Tyrone cruise to McKenna hat-trick
Tyrone 1-15 Cavn 0-11: Sean Cavanagh has lifted his first trophy as Tyrone cantered to a win over Cavan here in the Athletics Grounds, delivering an assured second half performance to land their third Dr McKenna Cup in a row.
Two more statistics for you; it was Tyrone's tenth final in the Mickey Harte era, their seventh win.
Harte never needed any excuse to throw everything at winning the McKenna Cup, but in the absence of their UUJ contingent it took a while for their usual effervescence to emerge.
Darren McCurry's talents, not only in finishing but in being an outlet for attacks was sorely missed. So too was the ball-winning abilities of Mattie Donnelly and the predatory instincts of Connor McAliskey.
Peter Harte was nowhere to be seen either and perhaps because of these absences, Harte handed first starts of the year for Mark Donnelly, Kyle Coney, PJ Quinn, Dermot Carlin and Sean Cavanagh.
Cavan's need to secure some silverware was evident early on and it was noticeable how Terry Hyland and Anthony Forde were proactive on the line.
Martin Reilly dropped back into an unfamiliar marking role on an advanced Sean Cavanagh for the first quarter and when some of his challenges were beginning to stray into sloppy territory, Reilly became sweeper with James McEnroe switching roles. Cavan were able to name a very strong full-forward line with Cian Mackey lying deeper, picked up by Dermot Carlin and the dangerous inside duo of Martin Dunne and Eugene Keating.
Those two accounted for opening up a three point gap in the first ten minutes, Kyle Coney then throwing a shimmy before curling over from the left wing and getting Tyrone off the mark, closely followed by a Niall Morgan free after a clumsy foul on Sean Cavanagh by Reilly.
Despite being forced into building from short kickouts, Tyrone threatened a goal. PJ Lavery almost put his soccer skills to good use when he got on the end of a defence-splitting pass by Plunkett Kane but Josh Hayes' despairing dive got enough leather to break the move.
Mark Donnelly then skinned Hayes on his way in but his shot was well parried by Alan O'Mara in the Cavan goals.
The Breffni men were approaching half-time looking very comfortable when Tyrone showed their ruthless nature.
Paddy McNeice cut inside the defence and transferred to Mark Donnelly who burned along the endline before returning the pass to McNeice. His shot was saved but neatly side-footed home by Plunkett Kane.
Tyrone had not really counted in the first half, yet went in at half-time with a significant psychological boost.
With the breeze aiding them in the second period, Tyrone were like another team altogether. They drew Cavan upon them before breaking at blistering pace and indeed they passed up on numerous goal chances, Paddy McNeice blasting over the bar twice in four minutes.
At the other end, a curious substitution of Martin Dunne with 20 minutes remaining blunted the Cavan attack. From free-kicks they became careless, Keating missing a couple. And with his foil absent, his confidence and impact fell away.
Mackey re-established Cavan's lead after he broke a couple of tackles to arrow over shortly into the second half, but in the following 16 minutes Tyrone compiled an unanswered five points.
Coney grew in confidence and tapped a couple of simple frees over, but they let Cavan off the hook a couple of times when a bit of imagination and an overlap or two might have brought goals.
Substitute David Givney and Mackey, having taken on half-a-dozen challenges and lived to tell the tale and still point from range, were the concluding scores from Cavan as they appeared to have mentally checked out for the evening. Harte got to run his bench and check out the capabilities of the likes of Danny McBride, who had been going well at midfield in earlier games yet struggled here at times on Keating.
With Cathal McCarron playing his football with London now, PJ Quinn was back in the frame as they hunt for a man that might be placed on the marquee scoring forwards they will encounter on the resumption of the National League, when they meet Kildare in Newbridge next weekend.
It was a game that showed all the hallmarks of a Division One team against Division Three opposition. But then again, Tyrone beat Monaghan in remarkably similar fashion in last year's final, and we all know what happened on Ulster final day.
Twists and turns ahead, the season is only beginning.
TYRONE: N Morgan 0-3, 3f; PJ Quinn, D McBride, R McKenna; R McNabb, D Carlin, T McCann; N McKenna 0-1, S Cavanagh 0-1; PJ Lavery, C Cavanagh, P Kane 1-0; P McNeice 0-3, Mark Donnelly 0-1, K Coney 0-5, 2f
Subs: C Grugan for C Cavanagh (H-time), C McGinley 0-1 for McNabb (48m), A McCrory for McBride (53m), E McKenna for Kane (62m), P Hughes for Donnelly, S McGuigan for Lavery (67m)
CAVAN: A O'Mara; J Hayes, R Dunne, K Brady; D Barkey, J McLoughlin, J McEnroe; D McKiernan, D O'Reilly; M Reilly, N McDermott, M Argue; C Mackey 0-3, M Dunne 0-4, 2f, E Keating 0-3
Subs: D Givney 0-1 for Barkey (46m), N Smith for Dunne (51m), G McKiernan for D McKiernan (53m), K Tierney for McDermott (62m), M McKeever for Hayes (67m), P Leddy for McLoughlin (70m)
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).