Uniacke inspires Warks to victory

Uniacke inspires Warwickshire victory
Warwickshire’s Michael Regan challenges Tyrone’s Bryan McGurk

Allianz NHL Div 3A

Warwickshire 3-16
Tyrone 2-14

Warwickshire made a winning start to their National League campaign with a five-point victory over Tyrone at Dungannon Eoghain Ruadh, as the midlanders picked up from where they’d left off last year.

The 2017 Lory Meagher Cup champions failed to win a game the last time they graced Division 3A, but that was two years ago and they certainly put that statistic right on Sunday with an impressive display.

Proving themselves to be a very stubborn foe, Tony Joyce’s charges will take some stopping on this evidence. Adrian Downey and Shane Caulfield were imperious in defence, while in midfield juggernaut Paul Uniacke, Warwickshire have a genuine playmaker of substance.

He posted three points and was instrumental in much of the visitor’s best play as Niall McKenna, Ian Dwyer and Gary Lennon threatened to run amok.

Tyrone having found themselves trailing by 16 points midway through the opening half found a way back before the break and, in the second half, the endeavours of Chris Kearns, Dermot Begley and substitute Conor McNally helped them reel in the gap.


Damian Casey led the scoring returns as Tyrone got back to three points, but following the dismissal of Tiarnan Morgan on a second infraction Warwickshire tagged on the final two points to secure a deserving victory.

A flu virus forced Warwickshire into a plethora of changes before the game, but it failed to disrupt their game plan, as they hit the ground running with a goal after just 16 seconds. Niall Kennedy and Dwyer featured before Lennon flicked a loose ball to the rigging.

Casey replied with a delightful side line cut and, after Uniacke rifled over from distance Warwickshire poached a second goal in the third minute as Dwyer caught the Tyrone defence cold.

Tyrone were rattled and with Uniacke dominating the midfield exchanges Warwickshire established complete control.

Their first touch, physicality, communication and support play belied a team that had just played one challenge game in preparation for the league.


Niall McKenna and Kennedy added points and even though Casey replied from a dead ball on nine minutes Tyrone were in trouble. McKenna, Breen Fallon and a quality Uniacke point had the visitors 2-7 to 0-2 clear after 13 minutes.

Fallon thumped over a second point and as Warwickshire monopolised possession they struck for a third goal on 16 minutes.

Dwyer finishing off a super move involving Peadar Scally and Kennedy. A fifth McKenna point cancelled out a Casey free as Tyrone introduced Conor McNally in an effort to address Uniacke’s midfield supremacy.

Uniacke and McKenna added further visiting points either side of a Casey free as Warwickshire enjoyed a whopping 3-11 to 0-4 advantage, but in the run up to half time Tyrone were given a lifeline.

Pierse O’Kelly teed up Bryan McGurk for a 31st minute goal and after Antrim newcomer Chris Kearns split the uprights Aidan Kelly bagged an injury time goal to instil much needed confidence for the second half. Warwickshire led 3-11 to 2-5 at the break.

Uniacke inspires Warwickshire victory
Warwickshire’s Colm McBride in pursuit of Tyrone’s Aidan Kelly

The second half started in lighting fashion as McKenna and substitute Kevin Magee hit points in response to efforts from Casey and Liam Armstrong, but it was evident Tyrone had upped their work rate.

The inclusion of Dan McCrudden allied to the leadership of Stephen Donnelly, Padraig McHugh and Chris Cross saw Tyrone belatedly showing their potential as they held Warwickshire scoreless for 12 minutes.

Kearns and Morgan landed successive strikes from the wing to signal a purple patch from the hosts and when Brendan Begley galloped through the centre to set up Kelly for a point Tyrone were on the rise.

A foul on McGurk allowed Casey to narrow the gap further on 48 minutes and as frustration surfaced into Warwickshire’s play they lost their way.

Uniacke inspires Warwickshire victory
Tyrone’s Liam Armstrong weighs up his options as Warwickshire’s Michael Regan closes in

Casey pointed from play and then converted a free that was moved forward for dissension and even though McKenna kept Warwickshire ticking over Tyrone’s superior fitness was becoming a telling factor.

On 53 minutes a second Armstrong point left the score reading 2-14 to 3-14 but that was Tyrone’s lot. The dismissal of Morgan for a second booking allowed Warwickshire to regroup as quick-fire points from McKenna and substitute Padraic Crehan edged the visitors five clear.

WARWICKSHIRE: Eoin Ryan; Tom Kelly, Adrian Downey, Michael Regan, Shane Caulfield, Peadar Scally, Donnacha Kennedy, Paul Uniacke 0-3, Sean Collins, Niall McKenna 0-9, 3f, Niall Kennedy, Ian Dwyer 2-0, Gary Lennon 1-0, Donal Nugent, Breen Fallon 0-2. Subs: Kevin Magee 0-1 for Fallon (h-t), Padraic Crehan 0- 1 for Kelly (h-t), Conor Robins for Caulfield (53).

TYRONE: Conor McElhatton; Dermot Begley, Brendan Begley, Tiarnan Morgan 0- 1; Padraig McHugh, Stephen Donnelly, Chris Kearns 0-2, Lorcan Devlin, Ryan McKernan, Damian Casey 0-8 6f, Pierse O’Kelly, Christopher Cross, Bryan McGurk 1-0, Aidan Kelly 1-1, Liam Armstrong 0-2. Subs: Conor McNally for McKernan (21 mins), Cormac McHugh for McHugh (26–30 mins, blood sub), Dan McCrudden for Devlin (h-t), Ciaran Lagan for Cross (54).

REFEREE: Kevin Brady (Louth).

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