Sean Cavanagh-inspired Tyrone overcome Cavan in Division Two decider
Tyrone 1-17 0-15 Cavan
Sean Cavanagh led Tyrone to the Division 2 Allianz League title at Croke Park this afternoon.
Mickey Harte's side maintained their unbeaten record in the competition as Connor McAliskey hit five points from play to end Cavan's ambitions. This victory will mean nothing when they travel to Celtic Park to take on Derry in the Ulster championship in four weeks' time but it was an encouraging performance from a side which has ambitions of provincial and All-Ireland glory this season.
Seven different scorers contributed to their tally with Ronan O'Neill's 49th minute goal proving the crucial score. But if Mickey Harte's side are to win more silverware this season they will need to find a reliable free taker.
Cavan will be disappointed with the loss, though they have already achieved their spring ambition to securing a place in Division 1 next season.
Tyrone, seeking to win senior silverware at Croke Park for the first time since their 2008 All-Ireland win, received a significant boost when the experienced Peter Harte was passed fit to play. He had picked up a shoulder injury in the early stages of the League tie against Armagh and had been doubtful for the game.
Cathal McCarron switched corners in the Tyrone full back line to take up the challenge of marking Seanie Johnston. The pair exchanged blows even before the ball was thrown in and this exchange appeared to upset the latter who was a peripheral figure in the first half.
He formed a two man full forward line along with David Givney but they never threatened the Tyrone defence in which Colm Cavanagh proved a most effective sweeper. At the other end Sean Cavanagh and Ronan McNeill spearhead the Tyrone attack but the Cavan half back line generally held their positions.
But the first period was refreshingly open – so much so that by half time the game had produced more scores – nineteen – than their first round League meeting which Tyrone won 0-10 to 0-8.
An equally fascinating feature of the half was the spread of scorers across both teams. Fifteen different players had contributed to the scoreboard before Connor McAliskey landed his second point in the 23rd minute. The evenness of the exchanges particularly in the first quarter was underlined by the fact that the teams were level on four occasions.
Tyrone were slightly sharper and with Harte and Sean Cavanagh pivotally involved in their better attacks they carried more threat in front of goal than the opposition as they relentlessly attacked the left flank of the Cavan rearguard. The wide count of 5-3 in favour of Tyrone gives another indication of the pattern of the exchanges.
Indeed, but for the lack of a reliable free-taker – McAliskey and Mark Bradley missed three kickable kicks – they would have been more than three points ahead (0-11; 0-8) at the break.
At the other end Cavan had problems with their long range free-taking. Goalkeeper Raymond Galligan missed two before finally getting on target with a 25th minute 45. But for the most part Cavan's long range shooting was first class with Michael Argue, Dara McVeety and midfielders Tomas Corr and Liam Buchanan all kicking points from range.
But in the last ten minutes of the first half Tyrone pushed on outscoring Cavan 0-4 to 0-1 and significantly two of their most experienced players, Sean Cavanagh and Harte were centrally involved in three of those points.
The early exchanges in the second quarter were more tentative though Cavan got a big break in the 40th minute when a free from Mark Bradley rebounded off the upright and they worked the ball straight up the field with Gearoid McKiernan striking a wonderful points to leave just two between the sides.
Connor McAliskey underlined his influence when he kicked his third point from play but the momentum was swinging towards Cavan with sweeper Conor Moynagh driving them forward.
Johnston then provided the assist for a Dara McVetty point. Eugene Keating replaced Johnston immediately afterwards but Cavan suffered a bigger blow soon afterwards when midfielder Liam Buchanan was black carded for a foul on Justin McMahon.
McAliskey was single-handedly wrecking the Cavan defence at the other end hitting his fourth point before starting a move in the 49th minute; he linked up with Mattie Donnelly who found Ronan O'Neill who turned his marker and blasted the ball to the net.
It was now a five point game but rather than collapsing Cavan responding positively to the challenge. Appropriately it was their two best players, McKiernan and Moynagh who hit points before David Givney pile drive just skimmed the top of the crossbar.
The margin was back to two points but after Jason McLoughlin missed a chance to narrow the gap to a point Tyrone halted the Cavan comeback. Significantly in the absence of the black carded Buchanan Mattie Donnelly became more influential.
Tyrone kicked three points on the spin with Donnelly getting one of them but it was scorer in chief McAliskey who hit the most spectacular point of the game when he volleyed a Donnelly pass just over the crossbar to bring his personal tally of 0-5. But there is no sentiment in football as he was replaced soon afterwards.
Three minutes from the end Donnelly was sent off having received a second yellow which meant that Tyrone played out the remaining minutes with 14 men. But it didn't impact on the final outcome.
It was a useful workout for Cavan prior to their championship against Armagh. Had David Givney's 54th minute shot been three inches lower the final quarter would have been interesting. They will regret kicking six second half wides – Tyrone had just two– but on the credit side they had 12 different scorers
Tyrone: M O'Neill; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; R Brennan (0-1), J McMahon, T McCann (0-1); C Cavanagh, M Donnelly (0-2); N Sludden, M Bradley (0-1, 1f), P Harte (0-1); C McAliskey (0-5), S Cavanagh (0-3), R O'Neill (1-3, 1f). Subs: C Meyler for Sludden 50m; B Tierney for McMahon 50m; R Donnelly for Bradley 55m; L Brennan for O'Neill 58m, C McGeary for McAliskey 61m, F Burns for McCarron 70m.
Cavan: R Galligan (0-1, 1 45); P Faulkner, K Clarke, J McLoughlin (0-1); C Brady, C Moynagh (0-1), K Brady; T Corr (0-1), L Buchanan (0-1); D McVeety (0-2), G McKiernan (0-3, 1f), M Reilly (0-1); D Givney (0-1), M Argue (0-1), S Johnston (0-1). Subs: N Murray for K Brady 25m; E Keating (0-1) for Johnston 46m; C Mackey for Buchanan (BC) 48m; R Dunne for Argue 53m; F Flanagan for C Brady 60m, J Brady for Moynagh 66m