Tyrone rocket into the Super 8s after Cavan are routed in Clones

Mickey Harte’s side dazzle in the sun as they deliver an ominous masterclass in efficiency

Tyrone 1-20 Cavan 0-7

They haven’t gone away, you know. There’s something of the streaking comet about Tyrone now, rushing though the qualifiers for fun and arriving in the Super 8s - the road show continues in Roscommon next week - oozing with their own brand of bustling confidence.

The only stain on their copy book was the 72nd minute black card disciplining of Peter Harte, his third in four matches. As of now, he misses the next match but Tyrone will almost certainly appeal the cards issued to him in the Donegal and Longford games. Apart from that, this was a master class in Tyrone efficiency and by the end, the gap between the counties was vast.

Cavan have a realistic sense of where they are at now: a nose ahead of an improving Armagh team but still trailing the two brand leaders in the province by some distance in terms of guile and strength. They’d be justified in casting a jealous eye at the pathway some other counties enjoyed to the Super 8s: their games have been relentessly tough. But this was a bruising close to their campaign.


The game was over after a first half in which Tyrone were simply dazzling in the sun.

The encounter started out as part-chess match, part-Friday night aggro outside any one of a thousand chip shops.

Cavan were determined to illustrate just how much they weren’t scared of Tyrone and so the first 15 minutes were broken up by a series of sporadic rows and tussles which caused Barry Cassidy to police the field like a stressed-out teacher. Of course, this sort of stuff is mother’s milk to Tyrone: they have a gift for not slipping into yogic serenity in between the pushing and the shoving.

The problem for Cavan was that after 20 minutes, they paused for breath and found themselves in much the same place as they had been at the same point in the Ulster final: helplessly caught in the spider’s web.

Tyrone showed patience here, going point for point over the opening 15 minutes while stealthily figuring where the gaps and pressure points were. Niall Morgan, orchestral conductor over the first half hour, chipped a 45 to give his team a 0-4 to 0-2 lead and almost immediately, you felt worried for Cavan.

Tyrone allowed Raymond Galligan to restart short and to his left almost every time but from there, moving the ball upfield became an ordeal. Too often, they struggled to break through the 45 and once inside the scoring zone, they felt obliged to opt for rushed ambitious shots. Hugh Pat McGeary accompanied Gearoid McKeirnan like an over-enthusiastic usher and allowed the big midfielder to go anywhere he liked except onto that reliable left foot of his. Cavan got no ball into Dara McVeety. It took them 30 minutes to land their first point from play.

At the other end, the Red Hand slipped into exhibition mode. To the complaint that their defensive, counter attacking game won’t beat Dublin, there is just one pertinent point: they were playing Cavan.

As predicted, Cathal McShane was the lone figure up front and at its best, Tyrone’s counter-attacking game was sleek and flowing and fun to watch. Running at speed, filling the channels, short, swift passing and the killer shot: this is their game and it suits the cut of their jib. They put this qualifier to bed in a ten minutes blitz which featured three pretty looking points from Darren McCurry, who was playing with the chutzpah of a few summers ago. It was 0-12 to 0-3 at half time and the line for the choc-ices was lengthy.

In the Ulster final, Mickey Graham drew a really proud response out of his team when they found themselves staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat. But the adrenaline of the occasion and the day fuelled that. Here, on the edge of elimination, it was harder to produce a rebellion.

In the 46th minute, Tyrone elected to deliver a long ball for the first time: Kieran McGeary picked out Cathal McShane who duly won it, pivoted and sent a dangerous shot whistling over Raymond Galligan’s crossbar. It was a reminder that they have more than one string to their bow.

By now, the day was turning ignominious for Cavan, trailing by 12 points against a Tyrone team evidently hungry for more. Mattie Donnelly had such a low key opening 20 minutes that you had to scan the field to make sure his motor hadn't broken down outside Trillick but by the hour mark, he was in with a shout for man of the match.

Ben McDonnell rescued a skied ball to land Tyrone’s first goal of the day and deepen Cavan gloom. Football is cruel: all the progress and good work counted for nothing over their last few minutes in the championship, when they must have felt as far away as ever. And Tyrone? Something wicked this way comes.

Tyrone: 1 N Morgan (0-2, one 45), 5 M Cassidy, 3 R McNamee, 4 R Brennan; 8 C Cavanagh (0-1); 10 M Donnelly, 6 K McGeary, 7 F Burns; 2 HP McGeary; 9 B Kennedy (0-1), 11 N Sludden (0-2); 12 P Harte (0-5, 4 frees); 13 D McCurry (0-3), 15 C Meyler; 14 C McShane (0-5, 3 frees). Subs: 17 K Coney for 13 D McCurry (46 mins), 19 P Hampsey for 2 HP McGeary (49 mins). 25 M McKiernan for 5 M Cassidy (50 mins), 24 B McDonnell (1-0) for 6 K McGeary, 21 C McCann (0-1)for 11 N Sludden (59 mins), 18 R Donnelly for 14 C McShane

Cavan: 1 J Galligan, 2 J McLoughlin, 3 P Faulkner, 7 C Brady; 4 C Moynagh, 17 B Fortune, 6 K Clarke; 8 C Brady, 12 G Smith (0-1); 10 N Murray (0-2 frees), 9 G McKiernan (0-2 frees), 15 M Reilly 14 C Mackey, 11 D McVeety (0-1), 5 C Rehill. Subs: 21 C Madden (0-1) for 5 C Rehill (19 mins), 13 O Kiernan for 2 J McLoughlin (32 mins), 20 C O'Reilly for 7 C Brady (half time), 19 S Murray for for 15M Reilly (half time), 23 T Galligan for 6 K Clarke (47 mins)

Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times