Tyrone negotiated a potential banana skin at Pearse Park on Saturday evening when they had five points to spare over Longford in a hugely entertaining round two All-Ireland qualifier.
The home side led by a point at the break but 1-3 without reply in the opening five minutes of the second half sent Tyrone on their way to a hard-earned victory and their manager Mickey Harte was naturally delighted with the result.
“We said at half-time that if we didn’t win this game in the first 10 minutes we would have great difficulty winning it in the last 10 because things weren’t going our way and decisions were hard to come by at some stages and we knew that we had to battle with that and get over that,” said Harte.
“I’m very pleased with the work that the players put in and just the sheer determination to get out of here with a result because many teams have known to their cost that it’s not an easy thing to do.
“Longford were very prolific in the first half and indeed after the break as well, as I think at one stage they had six opportunities and scored six points.
“So we had to be at our best to get out of here and I think that we saw in spells some of our best football there tonight.”
The Red Hands made a number of changes from the starting 15 named earlier in the week but “three of our changes were forced by injury”, said Harte.
“Marty Swift, Kevin Hughes and Stephen O’Neill were all injured while Davy Harte has had some treatment for an injury as well, so it wasn’t altogether just reshuffling the pack, there were reasons for a number of those and, I suppose, that’s what a squad is for.
“It’s good for the rest of the players to know that there is a place to be had on this team.”
One of those changes, Kyle Coney, opened the scoring for the visitors but by the seventh minute Longford were in front thanks to efforts from Brian Kavanagh and team captain Paul Barden.
It was a good lively opening to the game and that was a trend that was to continue throughout the 70-odd minutes.
Mark Donnelly and the excellent Peter Harte had Tyrone points but it was Longford who led at the end of the opening quarter with a brilliant point from left half back Noel Farrell the pick of the bunch. Colm Cavanagh and Sean McCor
mack exchanged points before Harte ran through to fist over the equaliser.
It was Longford who had the final say of the opening period with another McCormack point to establish a narrow 0-8 to 0-7 interval advantage.
Martin Penrose levelled matters in the first attack of the second half before Tyrone grabbed the only goal of the game for what proved to be a vital score. Philip Jordan and Coney combined for Mark Donnelly to blast the ball into the roof of the Longford net.
Sean Cavanagh and Harte added points and it looked as though the Red Hands would ease to victory, but Longford had other ideas. Kavanagh, McCormack and Francis McGee all had points and going into the final quarter only one scored separated the two sides.
Tyrone, though, showed all their
experience as they moved five ahead again through Penrose and Harte and while an excellent brace from McCormack kept Longford in the hunt they never looked like getting the goal they so badly needed.
With the game in injury time man of the match Harte notched his seventh point of the night after great work from Jordan and moments later substitute Tommy McGuigan claimed the last score of the game to ensure that Tyrone advanced to the next round of the qualifiers.
Longford: D Sheridan, D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly, S Mulligan, K Diffley, N Farrell [0-1], B McElvaney, M Brady, D Barden, F McGee [0-3], P Barden [0-1], D McElligot [0-1], B Kavanagh [0-3], S McCormack [0-6]. Subs – N Mulligan for McElligot, C Smith for Diffley, J McGivney for McElvaney
Tyrone: P McConnell, C Gormley, Joe McMahon, D Carlin, R McMenamin, Justin McMahon, P Jordan, A Cassidy, S Cavanagh [0-2], C Cavanagh [0-2], B McGuigan, P Harte [0-7], M Penrose [0-2], M Donnelly [1-2], K Coney [0-1]. Subs – B Dooher for McGuigan, Sean O’Neill for Gormley, T McGuigan [0-1] for Coney, O Mulligan for Penrose, C McCarron for Carlin
Referee: P McEnaney (Monaghan).