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Cavanagh stars as Tyrone march into last eight

By Kevin Kelly

Tyrone 0-17 Meath 2-09: Tyrone made history at Croke Park on Saturday evening as it was the first time they defeated Meath in the senior championship and their reward is an All-Ireland quarter-final clash with neighbours and Ulster title holders Monaghan next weekend.

It was a game where the Red Hands had to pull out all the stops to advance and their manager Mickey Harte acknowledged afterwards that they perhaps got all the luck at certain times while he was also full of praise for Sean Cavanagh who gave a master class in midfield finishing with eight points.

"Conceding two goals is not a good thing to do in championship football," said Harte.

"But it's too our credit that we fought back from that and maybe we got the rub of the green when it really mattered.

"The ball off the post there at the end there could have fallen into Meath hands, could have been a goal.

"The last shot for a free could have gone in. Lady luck was on our side when it really mattered and I suppose Sean Cavanagh made a huge difference to the whole affair.

"He was the outstanding player on the field.

"(It was) Probably as good a game as I've ever seen him play and I've seen him play lots of them. He provided absolute leadership throughout.

"Whenever the team was struggling, he just broke the line. He took on responsibility.

"He was probably Brian Dooher and Peter Canavan and Brian McGuigan all rolled into one. He just did the things that needed to be done and did them with authority and did them for the 70 minutes.

That was the biggest thing of all because the way he played in the first half, you thought he'll never be able to stick this again for another thirty five. And again, his frees...a lot of the frees he took weren't easy. And they were so crucial. That takes a great nerve as well. I couldn't speak highly enough of Sean Cavanagh."

It was beaten Leinster finalists Meath who took the early initiative with the impressive Eamon Wallace firing in a well taken goal with seven minutes gone. Tyrone responded with efforts from Darren McCurry and Mattie Donnelly only for Michael Newman to convert a couple of frees.

As the half progressed Tyrone and in particular Cavanagh began to dominate. He landed five first half points including a couple of fine efforts from play with Stephen O'Neill scoring a beauty as well. Stephen Bray then scored Meath's first point from play but a McCurry '45' left Tyrone 0-11 to 1-4 in front at the break. Within ten minutes of the restart Meath were back on level terms with Newman brilliantly converting a penalty.

Meath had their tails up and when Wallace put them in front Tyrone looked to be in trouble. Half-time substitute Aidan Cassidy, who once again made a telling impact, sent over the equaliser before McCurry and Cavanagh put them three clear with just over 10 minutes left.

Meath sides never know when they are beaten though and that proved to be the case again as Wallace and Newman both found the range to trim the gap to the minimum.

Newman was unlucky to see his effort for an equaliser come back off the post before Cavanagh eased Tyrone nerves a little with a superb conversion of a tricky free from out on the left wing.

Tyrone then lost their captain O'Neill to a second yellow card in injury time and right at the end Meath were awarded a free with Newman going for goal but his effort was saved by keeper Pascal McConnell and when the danger was clear the referee sounded the full time whistle.

Tyrone: P McConnell, R McKenna, C Clarke, C McCarron, C McGinley, P Harte, C Gormley, C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh (0-8), Mattie Donnelly (0-2), Mark Donnelly, Joe McMahon, D McCurry (0-5), S O'Neill (0-1), M Penrose. Subs: A Cassidy (0-1) for Mark Donnelly, D Carlin for McKenna, K Coney for Penrose, P McNeice for C Cavanagh

MEATH: P O'Rourke; D Keoghan, K Reilly, B Menton, P Harnan, M Burke, S Kenny, B Meade, C Gillespie, E Wallace (1-3), D Carroll, G Reilly, S Bray (0-1), J Sheridan, M Newman (1-5). Subs – A Tormey for Meade, B Farrell for Sheridan, P Byrne for Carroll, C Lenihan for Kenny

Referee: M Deegan (Laois).

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