Tyrone 0-10 Cavan 0-08

Tyrone opened  their Allianz Football  League Division 2 campaign with a narrow 0-10 to 0-08 win over Ulster neighbours Cavan at Healy Park.

The first half ended at 0-5 each, with debutant Lee Brennan hitting three Tyrone points, and Martin Reilly scoring twice for the visitors.

Defenders Rory Brennan and Justin McMahon were on target for  the Red Hands in a dogged second half, with Connor McAliskey adding to his tally as they edged it. 

Neither goalkeeper had a save to make on an afternoon that produced few clear-cut opportunities in front of a crowd of 5,150.

Both teams set up with a packed defensive strategy in the opening, half, and scoring opportunities were difficult to craft, with Tyrone’s Mark Bradley the only man to manage a score from play in the opening half-hour.

Cavan eased ahead with a Martin Reilly ’45 on eight minutes, with Connor McAliskey levelling from a similar kick.

Lee Brennan converted a couple of frees to give the Red Hands a slight advantage early in the second quarter, before scoring from play to open out a 0-5 to 0-3 lead.

But the Breffni men finished the half strongly, with Martin Reilly and skipper Gearoid McKiernan both swinging over superb scores from wide on the left.

Killian Clarke, Ciaran Brady and Conor Moynagh were defensive rocks for the visitors, cutting out a series of attacks, with significant assistance from the hard-working Cian Mackey while Tyrone, with sweeper Colm Cavanagh directing operations, had assured presence at the back in the form of Cathal McCarron and Justin McMahon.

Tyrone finally found a way to open up the Cavan defence with piercing runs from deep by centre back Rory Brennan, and he was involved in their first two scores of the second half.

First he sent Mattie Donnelly in for a thunderous point, then pushed through to land one himself, before a Darren McCurry free opened out a two points lead.

Cian Mackey’s energy saw him surge from deep to get on the end of a move to notch a score, and heading into the final 15 minutes, just a point separated the sides.

But it was the Red Hands who had the legs to endure on a heavy, sodden surface, and an injection of experience off the bench, including Peter Harte, helped them through.

Full back Justin McMahon curled over a point, and McAliskey made it a three points gap.

The Red Hands sought to see out the game by holding possession, and almost paid the price for some sloppy distribution. Rory Brennan intervened with a vital interception as Cavan pushed for a goal, but they fell just short.  

Tyrone: M O’Neill, A McCrory, J McMahon (0-01), C McCarron, N Sludden, R Brennan (0-01), T McCann, C Cavanagh, M Donnelly (0-01), C McShane, M Bradley (0-01), C Meyler, L Brennan (0-03, 2f), C McAliskey (0-02, 1 ’45), R O’Neill. 

Subs: D McCurry (0-01, f) 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) 

Cavan: R Galligan, P Faulkner, K Clarke (0-01), K Brady, C Brady, C Moynagh, F Flanagan, D Givney, G McKiernan (0-02, 1f), M Reilly (0-02, 1 ’45), N McDermott (0-01, f), D McVeety, C Mackey (0-01), E Keating (0-01), J Brady. 

Subs: 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)  

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).