Mickey Harte happy as resurgent Tyrone clear another hurdle

2017 Ulster champions show their experience down the home stretch to keep Cavan at bay

Tyrone 0-18 Cavan 1-12

Cavan manager Mattie McGleenan famously bravely fisted home a goal for Tyrone against his current side in the 1995 Ulster final and he may well rue the fact that his team didn’t show the same boldness here against a Red Hand side who appeared vulnerable at times but wriggled off the rack with a late flourish.

While Tyrone were relatively comfortable in the end as they squeezed the life out of the match, they did so without being overly impressive.

The crucial period was the 15 minutes before half-time. Having been level, Cavan were suddenly slow to commit men forward and Tyrone reeled off five points without reply.

The favourites were rocked by a 1-2 salvo from Cavan early in the second half, the goal coming from Breffni defender Martin Reilly and the points from the impressive Gearóid McKiernan.

Try as they might, though, Cavan were unable to take the lead and Tyrone drew on their experience when it was needed, putting together some neat moves to keep the Breffni men at arm’s length in the final quarter.

Tyrone started the brighter and were 0-4 to 0-1 ahead after nine minutes, Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte (free), Niall Sludden with a long-range beauty and Tiernan McCann supplying their scores and Ciarán Brady on the mark for the Blues.

With Sean Johnston threading decent ball inside, Cavan reeled off three in a row from Dara McVeety (two) and Killian Clarke to draw level.

A 45-metre Frank Burns effort was cancelled out by one from McKiernan but Tyrone owned the next quarter. Cavan, defending deep, found themselves struggling to create scoring opportunities and points from Cathal McShane (two), McCann and Donnelly – all of them after turnovers – left four between them at the break.

Connor McAlliskey opened the second half scoring with a free but a brilliant tackle from Killian Brady denied the Red Hands a certain goal and Cavan visibly grew in confidence.

Ticking over

A free from McKiernan got the scoreboard ticking over again and then when Martin Reilly rose to flick a Conor Bradley delivery to the net, they were within one.

Better was to follow when the excellent McKiernan fielded the kick-out and fired over draw them level at 1-7 to 0-10 but asked a big question, the 2017 Ulster champions responded in style.

Ronan O’Neill kicked a free and McCann released the outstanding Sludden to waltz through to put two between them again.

Again, Cavan replied through Oisín Kiernan and a superb score from Sean Johnston – possibly his last in a Cavan jersey – but Tyrone would outscore the underdogs 0-6 to 0-3 on the home stretch.

Richie Donnelly and Conor Moynagh traded scores but Tyrone had more energy about them by now and points from O'Neill (two), Burns, Harte (free) and Sludden helped them ease home, with McKiernan – Cavan's best player on the day – grabbing two at the other end.

Three missed goal chances were a cause for concern for Mickey Harte but, he said, winning was everything.

“Ah, [0-18] is a good return and I suppose we will look at it and be disappointed we didn’t hit the net once or twice but it was all about the outcome today, it doesn’t matter who likes it or who doesn’t, this was about being in the draw on Monday morning and we are there, and we are very, very happy about that.

“You have to give full credit to Cavan. They were up for the game and with ten, 15 minutes to go it was anybody’s game. The fact was they looked the team most likely to push on. You have to give them serious credit for making a fight of it.”

TYRONE: Michael O'Neill, Pádraig Hampsey, Ronan McNamee, Tiarnan McCann (0-2), Michael McKernan, Frank Burns (0-2), Peter Harte (0-2, two frees), Colm Cavanagh, Declan McClure, Mattie Donnelly (0-2), Niall Sludden (0-3), Conor Meyler, Cathal McShane (0-2), Richard Donnelly (0-1), Connor McAliskey (0-1, free). Subs: Ronan O'Neill (0-3, 0-1 free) for McAlliskey (45 mins), Kieran McGeary for McShane (51), Harry Loughran for McClure (67), Cathal McCarron for McKernan (68), Conall McCann for Meyler (69), Rory Brennan for Sludden (70).

CAVAN: James Farrelly, Killian Brady, Conor Moynagh (0-1), Enda Flanagan, Ciaran Brady (0-1), Martin Reilly (1-0), Fergal Reilly, Dara McVeety (0-3), Killian Clarke (0-1), Oisin Kiernan (0-1), Gearoid McKiernan (0-5, 0-2 frees), Niall Murray, Conor Bradley, Cian Mackey, Sean Johnston (0-1). Subs: Sean McCormack for Clarke (34 mins), Adrian Cole for Mackey (h-t), Jason McLoughlin for Flanagan, Padraig Faulkner for Murray (both 44), Caoimhin O'Reilly for Johnston (65), Mackey for K Brady (66).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)