Wednesday 21 February 2018

Tyrone shoot down Cavan's aerial plan in blaze of glory

Tyrone 5-18 Cavan 2-17

Connor McAliskey of Tyrone celebrates after scoring his side's third goal of the game during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay between Tyrone and Cavan. Photo: Sportsfile
Connor McAliskey of Tyrone celebrates after scoring his side's third goal of the game during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay between Tyrone and Cavan. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

They said it was a lightning strike that forced us to gather atop the Clones hill for this replay.

Pure electricity from the Tyrone men made us all wonder just how freakish the events of two weeks ago had been.

Lessons were cleaved from the drawn game but most of them were intelligently adopted by Tyrone; Cavan only learned that lightning does not strike twice.

"We didn't expect to run out with as much to spare but we did believe we could play much better than the first day," said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

"We knew that if we didn't concede three goals, we would be in a strong position and we were getting scores ourselves."

Simply said and, on the day, simply delivered too.

A first-half power surge featuring two superbly created openings for Peter Harte enabled Tyrone to unleash a goals rush; all the while, at the other end, they displayed little of the frailties that alarmingly caused the concession of three green flags a fortnight ago.

At least, until the game entered trash time, which in reality was a long, long while before David Coldrick signalled the final action of this utterly underwhelming Ulster SFC replay in St Tiernach's Park.

The concession of 2-17 will gnarl the brains trust - captain Sean Cavanagh beat the ground in frustration when the first was conceded - but by then he and his side were already contemplating a first Ulster final in six years.

And a first since 1989 against Donegal, a duo who seem likely to occupy September thoughts beyond their mouth-watering duel for provincial supremacy here on July 17.

Tyrone's hunger for learning never ceases; sadly for Cavan, their acquired knowledge from the first day was simply to repeat and hope. It never had a chance. They unfurled another giant to occupy the square - Eugene Keating's late inclusion ahead of Seanie Johnston was no little surprise, neither the counter-intelligent deployment of Justin McMahon to bolster the returning Ronan McNabb in the full-back line as they also attended to David Givney.

This time, however, Cavan's aerial missiles were neither accompanied by raindrops nor confusion in the Tyrone defence and, aside from a late first-half penalty scare - Coldrick erred in ruling against Dara McVeety - they produced little reward.

McMahon and McNabb were unbreachable air traffic controllers while Colm Cavanagh operated in their midst to sweep up the house.

Double scores ahead at half-time, 2-8 to 0-7, and with Sean Cavanagh lording a middle third wherein Gearoid McKiernan was once again mystifyingly low-key, Cavan were largely restricted to enervating runs from deeper and deeper.

Tyrone's double sweeper had blocked off the effectiveness of any high ball - despite Cavan's weary persistence with the tactic - although it did allow Terry Hyland's men some space beyond the 45 to either shoot or work scoreable positions.

James McEnroe and Cian Mackey were pulling some strings but, despite being level five times in the half, the fluidity, strength and pace of the Tyrone men was building up quite a head of steam.


The loss of Givney after 24 minutes meant Jack Brady, a far slighter man, was introduced but Cavan maintained their witless ploy.

By that stage, Mattie Donnelly had already sent Harte through for the first of his brace of goals, coming within just 90 seconds of each other, the first a powerful strike from 15 yards as Cavan's weakness on the defensive flanks was exposed.

And then Niall Murray hit another defensive wall, Tyrone breaking to devastating effect, creating a three on two before Harte tapped the ball home.

Game over.

Hyland limply protested at the possibility of that penalty late in the half; McVeety seemed to have been foiled by several transgressions as he bore in on goal; then again, Tyrone had had a shout at the other end too.

TV evidence persuaded many that Hyland's protests were further weakened. Unforgivably, the third goal in the 44th minute derived from a Niall Morgan short kick-out; not a hand touched Tyrone cloth until Connor McAliskey galloped home to score.

"There are days when the game runs for you and you get the breaks and you finish them off," offered Harte. "You could be playing another day against a more compact defence," he added, with a nod to two weeks. "By coming out to attack, it created more gaps for us to exploit."

Read More: Tyrone’s physical education teaches a valuable lesson

On another day - Sunday week - this will not be the case. It promises to be a classic of its kind; both soundly structured in defence and with devastating counter-attack.

The rest of the action yesterday should be recalled only by the video analysts of the respective finalists; as the sun shone on the desultory crowd, it was difficult to believe at times there was an expectant 20,000 spectators here.

Rory Brennan scored a goal within eight seconds of his introduction as Harte emptied the bench of last year's victorious U-21 champions; even McMahon sauntered from his sentry post to smote a disdainful point.

"When they're good they're very good," admitted Hyland ruefully.

When we return here in two weeks, it will be like watching a different sport.


Scorers - Tyrone: P Harte 2-4, C McAliskey 1-2 (1f), M Bradley 1-1, M Donnelly 0-3, R Brennan 1-0, C McShane and S Cavanagh 0-2 each, N Sludden, J Munroe, N Morgan (1f) and J McMahon 0-1 each. Cavan: G McKiernan 0-7 (5f), C Mackey 1-3, J Brady 1-0, C Moynagh 0-2, D Givney, K Clarke, M Reilly, R Galligan (f), F Flanagan 0-1 each.

Tyrone: N Morgan 7; C McCarron 7, R McNamee 7, A McRory 7; T McCann 6, N Sludden 8; P Harte 9; C Cavanagh 9, M Donnelly 9; C McShane 8, J McMahon 8, R McNabb 8; C McAliskey 8, S Cavanagh 8, R O'Neill 6. Subs: R Brennan 6 for McNabb (48), D McCurry 6 for C Cavanagh (55), J Munroe 6 for McShane (55), M Bradley 7 for O'Neill (58), P Hampsey 6 for McNamee (61), B Tierney 6 for Sludden (67).

Cavan: R Galligan 5; F Flanagan 6, R Dunne 5, K Brady 4; J McEnroe 6, C Moynagh 6, N Murray 6; T Corr 6, G McKiernan 5; D McVeety 7, M O'Reilly 7, K Clarke 6, C Mackey 7, E Keating 6, D Givney 5. Subs: J Brady 7 for Givney (26) J McLoughlin 6 for McEnroe (35), C Brady 6 for K Brady (51), P Faulkner 6 for Murray (56), M Argue 6 for Reilly (62), G Smith 6 for McVeety (64).

REF: David Coldrick (Meath).



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