McCurry leads Tyrone to win

Tyrone 1-18 Cavan 0-13
Cavan failed to prevent Darren McCurry from scoring ten points yesterday.

Cavan failed to prevent Darren McCurry from scoring ten points yesterday.

By Donnchadh Boyle

During the week, Cavan’s All Star full back Padraig Faulkner didn’t mince his words. “If we lose to Tyrone,” he said. “It is probably one of the worst years in Cavan football history.”

To avoid that fate they were going to have to overcome some huge obstacles, not least their form against Tyrone in the championship.

They had failed to beat the Red Hand across nine encounters reaching all the way back to 1983 while this Cavan group would also have to turn their form on its head.

It’s only been a little over six months since they swept to one of the most unlikely Ulster titles of recent times. But what has been even harder to fathom is their form since. They slipped into the basement division with defeat to Wicklow, their second successive relegation, and desperately needed a boost.

And despite Faulkner’s rallying cry, they never really looked like they were ready to summon the fury that served them so well last winter and raid Omagh.

The first half, and indeed probably the whole game, was about one man. Darren McCurry once left the Tyrone panel under Mickey Harte but here he was front and centre.

With Cathal McShane only fit enough to start on the bench and with other forward options Darragh Canavan and Conor McKenna ruled out completely, McCurry seemed to thrive on the responsibility.

The Edendork man hit seven first-half points and his haul included every type of score. His opening effort came from a mark and he was on form with frees while he also landed the score of the half with an effort that saw him spectacularly gather a Peter Harte pass before spinning his marker and splitting the posts with his left foot.

At one stage, he scored four points on the spin and his influence had Cavan manager Mickey Graham performing surgery on his defence. McCurry’s early marker, debutant Cian Reilly was withdrawn and he was replaced by Luke Fortune.

Errors seemed to pull from their belief while Tyrone, who were playing for the first time since they shipped six goals against Kerry, grew as they kicked six of the last seven scores of the half.

And it was fitting that a McCurry free rounded out the scoring to see the home side take a 0-11 to 0-7 lead in at the break.

The second half started as the first ended, with a McCurry point, before Tyrone delivered the game’s hammer blow.

Substitute Brian Kennedy started and finished a move that saw him squeeze his shot under Ray Galligan and inside the post. Tyrone were then eight to the good.

A Gearoid McKiernan free stemmed the bleeding for what was the Breffni men’s first score in 20 minutes but Tyrone were in complete control by now. Cathal McShane was sprung from the bench to play for the first time since suffering a horrific ankle injury in February 2020 and his first involvement saw him split the posts while in an explicable amount of space.

And just when it seemed like the game was set to drift to its conclusion, Tyrone offered Cavan a chink of light. Ronan McNamee picked up a straight red card for a clash with Conor Brady as the game turned niggly. It was the fourth card referee David Gough flashed in the matter of seconds and was a needless cloud on an otherwise sunny day for Tyrone.

Still Cavan didn’t look like they had either the legs or the belief to reel Tyrone in and Niall Sludden pointed after being put clear by Tyrone’s impressive debutant Conn Kilpatrick.

Conor Smith, in particular, carried the fight for Cavan but there was only one winner from a long way out. Cavan’s 2021 was in the book with no one in the Breffni county will be sorry to see the back of it. Tyrone’s post Mickey Harte championship era was off to a winning start with enough bright spots to see them move on with optimism. However, bigger tests lie ahead.

Scorers – Tyrone: D McCurry 0-10 (4f, 1m), C McShane 0-3, B Kennedy 1-0, N Sludden 0-2, R Donnelly, P Harte, P Donaghy 0-1 each.  Cavan: G McKiernan 0-6 (4f), C Smith 0-2, T Galligan, G Smith, O Pierson, R Galligan (1f), C Madden 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 K McGeary (HT), C McShane for Donaghy (48), F Burns for Sludden (50), B McDonnell for McKernan (73).

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 Madden for Moynagh, C Smith for O Brady (both HT), C Brady for M Reilly (46), C Conroy for Pierson (55), N Murray for K Brady (63).

Referee: D Gough (Meath)

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