at Healy Park
Two points in the space of 30 seconds on the home stretch proved the difference as Tyrone edged a hard-fought arm wrestle before 5,100 fans at a rain-sodden Healy Park in what was manager Mickey Harte’s 100th Allianz League game in charge.
The sides were level at the end of a cagey first half. Both teams set up defensively but while Tyrone dominated possession, Cavan looked solid at the back and soaked up much of what the Red Hands threw at them.
Mark Bradley, a late replacement for Peter Harte, opened the scoring as Tyrone poured forward in the opening minutes. Cavan levelled with a well-struck free from Niall McDermott – who showed very well before being forced off with injury – and hit the front with a 45 from Martin Reilly.
Tyrone were on top at midfield and reeled off two points, a 45 from Connor McAlliskey and a free from lively debutant Lee Brennan, but Cavan responded with a superb Eugene Keating free from an acute angle on the left sideline.
As the rain lashed down, Tyrone cranked up the pressure and pulled two clear after Brennan converted a free and then sniped a neat score from the edge of the ‘D’.
But the Blues, whose attack had looked devoid of ideas at times, finally opened up just before the break when Cian Mackey unlocked the defence to set Reilly up for a right-footed point and then captain Gearoid McKiernan galloped along the end line and sent over a trademark looping score on the run.
The trend continued in the third quarter. Cavan hit the front with a McKiernan free but back came Tyrone, Mattie Donnelly taking the responsibility and firing over from 40 metres.
Rory Brennan was next to get in on the act and when sub Darren McCurry added a well-taken free, it looked as if the hosts had weathered the storm.
Poor shooting, though, hindered Mickey Harte’s side and Cavan hung tough, David Givney releasing Mackey for a welcome score to make it 0-8 t 0-7 with 15 minutes on the clock.
This was a war of attrition but Tyrone always seemed to be able to create chances more easily – the problem was that they kicked a dozen wides over the 70 minutes to Cavan’s six.
When it mattered, though, their sights were perfectly calibrated as excellent points from Justin McMahon and Conor McAlliskey put three points between the sides for the first time.
The home side ran down the clock by playing ‘keep ball’ but it almost backfired as Cavan pressed hard at the end, Killian Clarke popping over a point and a couple of other chances agonisingly falling short.
In the end, though, Tyrone’s superior ability to create opportunities proved the difference in a real battle between two sides who, for the most part, cancelled each other out.
Tyrone: M O’Neill, A McCrory, Justin McMahon (0-1), C McCarron, N Sludden, R Brennan (0-1), T McCann, C Cavanagh, M Donnelly (0-1), C McShane, M Bradley (0-1), C Meyler, L Brennan (0-3, 2f), C McAlliskey (0-2, one 45), R O’Neill
Subs: D McCurry (0-1f) for O’Neill (HT), HP McGeary for Brennan (HT), P Harte for McShane (42 mins), C McCann for McCrory
Cavan: R Galligan, P Faulkner, K Clarke (0-1), K Brady, C Brady, C Moynagh, F Flanagan, D Givney, G McKiernan (0-2, 1f), M Reilly (0-2, one 45), N McDermott (0-1f), D McVeety, C Mackey (0-1), E Keating (0-1f), J Brady
Subs: P O’Connor for McDermott (32 mins), E Henry for J Brady (45 mins), S Johnston for E Keating (50 mins), M Argue for D Givney (50 mins), B Sankey for K Brady (70 mins)