Match Report: NFL Division 2 Final
By Larry Cooney
Tyrone’s class eventually proved decisive in their 1-17 to 0-15 victory over Cavan in the Division Two league decider at Croke Park last Sunday.
After Ronan O’Neill blasted home the only goal of the game in the 14th minute of the second half the Red Hands were always in control as they added the NFL silverware to the McKenna Cup and maintained their unbeaten run ahead of the build-up to the 2016 Ulster SFC.
A plucky Cavan gave it their all and were never far off the pace but Tyrone were simply too good.
At the end of a free flowing, evenly-balanced and entertaining opening period, during which the sides were level on no fewer than six occasions, the winners led by three points, 0- 11 to 0-8.
Captain Sean Cavanagh, Peter Harte, Colm Cavanagh, Justin McMahon, Connor McAliskey, Tiernan McCann and Cathal Mc- Carron all caught the eye for the table toppers who look serious championship prospects to challenge the holders Dublin.
Martin Reilly’s sublime opener for Cavan was soon cancelled out by Rory Brennan, and Sean Cavanagh replied to a Gearoid McKiernan free before O’Neill edged the Red Hands ahead for the first time in the seventh minute, 0-3 to 0-2.
Cavan would never get their noses back in front. Tomas Corr posted an excellent Cavan point but McAliskey and McCann had Mickey Harte’s men ahead by two after 15 minutes.
Midfielder Liam Buchanan and full forward Michael Argue – with a smashing score – leveled the sides at the midway stage in the opening period but Mattie Donnelly and Harte – after McCarron hit the left upright – made it 0- 7 to 0-5.
Dara McVeety and goalkeeper Raymond Galligan (‘45’) tied the scores up again as the sides continued to trade blows; McAliskey arrowed over a terrific point after providing Mark Bradley with the easiest of pointed frees and O’Neill traded frees with Seanie Johnston as the favourites maintained their two-point advantage with just a few minutes left before the break.
Former Footballer of the Year Cavanagh stretched the gap to three in the 33rd minute and that was how it stood at the short whistle when the score was Tyrone 0-11 Cavan 0-8.
McKiernan and McAliskey swapped stunning points in the 41st and 43rd minutes, and McVeety pared the deficit down to two within ten minutes of the resumption. McAliskey got his fourth point seconds after Buchanan was harshly black-carded.
O’Neill doubled the lead in the 49th minute when he hammered an unstoppable drive to the back of the Davin End net after a penetrating run and pass from Donnelly; McKiernan replied with a fabulous point from the tightest of angles and centre back Conor Moynagh pulled back another as Tyrone led by four at the three-quarters stage, 1-13 to 0-12.
David Givney’s pile-driver clipped the top of the crossbar as Cavan grabbed their third point in as many minutes to cancel out that O’Neill major.