Tyrone 1-18 Cavan 0-13
A renaissance of sorts for Tyrone but unending misery for beleaguered Cavan. The fortunes of both counties could hardly have been more contrasting at the end of this Ulster senior football championship tie which was like the curate’s egg – good in parts.
While the Red Hands hauled themselves out of the mire in which they have been floundering since that horror show against Kerry, Cavan brought the curtain down on what has been nothing short of a nightmare year, the raucous celebrations that marked their stunning provincial title triumph last November now nothing more than a distant memory.
Apart from the opening quarter, Cavan never managed to ask any serious questions of their hosts whose composure and authority in the second-half in particular hints at a concerted drive for the Ulster title.
Darren McCurry’s majestic haul of ten points (five frees), the return to action of Cathal McShane after an eighteen-month absence through injury and the towering contribution of midfield giants Conn Kilpatrick and Brian Kennedy all served to emboss an eminently satisfying Tyrone performance even if the red card incurred by full-back Ronan McNamee is an irritant that the management could well do without in the semi-final build-up.
If McCurry stole the show, then he was quick to stress that it was a team effort.
“Look, we did not do ourselves justice in our last outing against Kerry and we knew we had ground to make up,” admitted the Edendork clubman, “We were aware we had things to brush up on and we have been pushing ourselves in training.
“I think there was a lot of hard work put in at midfield in particular, we put pressure on Cavan there and the boys were then able to create the chances for people like myself in attack. Everyone played their part and it was very satisfying to be part of a huge team effort.
“And you can be sure that after this game competition has now been further stepped up for starting places. Nothing is a given in Tyrone – every man has to be prepared to fight for his place, you can take nothing for granted.”
It was in a frenetic ten-minute spell immediately prior to the interval that Tyrone virtually claimed ownership of the game by sweeping over five unanswered points with the impeccable McCurry taking his haul to five in this spell. In contrast, Cavan squandered three opportunities to land points in that same period and their profligacy was to cost them dearly.
The second-half was just five minutes goal when imperious substitute Brian Kennedy started and finished a scything Tyrone move that culminated in him tucking the ball into the Cavan net.
It was over and out for the visitors as the home side, with McShane now right at the heart of things having been sprung from the bench, cemented their authority. McShane’s three points supplemented McCurry’s ongoing spectacular solo show with Niall Sludden also on target as Tyrone’s thoughts were already turning to their semi-final confrontation with Cavan boss Mickey Graham left to dwell on an eminently forgettable season.
Joint manager Feargal Logan’s fusion of relief and optimism will certainly have struck an encouraging note with Tyrone fans at the finish.
“We knew coming into this game that we had good footballers and good defenders in particular. We had a bit of breeze with us in the first-half and defensively everyone stuck to their guns and we were able to build from there,” said Logan.
“It’s tight for everyone now week on week but we are just happy to be in the Ulster semi-final. We know, though that we have to remain on our toes.”
And Ronan McNamee’s red card?
“We would hope to have this matter dealt with expeditiously,” he said diplomatically.
His opposite number Graham understandably cut a disconsolate figure as he admitted: ““We had chances in the first half which we did not take and Tyrone punished us subsequently for us. We did not protect our possession well enough and we were caught on the counter-attack rather too often.”
Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, P Hampsey; R Brennan, M O'Neill, P Harte 0-1; R Donnelly 0-1, C Kilpatrick; K McGeary, N Sludden 0-2, C Meyler; D McCurry 0-10 (5f), M Donnelly, P Donaghy 0-1. Subs: B Kennedy for R Donnelly (35), T McCann for McGeary (h-t), C McShane 0-3 for Donaghy (47), F Burns for Sludden (50), M Bradley for Brennan (68), B McDonnell for McKernan (72).
Cavan: R Galligan 0-1(f); K Clarke, P Faulkner, C Reilly; B O’Connell, K Brady, J McLoughlin; T Galligan 0-1, C Moynagh; G Smith 0-1, G McKiernan 0-6 (4f), O Kiernan; O Pierson 0-1, O Brady, M Reilly. Subs: L Fortune for Reilly (29), C Smith 0-2 for Brady (h-t), C Madden 0-1 for Moynagh (h-t), C Brady for M Reilly (46), C Conroy for Pierson (55)
Referee: David Gough (Meath).