Dooher makes telling impact to put Tyrone back on track
Tyrone 1-17 , Longford 0-15
Hope springs eternal beneath gloomy skies. Not so much a rebirth, more a rejuvenation for the erstwhile multiple champions.
Pearse Park has proved a graveyard for many an established outfit in recent times. After their torrid late Ulster championship demise to Donegal, a giddy crowd came to bury Tyrone's heroes, not praise them.
Tyrone, however, demurred from offering any hostages to local fortune. And so a glut of storied names were scratched from the middle pages of our programme before throw-in. Kevin Hughes. Gone. Martin Swift. Gone. Brian Dooher. Gone. Stephen O'Neill. Gone.
Brian McGuigan negotiated his way until half-time and when his removal was announced after tea, some Tyrone folk had to be convinced that he had indeed donned the 11 jersey for 35 minutes and a bit.
Dooher came on in his stead and, although not marauding as of yore, it was his encouraging platform that not alone allowed his midfield to shine -- servicing the six-minute blast that yielded 1-3 to effectively secure this round-two qualifier -- but one which also served as a microcosm of the northern effort.
Experience blending effortlessly with youth. The tale of the tape -- the scoring surge -- is simply related. The tale of Tyrone's season may have a tad more depth to it.
Addressing the midfield dominance that enabled Tyrone to erase the one-point half-time deficit to pull away to a five-point lead by the 41st minute, Sean Cavanagh pointed to a wider significance that will shake assertions about there merely being three candidates for the title.
"We're lucky with a few big men in there with our Colm (Cavanagh), Conor Gormley and young Aidan Cassidy," he said. "We've a lot of experienced heads there with the young guys blending in. The likes of Peter Harte there was immense. If we can get another couple of games and a bit of momentum, hopefully we can slide up through the rounds."
Harte's contribution, seven points, backboned the evening's harvest, dampening the ardour of his supporters' ire following his dismal efforts from frees in defeat to Donegal.
Cassidy gobbled up about nine clean takes as the favourites franked their domination of the middle, increasing supply to Mark Donnelly, Martin Penrose and Kyle Coney.
Still, for all the youthful vigour, familiar rigour of old hardened the effort as Longford's valiant attacking attempts foundered upon the rock of a ruggedly experienced half-back trio whose influence grew exponentially.
"People seem to latch on to these myths and seem to think that we're all done," added Cavanagh. "But you see the likes of Philly Jordan driving up there at 32 years of age, Ryan (McMenamin) and Conor (Gormley) being fit as anything despite being around the block."
Cavanagh wasn't unnecessarily flattering the home side when declaring that this was a more intense challenge than provided by Donegal. "Donegal never brought that intensity to us in the Ulster championship," he said. "When Donegal beat us, I was quite optimistic coming into these games. In the qualifiers you know what you're going to get, you need to perform every day. It really hardens you and adds that ruthlessness to your game which maybe we were missing over the last couple of years."
They needed to be at their best here. Longford thundered from the blocks and played man-to-man, unruffled by Tyrone's radical dismissal of their stated starting line-up. Brian Kavanagh didn't lose a ball until the 22nd minute, before being gradually swallowed whole by Joe McMahon, while Sean McCormack and Francis McGee offered verifiable scoring threats.
The first 10 shared points were all wonderful efforts from play as the game flowed, Longford buoyed by Damien Sheridan's superb second-minute save from Donnelly, which could have ended the contest before it started.
Longford were dismissive of reputation and deserved their 0-8 to 0-7 half-time lead. Arguably, they didn't deserve to fall five behind within six minutes of the belated resumption.
"Ah, for us to chase the game played into their hands," said boss Glenn Ryan. "Those Tyrone fellas have been through the ringer a few times. They had the experience to know what to do when ahead. But I'm very proud of our lads."
As Mickey Harte (left) remarked: "I don't care who's in the qualifiers as long as we're in it. You can't hide. We wouldn't like to be history this early in the summer."
Not when there's more future than ever before.
Scorers -- Tyrone: P Harte 0-7 (1f), M Donnelly 1-2, M Penrose (1f), S Cavanagh (2f), C Cavanagh 0-2 each, K Coney, T McGuigan 0-1 each. Longford: S McCormack 0-6 (2f), B Kavanagh, F McGee 0-3 each, P Barden, N Farrell, D McEligott 0-1 each.
Tyrone -- P McConnell 6; C Gormley 7, Joe McMahon 7, D Carlin 6; R McMenamin 7, Justin McMahon 7, P Jordan 7; A Cassidy 8, S Cavanagh 7; C Cavanagh 7, B McGuigan 4, P Harte 9; M Penrose 7, M Donnelly 7, K Coney 7. Subs: B Dooher 7 for McGuigan (h-t), Sean O'Neill for Gormley (55), O Mulligan for Penrose (55), C McCarron for Carlin (62), T McGuigan for Coney (67).
Longford -- D Sheridan 7; D Brady 5, B Gilleran 6, D Reilly 5; S Mulligan 6, K Diffley 7, N Farrell 6; B McElvaney 7, M Brady 7; D Barden 6, D McElligot 6, P Barden 6; F McGee 7, B Kavanagh 6, S McCormack 7. Subs: N Mulligan for McElligot (55), C Smith for Diffley (59), J McGivney for McElvaney (64).
Ref -- P McEnaney (Monaghan).