Mickey Harte then introduced Bradley into the action, and he won a free which McCurry put over, taking his personal tally to 1-5.

Bryan McMahon ended a 27-minute wait for a score when McMahon pointed from a placed ball, but the scores were coming easier for Tyrone, and substitute Kyle Coney kept them in front by four before the lively Bradley got his name on the score-sheet moments later.

Thomas O’Reilly split the posts for Meath’s first score from play in the second half, but Tyrone were now in their groove, and McCurry (free), Rafferty, Bradley and Niall Sludden all raised white flags as the game entered its final five minutes.

Meath to their credit did keep plugging until the end, and Cillian O’Sullivan, O’Reilly and McMahon (free) provided points to keep the gap to five points, the winning margin in the end, but the Tyrone defence held off another further attempts on goal and the Division One points went to the home side.

Tyrone scorers: Darren McCurry 1-6 (4f), Liam Rafferty 0-2, Mark Bradley 0-2 Niall Morgan 0-1 (45’) Ronan O’Neill 0-1, Kyle Coney 0-1, Niall Sludden 0-1.

Meath scorers: Bryan McMahon 1-2 (2f), Thomas O’Reilly 0-3, Bryan Menton 0-1, Eamon Wallace 0-1, Cillian O’Sullivan 0-1, Joey Wallace 0-1.

TYRONE: Niall Morgan; Hugh Pat McGeary, Ronan McNamee, Liam Rafferty; Michael Cassidy, Rory Brennan, Tiernan McCann; Colm Cavanagh, Conn Kilpatrick; Conor Meyler, Niall Sludden, Darren McCurry; Kieran McGeary, Frank Burns, Rory O’Neill.

SUBS: Mark Bradley for F. Burns (46) Ben McDonnell for C. Kilpatrick (46), David Mulgrew for T. McCann (55), Kyle Coney for R. O’Neill (57), Niall Kelly for R. McNamee (71).

MEATH: Dominic Yorke; Robin Clarke, Conor McGill, David Toner; James McEntee, Ronan Ryan, Donal Keogan; Bryan Menton, Brian Conlon; Ben Brennan, Bryan McMahon, Eamon Wallace; Cillian O’Sullivan, Thomas O’Reilly, Joey Wallace.

SUBS: Barry Dardis for D. Yorke (HT) Matthew Costello for B. Brennan (44) Ronan Jones for B. Conlan (46), Jack O'Connor for J. Wallace (58).

Referee: Joe McQuillan (An Cabhán)

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