Mickey Harte declared himself satisfied with their new attacking strategies after his side moved a step closer to Division One survival with an Ulster derby win over 14-man Cavan.
Peter Harte’s second goal in successive games killed off the Breffni challenge after they had the influential Killian Clarke sent off at the start of the second half. For Cavan, this could prove a mortal blow as they struggle against the odds to avoid an immediate return to the second tier.
“We are happy enough, we are creating chances. We think we could have taken more of them but that’s how it is,” said Harte.
“The worst thing in Gaelic football is to not be creating chances because you can’t get the scores. The fact we are creating chances is encouraging.”
Harte conceded that the dismissal of Cavan midfielder Clarke just after the beginning of the second half put an end to Cavan’s chances of creating an upset at the Omagh venue. “It wasn’t just any player, it was Killian Clarke, one of their main players and so he was a huge loss.”
With five points from their last three games, the Red Hands have pulled themselves off the bottom of the Division One table following two early losses, but their manager feels they have much more to do in order to stave off the threat of relegation.
“We can’t rest on our laurels. It is a tight division in the bottom half at the moment but thankfully, we are on an upward curve at the minute. It isn’t enough to bring us to safety so that we can say ‘yes, we are a Division One team next year’, so we have some more work to do to secure that place.”
Cavan defended with discipline as they faced a strong breeze in the opening half, and a four points interval deficit saw them perfectly poised to take the game to the hosts on the resumption before the game-plan came apart with the dismissal of the experienced Clarke.
They took the lead with a Jack Brady free, but failed to score for almost 20 minutes, during which time the Red Hands hit five points on the spin, two of them frees from the returning Connor McAliskey, making his first start of the season following a lengthy lay-off with a dislocated ankle.
Cavan struggled to break down a well organised Tyrone defence as the home side dropped numbers back and raided at pace on the counter-attack, and didn’t manage their first point from play until stoppage time, when Dara McVeety arrowed over a brilliant effort.
McVeety was one of his side’s most valuable defensive assets as well during that opening period, along with Conor Moynagh and Padraig Faulkner, as they frustrated the Red Hands time and again.
But a couple of Harte frees and a second point from Niall Sludden saw Tyrone pull clear late on, and they led by 0-8 to 0-4 at the break.
Clarke’s second booking two minutes after the restart ended any hope of a second straight win for Mickey Graham’s side, and when substitute Darren McCurry sent Harte in to plant a low shot in the bottom corner of Raymond Galligan’s net on 50 minutes, there was only going to be one outcome.
A brilliant Kyle Coney score was followed by the first of two points from Hugh Pat McGeary, and last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists led by 10.
Cian Mackey came off the bench to freshen up the Cavan attack and probe for openings that eventually began to appear, but much too late.
The towering Niall McKiernan was also introduced as target man, and won a free that he converted himself, while Mackey also converted a couple of frees and rounded off an enterprising move with a point, but his side managed just two from play in the entire game.
P Harte 1-3 (0-3f), C McAliskey 0-3 (3f), N Sludden, HP McGeary 0-2 each, F Burns, K McGeary, K Coney, C McShane (m), M Donnelly (f) 0-1 each
C Mackey 0-3 (1f), J Brady 0-2 (2f), D McVeety, M Reilly (f), R Galligan (f), N McKiernan (f) 0-1 each.
N Morgan; P Hampsey, R McNamee, HP McGeary; T McCann, F Burns, C Meyler, B McDonnell, R Donnelly; M Donnelly, N Sludden, K McGeary; C McAliskey, C McShane, P Harte.
D McCurry for McAliskey (44), K Coney for McShane (45), H Loughran for K McGeary (53), L Brennan for McNamee (58), R Brennan for Hampsey (60).
R Galligan; J McLoughlin, P Faulkner, C Moynagh; C Brady, C Conroy, C Rehill; P Graham, K Clarke; M Reilly, D McVeety, N Murray; N Clerkin, J Brady, C Madden.
G Smith for Clerkin (h-t), T Galligan for Graham (h-t), N McKiernan for Brady (48), C Mackey for Conroy (53), S Murray for N Murray (66).
P Hughes (Armagh).