By Pierce O’Reilly
Celtic 3-13, Tyrone 1-10
Celtic stalwarts Donie O’Sullivan and John Cox were smiling all the way out of Gaelic Park on Sunday — and with good reason. Their team played like men possessed and their polished performance this early in the season will give the Irish-American club lots of hope for the summer.
O’Sullivan and Cox are genuine GAA supporters. They fought hard to keep the club alive earlier this season after they were relegated to the junior division, and it’s fitting that the players responded in style.
Tyrone are a club with an abundance of players available to them and to see 29 togged out last Sunday is a good sign for the red handers. Playing in the midday sun, the American kids, however, were first to strike and with points from center forward Kenny Cox, Conor Mulally, Sean O’Sullivan and Derek McKenna, they dominated the opening quarter.
Tyrone have a lot of new faces on their junior side this year, and with Niall Cogan, Justin Murray and Brian McGaorty finding the range in the opening half, they were always in contention.
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While the sides finished even at the break — Celtic’s 0-7, Tyrone 1-4 — it was the Irish-American side who showed the greater fitness levels.
Celtic moved Danny O’Sullivan out the field at the start of the second half and the move had an immediate effect. A Derek O’Sullivan goal and points from Jack O’Leary and Tony Rafferty gave them a seemingly comfortable lead after 10 minutes of the second half. Tyrone dug deep, however, and with Donnelly improving at the back, they soon found their rhythm. Murray, their senior player, continued to work hard around the middle, and with Barry McNamee and Mark Daly finding their range, they narrowed the gap.
The finish was exciting and dramatic. Celtic pushed forward on every occasion, and with John Walsh orchestrating the defense they held out for a well-deserved opening victory. The Celtics failed to acquire a solitary point last year. If they continue to work hard and fight every day with the same conviction, they might find themselves back in the senior ranks sooner than they had thought.
Celtics: Niall Rooney, Mark Kelly, Matt McKenna, Chris Taggort, Tony Rafferty, John Walsh, PJ Mulligan, Aidan Traynor, Derek McKenna, Conor Mulally, Kenny Cox, Derek O’Sullivan, Jack O’Leary, Danny O’Sullivan, Sean O’Sullivan.
Tyrone: Shane Gallagher, Barry Donnelly, Steve Nixon, Ronan McAleer, Owen Farrell, Enda Donnelly, Declan Cooney, Niall Cogan, Brian McCaorty, Justin Murray, Peter Devlin, Colin Campbell, Barry McNamee, Declan Colter.