Dooher delight as Tyrone see off Cavan to reach Dr McKenna Cup final

Tyrone's Cormac Munroe tries to get past Cavan's Ryan O'Neill during Saturday's Dr McKenna Cup semi-final at Kingspan Breffni Picture: Adrian Donohoe
Tyrone's Cormac Munroe tries to get past Cavan's Ryan O'Neill during Saturday's Dr McKenna Cup semi-final at Kingspan Breffni Picture: Adrian Donohoe

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup semi-final: Cavan 0-10 Tyrone 0-15

DESPITE the Arctic conditions and a battling home side, Tyrone warmed to their task at Cavan and a late flurry of scores from their star-studded bench eased them into another McKenna Cup final.

The home side led 4-1 after 10 minutes but trailed after 20 after Darragh Canavan had levelled and Cathal McShane sent the Red Hands into a lead they never lost.

Canavan (who finished with 0-4) needs only inches to conjure up scores and in-form McShane (0-3 on the night) doesn’t need to see a lot of ball to do damage in a game. Both impressed and Michael McKernan was outstanding, particularly in the second half, when his raids up the right wing punched holes in the Cavan defence.

Tyrone took a beating when they travelled to Breffni Park last season so Saturday night’s win will have scratched another itch from 2022 as they build towards their Division One opener against Roscommon at the end of the month.

Joint Tyrone manager Brian Dooher was happy with what he witnessed in difficult conditions.

“In the first half we probably gave the ball away too much,” he said.

“But you couldn’t fault their attitude and commitment and we got some very good turnovers as well. We didn’t look after the ball well enough in the first half but, overall, we’re generally happy.”

Youngsters Dalaigh Jones, Rory Donnelly, Peter Og McCartan, Liam Nugent and Niall Devlin all acquitted themselves well, added Dooher, while David Mulgrew tackling up front epitomised the attitude of the team.

Meanwhile, Cavan missed the attacking punch that injured trio Paddy Lynch, James Smith and Gearoid McKiernan would have given them but they hung in gamely and manager Mickey Graham takes positives from that.

“You learn a lot against a Division One team,” he said.

“We had a number of lads who were only playing their second or third game for Cavan and exposing them to that level of football against Tyrone and Armagh will hugely-benefit them. We got out of the McKenna Cup what we needed to get out of it.

“We have lots to work on and we have players to come back and Division Three is going to be a dogfight, there’ll be no easy games.”

Graham’s men opened a 4-1 lead thanks to scores from Gerard Smith, Oisin Brady, Brandon Boylan and Killian Clarke but Rory Donnelly, Richie Donnelly and a brace from Canavan had Tyrone level and McShane’s opener sent the Red Hands ahead for the first time.

Tyrone, extended their lead when McKernan split the Cavan posts from the right touchline and then a little Peter Harte wizardry released Mulgrew. He was forced into a corner but battled to win the ball which was recycled to Peter Og McCartan who was Tyrone’s sixth scorer.

McShane opened a four-point gap when he fisted another point moments later. Tyrone were all over the Cavan kick-out and should have been further ahead but when Kilpatrick (who worked hard between defence and midfield) missed, it was their sixth wide of the half.

Meanwhile, Cavan’s early confidence had evaporated and they looked short on ideas as they ran into the packed Red Hand defence. After a needless pass went astray when a shot was on, a frustrated youngster summed up the feelings of many in the stand.

“Ya stupid yoke ya,” he cried.

Cian Madden did pull a point back but Cavan had a let-off before the break when McShane’s free hit the post and Mulgrew toe-poked the ball goalward. Raymond Galligan saved and the Breffnimen kept their heads to work the ball out of danger and keep the deficit at to manageable proportions - 0-8 to 0-5 - at half-time.

Tyrone, growing in confidence, opened the scoring in the second half when McKernan cut in from the right wing and picked out Canavan who scored his third of the game.

But Cavan were up for the battle. Oisin Brady replied with free and then added another which, remarkably given Tyrone’s dominance, left just a kick of the ball in it at 0-9 to 0-7.

Enda Maguire put his head where most of us wouldn’t put our boots to win a ball and earn a free and Galligan kicked it from 50 metres to leave a point between the teams.

McShane widened the gap but Cavan hung in there and Oisin Brady raced clear of the Red Hand defence to clip over his first from play.

The game was up for grabs then but Tyrone threw on some Sam Maguire-winning quality and that saw them through. A deft lay-off from Cormac Quinn allowed Canavan to put two in it again (0-11 to 0-9) entering the final 10 minutes and, despite the score of the game from Dara McVeety, Tyrone pulled away.

Liam Nugent, with his first touch, and points from Sludden and Mattie Donnelly sealed victory and a solid night’s work from the Red Hand gang.

Cavan: R Galligan (0-1 free); E Finnegan, P Faulkner, N Carolan; C Brady, D McVeety (0-1), T Madden; C Brady, K Clarke (0-1 mark), C Madden (0-1), G Smith (0-1), D Brady; B Boylan (0-1 mark), R O’Neill, O Brady (0-4, 0-3 frees)

Subs: C Moynagh for C Brady (HT), J Cooke for Carolan (HT), B O’Rourke for D Brady (23), E Maguire for Clarke (HT), Conor Madden for Boylan (50), S Smith for Cian Madden (58), C Reilly for Finnegan (58)

Temporary sub: C Moynagh for C Brady (18), C Brady for Moynagh (21)

Yellow cards: Conor Madden (65), Clarke (68)

Tyrone: N Morgan; N McCarron, C Munroe, M McKernan (0-2); C Quinn, P Harte, P Og McCartan (0-1); D Jones, Richie Donnelly (0-1); Rory Donnelly (0-1), C Kilpatrick, K McGeary; C McShane (0-3), D Canavan (0-4), D Mulgrew

Subs: R Jones for D Jones (42), C Meyler for Rory Donnelly (42), F Burns for Richie Donnelly (60), N Sludden (0-1) for McGeary (60), N Devlin for McCartan (60), M Donnelly (0-1) for McShane (69), L Nugent (0-1) for Canavan (69), E McNabb for McKernan (69)

Yellow card: Kilpatrick (46)

Referee: S Murphy (Armagh)