Tyrone 0-10 Cavan 0-8: A dour, defensive battle at Healy Park finally swung in Tyrone’s favour as they edged out Ulster neighbours Cavan to take the opening day points.
Neither goalkeeper had a save to make, with both sides swamping their defences with extra bodies and attempting to exploit the counter-attack.
In the second half, the Red Hands switched the point of attack, taking on the Breffni men from deep, with centre-back Rory Brennan emerging as a key figure going forward.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte complimented his opposite number Terry Hyland for the quality of his side’s defensive strategy but was less than happy with the return from his attacking unit.
“We probably weren’t clinical enough with chances. The big thing is, and we’ve been talking about this for a while, is our return from free kicks is not of the standard it needs to be, so that’s something we have to really work on.”
Mark Bradley’s early score was the only point from play in the opening half hour.
Cavan held the lead briefly, when Martin Reilly converted a 45 to add to Niall McDermott’s free, but the home side, with Conor Meyler a busy presence along the flanks, pushed ahead with a couple of Lee Brennan efforts.
Cavan applied a strong finish to the half, Martin Reilly and skipper Gearoid McKiernan both landing huge points from wide on the left.
That left it deadlocked at 0-5 each at the interval, and the Red Hands gained the upper hand thanks to the experience of Colm Cavanagh, Justin McMahon and Cathal McCarron. The raiding Brennan set up a point for Mattie Donnelly and scored one himself, as they went three clear.
As Tyrone tried to run down the clock by holding possession, they almost paid for some sloppy distribution, a Brennan intercept and a Conall McCann block crucial as Cavan went in search of the goal they needed.
Cavan manager Terry Hyland admitted he had to fight fire with fire in terms of the counter-attacking game plan.
“That’s probably the way Ulster teams set up, and you don’t get many goal chances.”
L Brennan 0-3 (2f), C McAliskey 0-2 (1 ’45), M Bradley, J McMahon, M Donnelly, R Brennan, D McCurry (f) (0-1 each).
Martin Reilly (1 ’45), G McKiernan (1f) 0-2 each, N McDermott (f), K Clarke, C Mackey 0-1, E Keating (f) 0-1 each.
M O’Neill, A McCrory, J McMahon, C McCarron, N Sludden, R Brennan, T McCann, C Cavanagh, M Donnelly, C McShane, M Bradley, C Meyler, L Brennan, C McAliskey, R O’Neill.
D McCurry for L Brennan (h-t), K McGeary for O’Neill (h-t), P Harte for McShane (44), C McCann for McCrory (44), P McNulty for Meyler (60), B Tierney for Bradley (63)
R Galligan, P Faulkner, K Clarke, K Brady, C Brady, C Moynagh, F Flanagan, D Givney, G McKiernan, M Reilly, N McDermott, D McVeety, C Mackey, E Keating, J Brady.
P O’Connor for McDermott (34), E Henry for J Brady (47), M Argue for Givney (60), S Johnston for Keating (60), B Sankey for K Brady (71).
D Coldrick (Meath).
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