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Tyrone 1-10 Meath 0-11: Tyrone starting to hit their stride

By Declan Bogue

There is a danger that the worth of a win like this could be underestimated by the Tyrone public, but there were clues within some team and individual performances on Saturday that this run could snowball.

Not an All-Ireland title by any stretch of the imagination, but the Red Hands have already outlasted their brief involvement in the series last year and appear to be well-placed to be amongst the teams that will present themselves in Croke Park at what is known as the business end of the season.

In the meantime, and no matter who they draw this morning for next weekend's game, there will be more of the grinding, cautious football that defaced the opening half hour of this 1-10 to 0-11 victory over Meath.

If Tyrone appeared to be a team frightened of opening out and playing for the joy of it, Meath were petrified.

When the pre-match changes were announced, we strapped ourselves in for the turbulence ahead. The home side set out their half forward line and populated it with two men who by trade play as half-backs, and a third as a midfielder.

Barry Tierney and Rory Brennan are familiar with how to play this role but Richie Donnelly, making his debut here, failed to get to grips with the game and was called ashore along with Tierney at half-time for Tiernan McCann and Darren McCurry.

It took Meath 29 minutes to get their first score. They may have been facing the breeze but it was only when they pushed up tight on Tyrone's kickouts that they enjoyed a spell of possession.

They reeled off four consecutive points from Donncha Tobin, who operated as a sweeper in front of Sean Cavanagh and Connor McAliskey, the impressive Graham Reilly and two Mickey Newman frees.

That left them two points up and it could have been more just prior to opening their account when a mazy Newman run deserved a better finish.

Meath led by 0-4 to 0-3 at half-time, but the aforementioned Tyrone replacements at the break had a positive effect for Mickey Harte's men.

Joe McMahon, making his first start since January, feasted on breaking ball and was at the base of any attacking unit that crabbed their way forward patiently.

However, the ambition of McCann has to be mentioned. He chose to make his runs down the centre of the Meath defence and they were causing panic as Meath tried not to foul.

In the 53rd minute, their resistance broke. Mattie Donnelly took a free down the sideline to McCurry. He laid it off to McMahon, who spotted McCann's run.

He made it to the penalty area, where he was taken down by Donal Keogan for the penalty, referee Ciaran Branagan having no hesitation in awarding the kick.

Up stepped Peter Harte to add to his earlier point by placing the ball in the top corner. Tyrone were two points to the good again.

Meath manager Mick O'Dowd sent on Kevin Reilly for one of the final rolls of the dice and the Navan O'Mahoney's player did contribute two points from play, but ultimately they didn't play this cute enough.

On too many occasions, their midfielders Bryan Menton and Harry Rooney took the ball into heavy traffic and were stripped of possession.

Perhaps they might have got better results if they had Conor Gillespie on the pitch, who O'Dowd said of after the game: "This Meath team is doing all it can, in the context of having its most influential players on the bench for the last two seasons.

"I don't think people who are so quick to criticise actually understand that. If they looked at any other county and took their most influential player out of their team…

"But that's what Conor Gillespie is for us. Maybe I haven't stated that publicly because the last couple of seasons have been so hard for him."

Whenever Meath managed to get a point, Tyrone answered with a couple in return as they grew their lead with time whittling to an end.

Mark Bradley showed his undoubted potential closer to goal when Donnelly reached him with a long-range crossfield ball and he shot on the turn for a point. McCurry also picked up a point after the ignominy of being replaced in the first-half against Limerick.

Meath did have a late chance when Joey Wallace sped through the middle but he appeared to be dragged back as he pulled the trigger, and fell as he made contact. Maybe he was too honest for his own good.

In any event, it is Tyrone in the next round of the qualifiers. McMahon is back, they have some younger players coming into a bit of form and they have beaten a team that they have fostered a bitter rivalry with. Though it still feels a little flat for them right now.

Like we say, there is a danger this win could be underestimated.

Tyrone: N Morgan; C McCarron, R McNamee, R McNabb 0-1; R Brennan, J McMahon, A McCrory; P Harte 1-1 (1-0pen), C Cavanagh; R Donnelly, B Tierney, M Donnelly; M Bradley 0-3, 1f, S Cavanagh 0-2, C McAliskey 0-1, 1f

Subs: D McCurry 0-1 and T McCann 0-1 for R Donnelly and Tierney (h-time), C McCann for Brennan (43m), R O'Neill for McAliskey (63m), C McShane for Bradley (72m)

Yellow cards: 0

Black cards: McCurry (72m)

Red cards: 0

Meath: C McHugh; D Keogan 0-1, C McGill, J McEntee; D Dalton, D Tobin 0-1, P Harnan; B Menton 0-1, H Rooney; G Reilly 0-3, S Bray, A Tormey; E Wallace, M Newman 0-2, 2f, B McMahon 0-1

Subs: D Lenihan for Wallace (13m), K Reilly 0-2, for Newman (57m), S Tobin for Bray, J Wallace for McMahon (64m), M Burke for McEntee (66m), B Power for Dalton (70m)

Yellow cards: Bray (6m), McMahon (26m)

Black cards: 0

Red cards: 0

Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)

Attendance: 6,895

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