FL2 final: Red Hands' class eclipses Breffni boys

April 24, 2016

Tyrone's Ronan McNamee and Ciaran Brady of Cavan.
©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan.


Tyrone's quality and composure earned them a 1-17 to 0-15 victory over Cavan in the Division Two league decider at Croke Park.

Ronan O'Neill drilled home the only goal of the game in the 14th minute of the second half as the Red Hands added the NFL silverware to the McKenna Cup and maintained their unbeaten build-up to the 2016 Ulster SFC.

Cavan gave it their all and were never far off the pace but Tyrone were simply too good.

At the end of a free-flowing, evenly-balanced and entertaining opening period, during which the sides were level on no fewer than six occasions, the winners led by three points, 0-11 to 0-8. Captain Sean Cavanagh, Peter Harte - a late addition to the starting XV, Colm Cavanagh, Justin McMahon, Connor McAliskey, Tiernan McCann and Cathal McCarron all caught the eye for the table toppers.

Martin Reilly's sublime opener for Cavan was cancelled out by Rory Brennan, and Sean Cavanagh replied to a Gearoid McKiernan free before O'Neill edged the Red Hands ahead for the first time in the seventh minute, 0-3 to 0-2. Cavan would never get their noses back in front.

Tomas Corr posted an excellent Cavan point but McAliskey and McCann had Mickey Harte's men ahead by two after 15 minutes. Midfielder Liam Buchanan and full forward Michael Argue - with a smashing score - levelled the sides at the midway stage in the opening period but Mattie Donnelly and Harte - after McCarron hit the left upright - made it 0-7 to 0-5.

Dara McVeety and goalkeeper Raymond Galligan ('45') tied the scores up again as the sides continued to trade blows; McAliskey arrowed over a terrific point after providing Mark Bradley with the easiest of pointed frees and O'Neill traded frees with Seanie Johnston as the favourites maintained their two-point advantage with just a few minutes left before the break.

Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh lifts the silverware. ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan.

Former Footballer of the Year Cavanagh stretched the gap to three in the 33rd minute and that was how it stood at the short whistle.

McKiernan and McAliskey swapped stunning points in the 41st and 43rd minutes, and McVeety pared the deficit down to two within ten minutes of the resumption. McAliskey clipped over his fourth great point of the game seconds after Buchanan was harshly black-carded.

O'Neill doubled the gap in the 49th minute when he hammered an unstoppable drive to the back of the Davin End net after a penetrating run and pass from  Donnelly; McKiernan replied with a fabulous point from the tightest of angles and centre back Conor Moynagh pulled back another as Tyrone led by four at the three-quarters stage, 1-13 to 0-12.

David Givney's pile-driver clipped the top of the crossbar as Cavan grabbed their third point in as many minutes to cancel out that O'Neill major, but O'Neill replied with a steadying fisted point on 56 minutes: 1-14 to 0-13. Donnelly and McAliskey - with a close-range volley! - restored the victors' six-point advantage by the hour mark.

Substitute Eugene Keating pointed a consolation effort for the losers and Tyrone had midfielder Donnelly dismissed with a second yellow card in the 67th minute. Cavanagh landed his third score - a sublime strike from beneath the Hogan Stand in the third added minute - and Cavan corner back Jason McLoughlin knocked over a late, late consolation point for the Breffni men, whose five-game winning streak is over.

Tyrone - M O'Neill; C McCarron, R McNamee, Justin McMahon; R Brennan (0-1), A McCrory, T McCann (0-1); C Cavanagh, M Donnelly (0-2); N Sludden, M Bradley (0-1f), P Harte (0-1); C McAliskey (0-5), S Cavanagh (0-3), R O'Neill (1-3, 0-1f). Subs: C Meyler for N Sludden, B Tierney for Justin McMahon, R Donnelly for M Bradley, L Brennan for R O'Neill, K McGeary for C McAliskey, F Burns for C McCarron.

Cavan - R Galligan (0-1f); J McLoughlin (0-1), K Clarke, K Brady; P Faulkner, C Moynagh (0-1), C Brady; T Corr (0-1), L Buchanan (0-1); D McVeety (0-2), G McKiernan (0-3, 1f), M Reilly (0-1); D Givney (0-1), M Argue (0-1), S Johnston (0-1f). Subs: N Murray for K Brady, E Keating (0-1) for S Johnston, C Mackey for L Buchanan (BC), R Dunne for M Argue, F Flanagan for C Brady, J Brady for C Moynagh.

Referee - C Branagan.

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