The ambush was well flagged, but when the trap was sprung, the prey succumbed more readily than anyone could ever have imagined, as Derry stunned All-Ireland champions Tyrone with an 11-point hiding at O'Neill’s Healy Park.
This Ulster SFC semi-final was played entirely on the terms of Rory Gallagher’s side, the Derry manager setting out the plan and his players carrying out his instructions to the letter.
They were given a massive boost by the dismissal of Tyrone midfielder Brian Kennedy shortly before half-time, and the Red Hands could never cope with the handicap as they tried in vain to break Derry’s rigid defensive set-up.
The Oak Leafers built upon a strong opening with a goal immediately after the sending off, and with a man extra, controlled the second half in front of a crowd of 10,155.
Derry got off to a strong start, with Conor Doherty and Niall Loughlin shooting a couple of early points.
Conor Doherty with a magnificent kick from distance to extend Derry's lead.— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) May 1, 2022
They're flying in this Ulster clash with the All-Ireland champions in trouble.
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And Cathal McShane’s converted free was cancelled out by Ethan Doherty as the two points cushion was maintained right through to the closing stages of the opening half.
Dropping 15 men deep into their own half, the Oaks frustrated their neighbours, who managed just three points in the opening quarter, two of them from McShane frees, the other an inspired Darren McCurry effort.
The Red Hands did manage to find a gap in the opposition defence to create a goal chance, with Kieran McGeary sending Conor Meyler through, but his shot was saved by Oran Lynch.
Meanwhile, the strong running of Gareth McKinless and the pace of Doherty and Paul Cassidy caused untold problems for the Tyrone reargued.
Wing-back Doherty landed his second score of the game, with McKinless also firing over a point, and when Niall Loughlin converted his second free, they led by 0-7 to 0-4.
All the drama unfolded in the final 10 minutes of the half.
First All-Star midfielder Kennedy was shown a straight red card on 26 minutes for kicking out at McKinless, and less than two minutes later, Derry were awarded a penalty.
Brian Kennedy receives a red card for kicking out after winning a free.— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) May 1, 2022
Tyrone concede a penalty soon after which Derry score. They lead by six.
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Cassidy was upended by goalkeeper Niall Morgan, and Shane McGuigan slotted the spot kick to the net, before adding a point from a free for a 1-8 to 0-4 interval lead.
With the extra man, Derry controlled the second half, outsmarting a Tyrone side that was becoming increasingly disorganised and lacking in direction.
Loughlin continued to torment the home side, hitting his side’s first score after the restart.
Their defensive structures never showed any signs of losing shape, with Doherty, McKinless, Brendan Rogers and the vastly experienced Chrissy McKaigue outstanding.
Now they could afford to be more adventurous while keeping things tight further back, and a flowing move ended with Benny Heron punching over a point, which was followed by a Loughlin ’45 and McGuigan scores from frees and play.
Tyrone just couldn’t get going, and with the gap widening, all they could do was keep in touch with a couple of Darragh Canavan scores and another McCurry point.
Going into the closing 10 minutes, Derry led by nine, with Tyrone throwing everything and everybody into attack, but all they could manage was a single point from full-back Ronan McNamee.
And they were to finish the game with just 13 men, Conor McKenna off on a second booking on 65 minutes, before a joyous Oak Leaf side finished the job off with two more from Loughlin and a McGuigan gem.
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-01, ’45); M McKernan, R McNamee (0-01), P Hampsey; R Brennan, F Burns, N Sludden; C Kilpatrick, B Kennedy; C Meyler, P Harte, K McGeary; D McCurry (0-04, 2f), C McShane (0-02, 2f), C McKenna.
Subs: M O’Neill for Burns (h-t), D Canavan (0-02, 1f, 1m) for McShane (h-t), B McDonnell for Brennan (55), C Munroe for Sludden (66), M Conroy for McGeary (69)
Derry: O Lynch; C McKaigue, B Rogers, C McCloskey; C Doherty (0-02), G McKinless (0-01), P McGrogan; C Glass, N Toner; P Cassidy, S Downey, E Doherty (0-01); B Heron (0-02), S McGuigan (1-04, 1-00 pen, 0-02f), N Loughlin (0-07, 4f, 1 ’45).
Subs: E Bradley (0-01, m) for Toner (55), L Murray for Heron (66), B McCarron for Doherty (69), P McNeill for Downey (69)
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)