Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 21 October 2019

Tyrone lack edge but win is all that matters for Harte

Tyrone 0-18 Cavan 1-12

Tyrone’s Peter Harte under pressure from Cavan duo Jason McLoughlin (left) and Conor Bradley during the Round 3 Qualifier at Brewster Park in Enniskillen. Photo: Eóin Noonan
Tyrone’s Peter Harte under pressure from Cavan duo Jason McLoughlin (left) and Conor Bradley during the Round 3 Qualifier at Brewster Park in Enniskillen. Photo: Eóin Noonan

Dermot Crowe

You could be pedantic and pick holes in Tyrone's performance. You could point a finger at their lapses in concentration. You could highlight their lack of ruthlessness in leaving Cavan in a game for longer than they should have been. But qualifiers are for qualifying and Tyrone will be in the fourth-round draw tomorrow. Cavan's season is done.

Not every win has to be perfection. The other mitigating factor was the intense heat, not favourable conditions for the kind of high-octane game fashioned by Mickey Harte's men.

They survived a rocky spell in the second half when leaking a 42nd-minute goal from Martin Reilly that came out of the blue. Reilly finished a high ball dropped in by Conor Bradley, and the score fired up a lukewarm Cavan challenge. From being five points down soon after the interval, Cavan managed to get back level seven minutes after. But they couldn't sustain it and were outscored 0-5 to 0-2 after getting level for the last time in the 50th minute.

Mattie McGleenan failed to mastermind a victory over his native county and while they battled from unpromising positions to make a serious game of it, they were never in front and mostly giving chase.

They fell a point behind after only 12 seconds when Mattie Donnelly scored, and were three points down early in the match before managing to get level through the outstanding Gearóid McKiernan in the 13th minute. Cavan trailed by four points at half-time, 0-5 to 0-9, and looked to be drifting out of the match entirely before Reilly's goal revived them.

When McKiernan, their top scorer with five points, levelled after 43 minutes, there was palpable belief in the Cavan support that they could kick on. But Tyrone, to their credit, never fell behind and always responded positively. Not all parts of their side worked efficiently, with Connor McAliskey having his quietest game of the summer and being taken off without scoring from play. But Niall Sludden scored three points, and Tiernan McCann hit two fine points after returning from suspension. In McAliskey's absence, Ronan O'Neill stepped in and had a telling contribution for the final 20 minutes.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

"It was a dangerous situation," admitted Mickey Harte of the oscillating period after half-time. "The saving grace was that we picked off a few scores ourselves. We never really went behind. Ronan O'Neill made an impact, of course he did. He's a clever player, he's a good finisher, he's got good vision.

"(Connor) McAliskey just had one of those days where things didn't go right for him but he still gave us all that he had in terms of work-rate. That's what players are for, that's what the team is for, some people to take on the beginning, someone else maybe to finish it off. When you're playing as many games as this, you need that kind of panel and it's good to have it."

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Harte professed himself pleased with an 18-point haul in boiling heat. "It is a good return and we'll look at it and be disappointed that we didn't hit the net once or twice. It was all about the outcome today. It doesn't matter how it looks, who likes it or who doesn't like it, this was all about being in the draw on Monday morning. We're there and we're very, very happy about that."

Tyrone, who boast the third best record in the qualifiers, finished with a man extra when Ciarán Brady was sent off in injury time after picking up a second yellow card. But by that stage Tyrone didn't look like letting the game slip from their grasp. With wins over Meath, Carlow and now Cavan behind them, the disappointment of losing to Monaghan in Ulster has been put to one side. They will be no county's ideal date in the fourth round.

Matthew Donnelly of Tyrone in action against Niall Murray of Cavan. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Matthew Donnelly of Tyrone in action against Niall Murray of Cavan. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

After Conor Moynagh brought Cavan level with 20 minutes left to play, 1-10 to 0-13, Tyrone made a winning break with sub O'Neill scoring twice and Frank Burns hitting another from their best goal chance, his shot deflected over for a point by Fergal Reilly as Tyrone swept through Cavan's cover on a counter-attack. Another score from a Peter Harte free had them four ahead with five minutes to go, enough for the day that was in it. Cavan had Dara McVeety and Moynagh available after their one-match suspensions were overturned on appeal. McVeety played well, more notably in the opening half, but Cavan found it hard to get through the Tyrone cover and frequently spilled possession.

Most of the football came after half-time. The first half featured a litany of turnovers when Cavan repeatedly lost ball after entering a congested Tyrone half of the field. Given the rate of turnovers in Tyrone's favour, it was surprising they didn't make the advantage tell more substantially on the scoreboard.

To add to Cavan's difficulties, Tyrone were not only compact but disciplined as well, tackling aggressively and often forcing errors. Cavan won only one free in the first half, and that took almost 31 minutes. McGleenan is likely to stay on, having another year left in his agreed term.

Scorers - Tyrone: R O'Neill (1f), N Sludden 0-3 each; T McCann, C McShane, M Donnelly, F Burns, P Harte (2fs) 0-2 each; C McAliskey (f), R Donnelly 0-1. Cavan: G McKiernan 0-5 (2fs); M Reilly 1-0; D McVeety 0-2; C Brady, K Clarke, O Kiernan, S Johnston, C Moynagh 0-1.

Tyrone: M O'Neill; P Hampsey, R McNamee, M McKernan; T McCann, F Burns, P Harte; C Cavanagh, D McClure; M Donnelly, N Sludden, C Meyler; C McShane, R Donnelly, C McAliskey. Subs: R O'Neill for McAliskey (41 mins); K McGeary for McShane (52); H Loughran for McClure (62); C McCarron for McKernan (65); C McCann for Meyler (69); R Brenna for Sludden (72).

Cavan: J Farrelly; K Brady, C Moynagh, E Flanagan; C Brady, M Reilly, C Moynagh; K Clarke, G McKiernan; O Kiernan, C Mackey, S Johnston; N Murray, C Bradley, D McVeety. Subs: S McCormack for Clarke (inj 36 mins); A Cole for Mackey (half-time); P Faulkner & J McLoughlin for Flanagan & Murray (41); C Mackey for K Brady (61); C O'Reilly for Johnston (61).

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)

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