Saturday 24 March 2018

Cavanagh hits top gear as Tyrone look to Dubs showdown

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

RYAN McMENAMIN emerges from the Tyrone dressing-room picking through a box of pasta. Roscommon had just been dispatched, but he was already thinking of Dublin. In fact, they were thinking of Dublin last week.

"It was hard not to think about them once the draw was made," he admitted. "It was hard to think about Roscommon. We tried our best, but everyone we chatted to all week, it was about the Dublin game.

"People told us 'we'll get past Roscommon'. We had great respect for Roscommon, they have great players like Karol Mannion, Donie Shine, Cathal Cregg.

"We were impressed with them, we knew they had those 2006 boys coming through (minor All-Ireland winners) and they had a few St Brigid's lads as well. We knew they would be a good team, but we were complacent going in, and in the first half we did battle well when we were four points down."

Mannion goaled after Pascal McConnell's bizarre decision to punch a dropping ball had put Roscommon into a fully deserved four-point lead on 27 minutes.

At that stage, Shine had Conor Gormley all at sea -- thanks in large part to the excellent service he was getting -- and the Clann na nGael star might have hit another major earlier in the game but for an excellent recovering block from Gormley.

At that point, the rumours of Tyrone's demise seemed to be ringing through. Their full-back line was exposed and Joe McMahon also had his hands full with Senan Kilbride, but with the din from Mannion's strike still ringing around Croke Park, Sean Cavanagh announced himself to the game in inimitable style.

He picked up possession in the middle third and turned on the gas for a surging 45-metre run before showing the composure to roll the ball, left-footed, past Geoffrey Claffey.

A Peter Harte free tied things up before the sides swapped scores, but their was time for Cavanagh to bring his first-half tally to 1-3 and hand Tyrone a one-point lead at the break (1-9 to 1-8), which, Mickey Harte agreed, flattered his side.

"They were far superior in the first half even though they went in a point down, so you know, we'd a lot to think about at half-time," he said.

Eight first-half wides cost Roscommon dear as they repeated the performance of their last-eight clash 12 months ago, when they lived with Cork for large periods before falling away in the final quarter. With the game approaching the final 20 minutes, Roscommon were just two points down before Tyrone found another gear.

However, the Connacht side undoubtedly helped them on their way. A breakdown in communication saw their otherwise solid Seanie McDermott cough up possession to Cavanagh, who notched his second major.

The Moy man also hit the post with another goal chance before Mark Donnelly rounded off the scoring by raising another green flag.

"(Sean Cavanagh) had a mighty performance and to get two goals and however many points has to be a real bonus to any team," said Harte.

"His surging runs through the middle are nice, I like to see them happening and he could have had a hat-trick with his other effort."

An 11-point defeat was hard on Roscommon with a crestfallen Fergal O'Donnell at a loss to explain where it went wrong for his side, and he admitted that he was considering his future.

"It's hard, after watching the last 20 minutes, to say that progress has been made," he said.

"Ultimately, at the end of the year, people will look and see that we were beaten by 11 points. I think we should have done better.

"Three years, it's non-stop, and we have had more lows than highs and it's very hard to give the commitment that's required. Sometimes you can't just give the time when you have a young family and you are working."

He added: "When you look at today, maybe you're not getting the return for your work. Maybe someone else can freshen it up. But we'll wait and see -- we won't make any hasty decisions."

For Tyrone, it's a tilt at the Dubs, a repeat of the fixture that ended their interest in the championship last year when a tally of 17 wides proved to be their undoing.

On Saturday, they squandered just six chances and had 11 different scorers. And there were other positives. Stephen O'Neill gets another week to work on his precious hamstring, Cavanagh is back to his 2008 form and in his favoured position of midfield, while Owen Mulligan, Brian Dooher and McMenamin showed flashes of old.

"It's not about what happened last year, it's about what's going to happen next Saturday," said Harte.

"It's not about revenge. It's about doing the best that you can. If we can play to the best of our potential, then we're in with a great chance."

Scorers -- Tyrone: S Cavanagh 2-3 (1f), M Donnelly 1-1, P Harte 0-4 (3f, 1 '45'), K Coney, B McGuigan, C Cavanagh 0-2 each, P Jordan, O Mulligan, Sean O'Neill, K Hughes, C Gormley 0-1 each. Roscommon: K Mannion 1-2, D Shine (2f), S Kilbride (1f) 0-4 each, D McDermott 0-2, C Cregg, J Rogers (1f) 0-1 each.

Tyrone -- P McConnell 6; C Gormley 6, M Swift 6, Joe McMahon 7; Sean O'Neill 7, R McMenamin 7, P Jordan 7; K Hughes 7, S Cavanagh 9; C Cavanagh 8, B McGuigan 8, P Harte 6; T McGuigan 6, M Donnelly 6, K Coney 6. Subs: B Dooher 7 for T McGuigan (h-t), O Mulligan 7 for K Coney (h-t), Justin McMahon 7 for R McMenamin (50), D Harte for M Swift (62), Stephen O'Neill for B McGuigan (71).

Roscommon -- G Claffey 6; S McDermott 6, N Carty 6, S Purcell 6; D Keenan 6, P Domican 7, D Ward 6; M Finneran 7, K Mannion 8; S O'Grady 7, K Higgins 6, C Cregg 8; D McDermott 7, S Kilbride 7, D Shine 7. Subs: D O'Gara 7 for K Higgins (41), N Daly 6 for S O'Grady (50), J Rogers 6 for D McDermott (56), C Devaney for D Ward (67), E Kenny for M Finneran (69).

REF -- M Deegan (Laois).

Irish Independent

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