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Holders Tyrone on track to defend McKenna Cup

CAVAN 0-7   TYRONE  2-22

By Barry O’Donnell

Dr McKenna Cup holders Tyrone squashed a below-strength Cavan side at Kingspan Breffni Park on Wednesday night, two goals in the closing stages from Niall Sludden and Matthew Donnelly copper-fastening their facile triumph.

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This was never a contest with the Breffni rookies struggling to quell the class and vitality of a more seasoned Red Hand unit who dominated from start to finish, and on this evidence are clearly in no mood to relinguish their vice-like grip on the trophy.

They will now face Fermanagh this Sunday afternoon in the semi-final, the Ernesiders having accounted for Donegal to top Section C.

Maintaining a clear focus on a foggy evening, Tyrone asserted their control from the throw-in, with the hosts mounting only token opposition.

Experienced campaigners Peter Harte, Niall Sludden, Ronan O’Neill and skipper Matthew Donnelly set the pattern for the first half procession, their drive and determination handing the visitors a solid platform on which to build.

Sludden drilled over the opening score in the sixth minute, following a neat exchange with the sprightly Cathal McShane, and with Frank Burns then rattling the crossbar, it was evident that an understrength Breffni outfit were in for a sobering first half.

Peter Harte was twice on target before the quarter-hour mark (one a free and then other with the fist after some fluent approach work), and with any sporadic Cavan scoring opportunities going abegging at the other end, the holders were barely threatened.

Despite the best efforts of Conor Brady and Padraig Faulkner, the home side struggled for any cohesion or sustained spell of pressure and were always susceptible to the Red Hands blistering counter-attacking raids.

Donnelly and O’Neill split the posts with efforts to cap some polished approach work, before Brady eventually fisted over Cavan’s only score of the entire first period in the 20th minute.

This conversion provided scant cheer however for the Blues followers, with Tyrone quickly re-affirming their dominance. O’Neill was twice more on target with classy finishes (he hit four first half points in total), while Harte knocked over a ’45’ after Padraig McNulty forced keeper James Farrelly to pull off an excellent save.

McNulty also banged a vicious shot off the underside of the Cavan crossbar in the run-up to the interval, with Tyrone threatening to run amok, but a further Harte free and tidy Lee Brennan score left them very much in the box-seat at the half leading 0-11 to 0-1.

With the outcome inevitable the action meandered along for much of the second half, Tyrone’s intensity levels naturally dropping off, even though Harte and O’Neill continued to display their expertise from the dead-ball.

Bryan Magee and Niall McKiernan, who toiled forlornly all night up front for Cavan, did mange to register a couple of consolation scores, but with Lee Brennan taking over free-kick responsibilities over Harte was substituted, Tyrone kept the scoreboard ticking over.

It wasn’t until the latter stages that the floodgates really opened. On the hour mark Sludden drilled a low shot past keeper James Farrelly, after being set clear by sub Conal McCann, and right at the death Matthew Donnelly poked home another goal from close range.

The Scorers

Cavan

Bryan Magee (0-2,1 free), Cormac Daly, Niall McKiernan, Ciaran Brady, Conor Brady, Oisin Kiernan (0-1 each)

Tyrone

Peter Harte (0-7, 5 frees, 1 ’45’), Niall Sludden (1-2), Ronan O’Neill (0-6, 3 frees), Lee Brennan (0-4, 3frees), Matthew Donnelly (1-1), Ronan McHugh, Richard Donnelly (0-1 each)

The Teams

Cavan

James Farrelly, David Phillips, Donal Monahan, Darragh Kennedy, Conor Brady, Ciaran Brady, Oisin Kiernan, Thomas Galligan, Padraig Faulkner, Jack Wharton, Enda Flanagan, Niall Clerkin, Conor Bradley, Niall McKiernan, Bryan Magee. Subs used: David Brady for C Bradley (34 mins), Padraig Moore for J Wharton (h’-time), Conor Moynagh for N Clerkin (41), Damien McIntyre for C Brady (42)

Tyrone

Niall Morgan, Brendan Burns, Padraig Hampsey, Hugh Pat McGeary, Michael McKernan, Tiernan McCann, Ronan McNabb, Cathal McShane, Padraig McNulty, Matthew Donnelly, Niall Sludden, Peter Harte, Lee Brennan, Frank Burns, Ronan O’Neill. Subs used: Cathal McCarron for P Hampsey (45 mins), Ciaran McLaughlin for R McNabb (45), Conal McCann for C McShane (48), Ronan McHugh for P Harte (51), Richie Donnelly for P McNulty (57), Michael Cassidy for T McCann (61)

Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)

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