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Cavan tough it out in Breffni scrap

Tyrone 0-12 Cavan 1-13

By Declan Bogue

Forget the result, or even the non-event that was the 'mark' being introduced to Gaelic football.

The story of this game was the collateral damage inflicted to the Tyrone team as debutant Michael Cassidy, Rory Brennan and Connor McAliskey all left the field in various states of injury, with manager Mickey Harte admitting that Ronan O'Neill was not too healthy, along with a straight red card for Mattie Donnelly.

McAliskey's injury looked the most grave, requiring a stretcher to leave the field.

"It's very hard to say just now," was Harte's early prognosis of the Clonoe attacker's knee.

"The physios say they are testing for certain things and they are hoping it isn't as serious as a cruciate, but they probably won't know until there's a scan done. It's threatening at the minute."

Cavan will take all they want from beating Tyrone for the first time since the 2000 Dr McKenna Cup final, and for new manager Mattie McGleenan it is clear that he will have them prepared for the visit of Dublin to Kingspan Breffni Park in the first round of the National League.

They opened brightly here, racing into a five-point lead after the first quarter, the highlight being the flowing movement after Joe Dillon overturned Ronan McNabb in possession high up the field, before substitute Paul O'Connor set up man of the match Gerard Smith to flick to the net.

Front-foot football, just as McGleenan promised.

In truth, Tyrone never truly got going here. Robbed of some illustrious names, they were under-strength and perhaps the talent pool is not as deep as they would hope.

They sent Matthew Donnelly on at half time, tried a few different permutations, but it was an off-colour Red Hands display to usher in the new year. Chances are, they will probably still qualify as the best runners up with Donegal under-21s and University Ulster Jordanstown still to be faced.

As for the mark, it appeared to take referee Martin McNally by surprise when Connor McAliskey caught clean on nine minutes, but the referee did not whistle for it.

Cavan's Niall Clerkin took one on 28 minutes but McNally called it back as he played the ball with his fist. Of course, the option is there to play on normally, but McNally decided upon a hop ball.

There were only two more marks taken in the game, by Cavan's Killian Clarke and Niall McKiernan. But for now, it's an area of confusion. The more things change…

Try as they might, Tyrone could never peg back Cavan's lead, with Smith getting the score of the match with a tearing run upfield and point to stretch the lead to six with 20 minutes left. Substitute Niall McKiernan also showed his promise with two classy points.

A miserable day for Tyrone was compounded with a red card for Donnelly with two minutes remaining, after colliding with Seanie Johnston, and at the other end, James Farrelly made an outstanding stop on a Niall Sludden effort for goal.

Cavan: J Farrelly; F Reilly, P Faulkner, K Brady 0-1; C Brady, M Reilly 0-1, N Clerkin; K Clarke, T Corr 0-1; J Dillon, N McDermott 0-1f, S Tierney; S Johnston 0-4, 3f, L Buchanan, G Smith 1-2

Subs: P O'Connor 0-1 for Buchanan (18), N McKiernan 0-2 for Tierney (H-time), T Mooney for Dillon (46), S O'Rourke for Corr (49), J McLoughlin for O'Connor (65)

Yellow cards: N McDermott 17 + 58, K Brady 39, M Reilly 51

Black card: S Johnston 68, replaced by C Smith

Red card: N McDermott 58

Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, J Monroe, R McNabb; M Cassidy, T McCann, N Sludden; D McClure, P McNulty; D McCurry, P Harte 0-1, C McCullagh 0-1; L Brennan 0-3, 1f, C McAliskey 0-5, 3f, R O'Neill 0-2f.

Subs: R Brennan for Cassidy (15), HP McGeary for Brennan (31), M Donnelly for McNulty (H-time), R McHugh for McCurry (59), N McKenna for McAliskey (64)

Yellow cards: C McAliskey 38, D McCurry 39, D McClure 58, T McCann 66

Red card: M Donnelly 68

Referee: M McNally (Monaghan)

Attendance: 4,266

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