Tyrone 1-15 Cavan 0-11
It took a long time for the gulf in standard between Division One and Division Three to manifest itself, but ultimately Tyrone's scoring power and counterattacking pace won out in last night's McKenna Cup final in Armagh.
Tyrone trailed by four points towards the end of a first half which Cavan had totally bossed. But they crucially scored 1-1 in injury-time through Niall Morgan’s free and Plunkett Kane with the only goal of the game, to draw level at the break – 1-5 to 0-8.
Cavan had Killian Brady sent off after 49 minutes and they couldn’t handle Tyrone’s speed of play in the second period. Tyrone had eight different players on the scoresheet and outscored their opponents 10-3 in a one-sided second half.
It was a different story in the first half as Cavan started with an intensity and aggression in their tackling which Tyrone struggled to match.
Mickey Harte gave five players, Seán Cavanagh, Dermot Carlin, PJ Quinn, Mark Donnelly and Kyle Coney their first starts of the season. Their return was offset by the absence of Tyrone's UUJ's Sigerson Cup contingent. The loss of Conor McAlliskey, Ronan O'Neill, Barry Tierney and particularly the in-form Mattie Donnelly weakened Harte's hand.
It took Tyrone some time to get to grips with the pace of the game. For all Cavan's discipline, however, they still conceded 15 frees in the first half compared to Tyrone's seven.
In front of a crowd of 4,597 in the Athletic Grounds, Cavan raced into a three-point lead with their prolific inside forward line of Martin Dunne and Eugene Keating really on song.
Kyle Coney sent over Tyrone’s first point in the 11th minute, a score they badly needed to stall Cavan’s momentum.
Eugene Keating was out in front of his marker, Danny McBride, every time and judged the wind perfectly to fire over three points in the first half. His third one in the 29th minute was a gem from out on the far touchline.
Dunne was also looking sharp and managed 0-4 in the opening period, two points from play and two frees.
PJ Lavery and Mark Donnelly had decent goal chances but Niall Morgan’s accuracy, with three long-range frees, kept Tyrone in touch.
Seán Cavanagh, bidding to win his first trophy as Tyrone captain, burst through from the centre half-forward position to tap the ball over the bar but Cavan still led by 0-8 to 0-4 with half-time approaching.
But for all Cavan’s superiority, they only went in level at the break with Tyrone scoring 1-1 in crucial first-half injury-time courtesy of Morgan’s free and Kane’s goal.
Paddy McNeice was involved twice in the move, passing to Mark Donnelly and getting the return ball before shooting low for goal. Goalkeeper Alan O’Mara saved with his feet but Kane was on hand to tap the ball into an empty net.
Cavan made more mistakes and handling errors in the ten minutes after half-time than in the entire opening half.
Tyrone had the wind in the second half and pumped long balls in on top of Coney and McNeice who fired over for two points from glorious goal chances. Cavan were reduced to 14 men on 49 minutes when Killian Brady, who had been booked in the first half, then received a black card for a foul on PJ Lavery.
Tyrone carved the Cavan defence open at will but couldn’t get the second goal they needed to kill the game.
PJ Lavery got bottled up just as he was about to shoot but Mark Donnelly made sure Tyrone got something out of the attack with another point and Coney also scored on the break.
Substitute David Givney ended a 17-minute scoring drought for Cavan with a long-range score. Having put so much effort into the first half, Cavan wilted in the final quarter and although Mark McKeever hit the post late on , there was inevitability about the result long before the final whistle.
CAVAN: A O'Mara; J Hayes, R Dunne, K Brady; D Barkey, J McLoughlin, J McEnroe; D McKiernan, D O'Reilly; M Reilly, N McDermott, M Argue; C Mackey (0-3), M Dunne (0-4, 2f), E Keating (0-3). Subs: D Givney (0-1) for Barkey (46), N Smith for M Dunne (52), G McKiernan for D McKiernan (54), K Tierney for McDermott (62), M McKeever for Hayes (66), P Leddy for McLoughlin (70).
TYRONE: N Morgan (0-3, 3f); PJ Quinn, D McBride, R McKenna; R McNabb, D Carlin, T McCann; N McKenna (0-1), S Cavanagh (0-1); PJ Lavery, C Cavanagh, P Kane (1-0); P McNeice (0-3), M Donnelly (0-1), K Coney (0-5, 2f). Subs: C Grugan for C Cavanagh (HT), C McGinley (0-1) for McNabb (48), A McCrory for McBride (54), E McKenna for Kane (57), S McGuigan for Lavery (67), P Hughes for Donnelly (67) .
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).