Sligo 0-14 Tyrone 0-21
Brendan O’Brien, Croke Park
Mickey Harte’s Tyrone booked their place in a tenth All-Ireland football quarter-final in just 13 years with a routine defeat of a game but limited Sligo at Croke Park in Round 4B of the qualifiers on Saturday evening.
Sligo clocked in at HQ two weeks after their humiliation in the Connacht final against a Mayo side that hit them for half-a-dozen goals and 25 points and the defensive gaps that cost them so dearly that time were evident again here.
There was no bullocking figure in the form of Aidan O’Shea rampaging through their rearguard like a senior against minors this time, but Tyrone sliced the Connacht side to shreds all the same with a phalanx of runners from deep as space was not exactly at a premium.
Sligo resorted time and again to pulls and drags with Neil Ewing earning their first yellow card just three minutes in. Darren McCurry made them pay for such indiscretions thanks to some dead-eye kicking from frees and 45s throughout the evening.
Mark Bradley was central to it all in the opening spell, the number eleven popping up everywhere to link play and he complimented the more experienced Sean Cavanagh and others brilliantly as Tyrone increasingly grabbed a hold of the game as the first-half wore on.
By half-time they were ahead by double scores at 0-12 to 0-6: Sligo’s persistence with the man on man defensive structure, so at odds with the modern game, was again proving ill conceived against a very smooth and serene-looking Tyrone outfit.
The Yeats men had some trump cards of their own. Mark Breheny and David Kelly sprinkled touches of class up front and Pat Hughes chipped in with two first-half points and another after the restart, but it was less systematic and, therefore, less dependable in terms of delivery.
Yet Sligo proved stubborn on the restart and Tyrone sluggish. The result was that the former were still in contention midway through the second period, but a five-point deficit was as good as it would get again. The remainder was challenge match stuff with easy scores at both ends.
Five successive points for the eventual winners locked the game down as a contest: the last vestiges of an interesting last quarter being drained from the ground when James Hynes, just on as a sub for Sligo, saw a short point effort plucked away from the net by Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan.
Tyrone looked good when they had to, but will know that better is required when they face an opponent yet to be confirmed until the evening’s second qualifier between Donegal and Galway is over in next Saturday’s quarter-final.
Man of the match Sean Cavanagh praised Sligo's persistence. "We knew Sligo were on the back of a bad result against Mayo, and they weren't going to be easy," he said.
"We knew Sligo were going to come back ... we were expecting a backlash, that's what we got. We weren't that happy with our defensive play, but we need to give Sligo credit."
Scorers for Sligo: M Breheny (0-7, 0-3 frees); P Hughes (0-3); A Marren (0-2 frees); D Kelly and N Murphy (both 0-1).
Scorers for Tyrone: D McCurry (0-8, 0-3 frees and 1 ‘45’); S Cavanagh and M Donnelly (both 0-3); M Bradley (0-2); C McAliskey, C Cavanagh, P Harte and R Brennan (all 0-1); N Morgan (0-1 free).
Sligo: A Devaney; D Maye, K Cawley, R Donovan; E Flanagan, B Curran, B Egan; S Gilmartin, C Breheny; N Ewing, M Breheny, N Murphy; A Marren, P Hughes, D Kelly; Subs: K McDonnell for C Breheny (34); J Hynes for Gilmartin (56); C Davey for Ewing (58); L Bree for Maye (63); K Sweeney for Hughes (69);
Tyrone: R McNabb, R McNamee, A McCrory; T McCann, Joe McMahon, R Brennan; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; s Cavanagh, P Harte, C Meyler; M Bradley, C McAliskey, D McCurry. Subs: C McCann for Meyler (49); P McNulty for Bradley (58); Justin McMahon for Joe McMahon (60); D McBride for C Cavanagh and R O’Neill for McAliskey (both 63); C Clarke for Donnelly (69).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).