All-Ireland champions Tyrone cruised into the Ulster SFC final with a comfortable eight-point win over Derry at Casement Park.
It had been billed as one of the games of the season, but it failed to match the live up to expectations and Derry’s much-vaunted challenge fizzled out long before the end.
That said, the Red Hands performed with an efficiency and purpose that could only be admired, and with Kevin Hughes excelling at midfield and Justin McMahon snuffing out the threat of Paddy Bradley, they never looked like losing.
Hughes’ midfield dominance launched a series of Tyrone attacks, and three early Tommy McGuigan points, two of them from frees, saw them ease into a 0-03 to 0-01 lead.
McGuigan’s fourth, followed by two Martin Penrose efforts, had the All-Ireland champions ahead by 0-05 to 0-02 midway through the first half
Barry McGoldrick and Paddy Bradley, both from frees, got the Derry scores.
Hughes won virtually everything against Paul Murphy in the middle, and it was no surprise when the Oak Leaf man was called ashore after just 22 minutes.
The reshuffle did spark an improvement in Derry fortunes, with substitute Seamus Bradley and Eoin Bradley, from a ‘45’, trimming the deficit.
And, with Gerard O’Kane and the veteran Sean Marty Lockhart keeping a tight rein on Sean Cavanagh and Stephen O’Neill, Derry succeeded in containing their opponents in the final 15 minutes of the half.
O’Neill did break free from Lockhart to punch over a point, and the inspired Hughes thumped over a mighty effort to send Tyrone in with a 0-08 to 0-05 interval lead.
Gearrd O’Kane halted a couple of marauding runs by Sean Cavanagh as Derry started the second half with renewed purpose.
But the Oak Leafers just couldn’t get Paddy Bradley into the game, and more than 10 minutes of pressure saw them fail to register a single score
Instead, it was skipper Brian Dooher who came off the bench to shoot an inspirational Tyrone point.
The All-Ireland champions lost O’Neill and Joe McMahon to injury. However there were still 20 minutes of untidy second-half action before Derry got their first score, an Eoin Bradley effort.
Tyrone responded immediately with a point from wing-back Davy Harte, and it all fell apart for Derry after defender Kevin McGuckin was red-carded for lunging at Sean Cavanagh immediately after the Footballer of the Year had fisted the point that made it double scores at 0-12 to 0-06.
The Red Hands clicked into top gear, Paddy Bradley was completely snuffed out by Justin McMahon, and Derry had nothing more to offer as an offensive force.
Tyrone finished the job off with points from substitutes Sean O’Neill and Brian McGuigan.
Tyrone: J Devine, PJ Quinn, Justin McMahon, R McMenamin, D Harte (0-01), C Gormley, P Jordan, K Hughes (0-02), E McGinley, M Penrose (0-03, 1f), T McGuigan (0-04, 3f), Joe McMahon, S O’Neill (0-01), S Cavanagh (0-01), O Mulligan.
Subs: B Dooher (0-01) for Mulligan (44), B McGuigan (0-01) for O’Neill (49), Sean O’Neill (0-01) for Joe McMahon (50), C McCullagh for T McGuigan (65)
Derry: B Gillis, K McGuckin, SM Lockhart, G O’Kane, C McKaigue, B McGuigan, SL McGoldrick, B McGoldrick (0-01, f), J Diver, E Browne, P Murphy, E Lynn, E Bradley (0-04, 1f, 1 ‘45’), P Bradley (0-01, f), M Lynch.
Subs: S Bradley (0-01) for Murphy (22), N McCusker for SL McGoldrick (54), C O’Boyle for Lynch (55)
Referee: G O Conamha (Galway).