Monday 19 March 2018

Cavanagh's form lights up 'poor' Tyrone

Tyrone 2-9
Fermanagh 0-7

Sean Cavanagh, Tyrone, in action against Paul Docherty and Colm Fleming, Antrim. Photo: Sportsfile
Sean Cavanagh, Tyrone, in action against Paul Docherty and Colm Fleming, Antrim. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The more things change, the more they stay the same perhaps.

Mickey Harte may have had that sentiment coming away from the second of the Dr McKenna Cup semi-finals in Armagh after watching his side scramble to a flattering eight-point win over Fermanagh.

For all the overhaul in personnel he has overseen in the closed season, it was one of his most prized assets in more than a decade of inter-county management that gave him most reason for optimism.

Sean Cavanagh has had a horrific 18 months with two similar shoulder injuries that went so far as to place a doubt over his career at one stage last summer.


But the sight of him driving through the sleet and snow that fell on the Athletic Grounds with much of his old flourish, shipping tackles and making runs, is one which will have provided one of the few positive notes for his Tyrone manager who was otherwise scathing of the performance in his post-match assessment.

Tyrone remain on course to retain their title, but Harte felt it was their poorest performance for quite some time.

"It was not even patchy, it was as poor as I have witnessed in a long time. We are very much flattered by the scoreline," he reflected.

"A goal in each half gave us the result that our play didn't deserve. That's where we are at. We are in a final and we are not relieved at all because we are looking for performances at this time of the year and our performance was not good today.

"I'm not going to throw the book entirely at the players tonight because we didn't have a good performance. There was still a lot of hard work out there and we're very conscious of the way we want them to play. We are just disappointed because it wasn't a good spectacle for the crowd."

So, Cavanagh's boundless energy from midfield was a silver lining on an otherwise dark cloud.

"Since he's come back this season since his injury, is he making up for lost time?" asked Harte.

"I don't know what it is, but he's shown us the kind of player he is and how important he is to this team. He's done that right through these McKenna Cup games and we would like to keep him injury-free for the season."

With Ronan O'Neill also on the comeback trail, it should give impetus to Tyrone ahead of their Division 1 campaign in the National League that Harte admits to finding a little "scary" given the quality of opposition assembled, among them All-Ireland champions Donegal whose manager Jim McGuinness was in attendance to watch both games.

So much for involvement with Celtic impacting on his focus!

Harte's point about the quality of spectacle was justified. The conditions were poor, but there was no real bite to it by comparison to the first game.

Tyrone rarely lose to Fermanagh in any competition and maybe that influenced matters here too.

They drifted off themselves after an enterprising first 45 minutes when they built up a 1-8 to 0-4 lead, failing to score for 24 minutes before a Cavanagh free and late Mark Donnelly goal as he poked home a rebound after Chris Snow saved his initial effort.

Fermanagh showed plenty of endeavour, but little cutting edge in attack with Sean Quigley coming closest when he punched a point that might have been a goal in the last quarter.

Tyrone led by 1-5 to 0-3 at the interval with Plunkett Kane's goal on 35 minutes the highlight of the half as much for the approach work as the finish with Cavanagh, Stephen O'Neill and finally Conor McAlliskey with a deft lay-off making it happen.

McAlliskey was the most productive of the newcomers and showed some lovely touches, setting up O'Neill in the second half for another goal chance which came off the post.

An eye injury to Conor Gormley forced him off and he required a visit to casualty afterwards to establish the extent of the damage with Harte admitting "worry."

Tyrone will play Monaghan in the final at the Athletic Grounds next Saturday night (7.30).

Scorers – Tyrone: S Cavanagh 0-4 (2f), Mark Donnelly, P Kane 1-0 each, K Gallagher, M Penrose, S O'Neill, C McAlliskey, P Harte (f) 0-1 each. Fermanagh: D Keenan 0-5 (4f), P Ward (f), S Quigley 0-1 each.

Tyrone – J Devine; A McRory, C McCarron, C Gormley; C Clarke, Joe McMahon, R McKenna; P Kane, S Cavanagh; K Gallagher, M Penrose, J Lafferty; D McCurry, S O'Neill, C McAlliskey. Subs: P Harte for McCurry (h-t), Justin McMahon for Gormley (54), Matthew Donnelly for Lafferty (62), Mark Donnelly for McAlliskey (63), D McBride for Cavanagh (73).

Fermanagh – C Snow; R McCluskey, S Lyons, J Woods; M O'Brien, B Cox, D McCusker; J Sherry, R Jones; T McElroy, S McCabe, E Donnelly; P Ward, D Keenan, K Connor. Subs: S Quigley for Connor (26), D Kelly for O'Brien (48), T Corrigan for McElroy (57), M McGrath for Sherry (59).

Ref – P Hughes (Armagh)

Irish Independent

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