Darren McCurry, Tyrone, and Cian Reilly, Cavan, in Ulster SFC action.
Darren McCurry, Tyrone, and Cian Reilly, Cavan, in Ulster SFC action.

Ulster SFC: Tyrone dethrone Cavan

Ulster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final

*TYRONE 1-18 CAVAN 0-13 *

*By Orla Bannon at Healy Park *

Cathal McShane kicked three points on his return from injury as 14-man Tyrone inflicted a first-round exit on defending Ulster champions Cavan in Healy Park. 

McShane played the closing 25 minutes in his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury against Galway in February 2020 was a huge boost to Tyrone, as was the prolific form of Darren McCurry who struck 0-10, including five points from play in an outstanding display in Omagh. 

However the loss of fullback Ronan McNamee to a straight red card after 55 minutes for an off-the-ball incident will weaken Tyrone heading into an Ulster semi-final against Donegal or Derry on Sunday July 18. 

Both sides came into the game with a lot of question marks but they were level five times in the opening 25 minutes, and it looked like we were in for the first really competitive game of this year’s Ulster SFC. 

After three games won by double digits, the opening stages were a welcome change-up and both Tyrone and Cavan, coming into the championship off the back of poor league defeats against Kerry and Wicklow respectively, looked short of confidence and vulnerable to being ripped open on the counter-attack. 

When turnovers happened, spaces opened up and Tyrone profited with direct kick passing into the full-forward line with Darren McCurry making hay. 

He kicked 0-7 in the first half, including four points from play, in an outstanding display of shooting, spinning off both sides and winning primary possession brilliantly. 

Gearoid McKiernan held Cavan’s end up with 0-4 in the opening half, two from play, with the Breffni side getting some joy with the high press. But after the first water break Cavan faded and failed to put enough pressure on Tyrone’s kickouts. 

Tyrone scored the last five points of the opening half with Niall Sludden, making a rare start this year after several appearances off the bench, and Peter Harte scoring from distance. 

In contrast Cavan missed some good chances before the break with one good goal chance spurned when Padraig Hampsey cleared off the line. 

McCurry’s prolific shooting had Tyrone leading 0-11 to 0-7 at the break. 

Cavan needed a goal early in the second half but it was Tyrone who got it. McCurry continued his excellence of the first half with his eighth point of the game after a good period of patient Tyrone possession and then came the goal to extend Tyrone’s scoring sequence to 1-6 without reply either side of the interval. 

McCurry and Mattie Donnelly were involved, Donnelly’s fist pass put Brian Kennedy in at the near post and he squeezed his shot past Raymond Galligan in the 40th minute. 

Gearoid McKiernan briefly stopped the rot with a free but Tyrone were ruthless now in punishing Cavan turnovers and the introduction of Cathal McShane saw Tyrone’s confidence grow further. 

The forward came on at full-forward after 48 minutes for his first appearance since February 2020 through injury and he scored a curling right-footed point with his first touch. He won a free, which he wanted to convert, but McCurry was having none of it and strode over to nail his ninth of the day. 

Cavan hit two points in a row for the first time in the second half and then got a massive lift when Ronan McNamee saw red for Tyrone. 

The game was already stretched with intensity draining from the contest by the time McShane came on after 48 minutes. 

Subs Conor Madden and Conor Smith kicked three points to show some resistance for Cavan, but Tyrone grew in stature, and in confidence, as the game wore on and closed it in a controlled fashion. 

Scorers for Tyrone: D McCurry 0-19 (4fs, 1m), B Kennedy 1-0, C McShane 0-3, N Sludden 0-2, R Donnelly, P Harte, and P Donaghy 0-1 each.

Scorers for Cavan: G McKiernan 0-6 (4fs), C Smith 0-2, C Madden, T Galligan, G Smith, O Pierson, and R Galligan (f) 0-1 each.

Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, P Hampsey; R Brennan, M O’Neill, P Harte; M Donnelly, C Kilpatrick; K McGeary, R Donnelly, C Meyler; D McCurry, P Donaghy, N Sludden.

Subs: B Kennedy for R Donnelly (35), T McCann for McGeary (HT), C McShane for Donaghy (48), F Burns for Sludden (61), M Bradley for Brennan (69), B McDonnell for McKernan (70).

Cavan: R Galligan; K Clarke, P Faulkner, C Reilly; B O’Connell, K Brady, J McLoughlin; T Galligan, C Moynagh; G Smith, G McKiernan, O Kiernan; O Pierson, O Brady, M Reilly 

Subs: L Fortune for C Reilly (30), C Smith for O Brady (HT), C Madden (0-1) for Moynagh (HT), C Brady for M Reilly (47), N Murray for K Brady (63).

Referee: David Gough (Meath).