Tyrone 0-14 Westmeath 1-7
Tyrone found a way to dismantle Westmeath’s suffocating defensive system at Healy Park, where they took their GAA All-Ireland SFC challenge a step further.
The Red Hands have demanded that they be taken seriously as genuine championship contenders with a compelling rebound from their disappointing Ulster SFC campaign.
But they made heavy weather of securing the win, despite the dismissal of two Westmeath players midway through the second half.
And the Red Hands may have to go into next weekend’s tie without key man Sean Cavanagh, who was stretchered off in the first half with a neck injury.
And his younger brother Colm, who replaced him, is almost certainly out of next Saturday’s game after dislocating a shoulder.
Tommy McGuigan was on fire in the opening quarter, hitting three points as Tyrone set abut their task in busy fashion.
By the twelfth minute they led by 0-4 to 0-1, but once Westmeath settled, they made life extremely difficult for their opponents.
Typical of their industrious style, they got men behind the ball at every opportunity, and a series of turnovers helped them launch menacing raids into opposition territory.
Dessie Dolan, with a couple of frees, and John Smyth, along with Denis Glennon, had them back to within two points by the time they stunned the Red Hands with a Michael Ennis goal in the 29th minute.
Damien Healy picked out the run of his fellow wing back with a diagonal pass, and Ennish powered on to drill the ball past John Devine to give the Leinster men the lead.
And there was a further blow for Tyrone when full forward Sean Cavanangh was stretchered off and taken to hospital after falling awkwardly and sustaining a neck injury.
Westmeath pushed on and led by 1-5 to 0-6 at the break with another Dolan free, but Tyrone steadied the ship in the early stages of the second half, pulling back scores through Davy Harte, Tommy McGuigan and two from midfielder Enda McGinley to go back in front by the 47th minute.
And a few seconds of madness saw Tomas O Flatharta’s side reduced to 13 men in the 51st minute when separate incidents saw wing back Damien Healy (second yellow) and wing forward Doran Harte (two yellow) both dismissed.
Skipper Brian Dooher thumped over an inspirational point from wide on the right to ease his side into a two points lead, and while they were themselves somewhat unsettled by the dismissals, Tyrone finished with points from Tommy McGuigan, substitute Damien McCaul and Ryan Mellon to seal a hard-earned win.
Tyrone: J Devine, R McMenamin, J McMahon, PJ Quinn, D Harte (0-1), C Gormley, P Jordan, R Mellon (0-1), E McGinley (0-1), B Dooher (0-2), B McGuigan, T McGuigan (0-6, 2f), M Penrose (0-2,
S Cavanagh), C McCullagh.
Subs: C Cavanagh for S Cavanagh (34mins), O Mulligan for McCullagh (45), R Mulgrew for C Cavanagh (58) Joe McMahon for Penrose (54), D McCaul (0-1) for Quinn (64)
Westmeath: G Connaughton, F Boyle, K Gavin, J Keane, M Ennis (1-0), D Heavin, D Healy, M Flanagan, D O’Donoghue, D Dolan (0-4, 4f), J Smyth (0-1), D Harte, David Glennon, Denis Glennon (0-2, 1f), A Mangan).
Subs: D Bannon for Mangan (24mins), D Duffy for David Glennon (44), F Wilson for Bannon (49), S Quinn for Smyth (69), W Murtagh for Boyle (70)