There are plenty of young faces in the new setup but this display had the mark of the Tyrone of old as they put relegated-threatened Meath to the sword with a clinical performance. The Ulster men defended in numbers but they always seemed to have plenty of options at the other end to keep the scoreboard ticking over. As well as regaining their division one status manager Mickey Harte felt that having an extra competitive outing - the division two final - and in Croke Park at that, would stand to them in the buildup to the Ulster championship.
“We did feel last year we did enough to stay in division one and the league points didn’t suggest so, so we had to get back there as quick as possible,” Harte said.
“We played good football at times and at times we were a little bit sloppy. That means there is plenty to work on. If we can straighten out the things we can do better and keep doing the things we are doing well then that should bring us to a better place. We are good defensively but you have to keep working on that because you must be sound at the back in order to make the chances up front count. If you are getting loads of scores but are leaky at the back........
“You have to get the balance between being mean at the back and prolific up front - if you can get that you are in a good place.”
Meath were in need of a confidence-booster after squandering big leads against both Cavan and Galway and they got it from talisman Mickey Newman who produced a great finish to rattle the Tyrone net after four minutes. However that bright opening was undone when fullback Conor McGill misjudged a delivery from Niall Sludden and the unmarked Ronan O’Neill had the easy task of finding the net.
With Newman and O’Neill prominent in the scoring the sides were level at 1-4 each after 20 minutes. However Tyrone enjoyed a productive spell and reeled off six successive points in the run up to half-time. Meath responded with points from James McEntee and Cillian O’Sullivan to leave it 1-10 to 1-6 at the break.
With Newman impressing from placed balls the deficit was down to two points by the 43rd minute.
Tyrone were sluggish at that stage but Peter Harte and Sean Cavanagh got them moving again and they gradually eased clear. The hosts struggled to get scores in that second half and their only point from play came from sub Andrew Tormey in added time.
Tyrone finished with 13 as Conor Meyler limped out after they had used their six subs and then Kieran McGeary was black carded.
R O’Neill (1-4, 2 frees), P Harte (0-3, 3 frees), S Cavanagh (0-3, 2 frees), J Monroe, M Donnelly (0-2 each), R Donnelly, N Sludden, HP McGeary (0-1 each).
M Newman (1-7, 6 frees, 1 ’45), P Harnan, J McEntee, C O’Sullivan, A Tormey (0-1 each).
M O’Neill; C McCarron, R McNamee, A McCrory; J Monroe, N Sludden, T McCann; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; C McCann, P Harte, R Donnelly; C McAliskey, S Cavanagh, R O’Neill.
HP McGeary for McNamee (7), M Bradley for McAliskey (47), C Meyler for Sludden (50), P McNulty for McCann (50), K McGeary for R Donnelly (55), R Brennan for O’Neill (58).
C McHugh; D Keogan, C McGill, M Burke; D Tobin, B Power, A Douglas; H Rooney, G Reilly; E Wallace, C O’Sullivan, P Harnan; J McEntee, M Newman, D Lenihan.
C Finn for Douglas (31), R O Coileain for Lenihan (h/t), C O’Brien for Tobin (45), C Downey for McEntee (60), B Tormay for Keogan (61 - f/t, blood), B O’Brien for O’Sullivan (67), A Tormey for Reilly (69, BC).
F Kelly (Longford)