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Red Hands on course for league final spot

Thursday, 16 March 2017

TABLE-TOPPERS Tyrone are on course for the National Football League Division One final following another win at Healy Park.

Tyrone ...0-19
Cavan ...1-9

A rearranged Ulster derby looked to be going against them when they trailed by four points at the interval, but they cut loose in the second half with a scoring blitz that blew Cavan away.

The win takes them a point ahead of holders Dublin, but the Red Hands still have difficult ties ahead against Donegal, Mayo and Kerry, so nothing is being taken for granted at this stage.

Skipper Sean Cavanagh always knew his ide had the ability to turn the game back in their favour, despite the deficit at the halfway stage.

In the first half, it may not have looked like it, but there was a fair breeze, and it was difficult to pick those pockets from distance, he said.

They were defending quite deep, and it probably suited them in the first half to play deep and hit us on the break, and they got a goal on the breakaway as well.

But as things opened up, as they quite often do, around 45, 50 minutes, we had the legs, we had the guys to spring from the bench, and the spaces eventually began to appear, and whenever you have the quality finishers that we have, we were able to start doing the damage.

And that s when most games are won, but obviously we had that wee bit of wind advantage as well.

It s a testament to our guys that we were able to switch up and change the play from time to time, and we re trying to kick the ball a bit more this year and move the ball on a bit quicker, and it seems to be working.

A lot has been said about our physique and fitness. We kind of knew that as the game wore on, our guys would start to pierce holes in their defence.

Omagh was a lovely surface out there today, it was quite dry and the ball was being moved quite quickly, particularly in that second half.

And whenever you have that and you have the guys who are able to start picking the holes, we knew we would get opportunities.

Whilst in the first half we weren t able to shoot from distance, in the second half, we were able to kick from that wee bit of distance, and we were starting to make hay.

This weekend brings a massive test when Tyrone travel to Ballybofey to take on neighbours and fierce rivals Donegal.

I don t think Ballybofey has been a happy hunting ground for anyone in recent times, said Cavanagh.

It s going to be another big challenge, but we have openly spoken about trying to make it to a league final.

If we are going to do that, we re going to have to go to places like Ballybofey and try and grind out results.

While we played in Division Two last year, and we probably to a certain extent cruised through some games in third or four gear, we know next Saturday night we re going to have to be on top of our game.

It s going to be a war, it s another Ulster one. We played them there in 13 and 15 and they turned us over there, so I think it s the next step in this team s evolution, to try and go to places like Ballybofey and try and grind out results, and if we can come out with a one point victory, that s going to be progress for us.

Cavan set up with a well organised defensive system as they attempted to keep out the marauding Tyrone men, and it worked a treat in the opening ten minutes as they broke from deep to nail points through McKiernan and Dara McVeety.

A hard-pressed Breffni rearguard started to cough up frees, which Sean Cavanagh, making his first start of the season, slotted between the posts, before midfielder Padraig McNulty charged through for the lead point on 13 minutes.

The visitors countered again for McKiernan to score his second, before wing back Martin Reilly took matters into his own hands with three points, two of them spectacular efforts from distance.

The sides were level on six occasions as Peter Harte steered over a couple of frees and Colm Cavanagh squeezed over a point from an acute angle.

But late in the half, McKiernan hit a 1-1 salvo to give his side the edge.

Tyrone were guilty of switching off at the back, allowing McVeety the chance to slip the ball to Conor Madden, and his flick found the inrushing McKiernan, who palmed the ball past Niall Morgan for a 1-8 to 0-7 interval lead.

It was one-way traffic for wind-assisted Tyrone after the break, with subs Mark Bradley and Ronan O Neill firing over five points as they bombarded Cavan into submission.

Meanwhile, Cavanagh is confident that Mattie Donnelly will make a success of his new role as an inside forward.

Probably we haven t played with a couple of physical players in there, size-wise, and it will take maybe a wee bit of tweaking, but there were sings there that we were linking up quite well, and it probably gives us that wee bit more impetus to let eh ball in that wee bit longer, he said.

This last couple of years, we probably ran the ball quite hard through the hands, and we obviously had the players to do that.

But now with Mattie there, in the second half, letting the long balls in to him, and it only takes one of those to go right and you re probably going to create more goal chances.

If that s the case, and it works out like that, it will definitely be another string to our bow.

I think we have an awful lot of players that can play in that middle sector. Whilst Mattie in particular is very good at running on to play, he can play in the half back, midfield or half forward sector, and he s good coming on to play, it really does give us another string to our bow, the fact that he has that physicality inside.

I think the more we have that, the more the guys will become comfortable with moving the ball in that little big quicker.

You can see how the likes of the Dublins and Kerrys and Mayos, that have dominated the top end of our game for the last three or four years, have always had that physical strength inside, that, at certain points in the game, they were able to move that ball in that bit quicker.

It s something we re trying at the minute. It may not stay like that, but I think we re well equipped with the guys we have out the field.

Tyrone scorers: Peter Harte 0-4 (4 frees), Sean Cavanagh (3 frees), Mark Bradley 0-3 each, Ronan O Neill 0-2, Niall Morgan (free), Tiernan McCann, Colm Cavanagh, Padraig McNulty, Kieran McGeary, Mattie Donnelly, Darren McCurry 0-1 each.

Cavan scorers: Gearoid McKiernan 1-4 (0-2 frees), Martin Reilly 0-3, Dara McVeety, Conor Madden 0-1 each

Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Padraig Hampsey, Justin McMahon, Cathal McCarron; Tiernan McCann, Rory Brennan, Aidan McCrory; Colm Cavanagh, Padraig McNulty; Conor Meyler, Kieran McGeary, Peter Harte; Darren McCurry, Sean Cavanagh, Mattie Donnelly.

Subs: Ronan McNamee for Brennan, Mark Bradley for McNulty, Johnny Munroe for McNamee (BC), Frank Burns for McMahon, Ronan O Neill for McCurry (BC).

Cavan: Raymond Galligan; Rory Dunne, Killian Brady, Jason McLoughlin; Ciaran Brady, Conor Moynagh, Martin Reilly; Tomas Corr, Gearoid McKiernan; Gerard Smith, Dara McVeety, Niall Clerkin; Niall Murray, Conor Madden, Paul O Connor.

Subs: Cian Mackey for Clerkin, Stephen Murray for N Murray, Fergal Reilly for McLoughlin, John McCutcheon for Clerkin.

Referee: David Gough (Meath).

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