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01st Jul 2016

Tyrone are a better team than Cavan and on Sunday they’ll prove it

Mikey Stafford

There was a point during Tyrone’s facile opening round win when it seemed like Derry might have struck a route back into the game.

The route was Route 1 as, with the game in Celtic Park all but over at half-time, Damian Barton introduced Ryan Bell and Eoghan Brown and Derry started pumping balls in on top of the Tyrone square.

It didn’t last and the game petered out.

Cavan reintroduced the tactic a fortnight ago in Clones during the drawn Ulster SFC semi-final, lumping ball after ball on top of David Givney.

Scoreboard analysis would tell you that it worked – the big man scoring two of Cavan’s three goals as they fought back to earn the replay that takes place this Sunday in St Tiernach’s Park.

However neither of Givney’s scores came via Route 1. The first was a eye-of-the-needle close range shot after a clever pick-up and the second, at the death, was a punched finish from a desperate crossfield ball.

Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final, St Tiernach's Park, Clones 19/6/2016 Tyrone vs Cavan Cavan's David Givney celebrates his goal Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

But 3-7 is an odd scoreline, the sort of scoreline that suggests a game has not gone entirely to plan.

Givney is a formidable weapon. Tall, powerful and blessed with good hands – he can win his own ball on the ground and in the air – but if he is completely isolated he is as much use as an unloaded gun.

Cavan would surely have scored more than seven points if Seanie Johnston was played in the two-man full-forward line instead of converted full-back Killian Clarke. The prodigal son is a far better link man and would have been better served feeding off Givney’s scraps than drifting out around the middle and eventually out of the game.

Cavan looked more menacing when they ran the ball through their half-forward line via the likes of Martin Reilly and Dara McVeety and they are going to have to look at exploiting this route on Sunday, because Givney is being under-utilised and you cannot bank on scoring three goals against Tyrone again.

The drawn game was only the second time this decade that Tyrone had conceded three goals in a Championship match and there is more chance of Mickey Harte appearing on the sideline without a baseball cap than them leaking three goals again.

Ronan McNamee is no Cormac McAnallen but he has two very able and aggressive deputies in Aidan McCrory and Cathal McCarron – this trio will be wise to Cavan’s ploy.

Much has been made of the performances of Reilly and McVeety. While Harte must find a way to curb their influence from half-forward, the fact of the matter is they were the sharp end of a Cavan attack that managed only seven points in 70 minutes.

Yes, the conditions were poor but a misfiring Tyrone managed six scores more and undoubtedly have more room for improvement.

Tyrone had Cavan’s measure twice in the Allianz League as they both won promotion to Division 1. Since then Harte’s men have been heavily fancied to make their mark on the later stages of the Championship, while Terry Hyland and his side were disposing of Armagh in a no nonsense manner.

They served up the fiercely contested encounter the Ulster Championship needed – one that was followed up last weekend by Monaghan and Donegal. After a worrying number of one-sided matches, it now seems that the winners of the last truly competitive provincial championship are going to have to do it the hard way.

It won’t be easy for Tyrone on Sunday but Harte has options. Options that he has exploited. Back comes Niall Morgan in goal, in place of Mickey O’Neill.

Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final, St Tiernach's Park, Clones 19/6/2016 Tyrone vs Cavan Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh gets away from James McEnroe of Cavan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

More worryingly for Hyland will be the sight of Darren McCurry in the half-forward line in place of Richard Donnelly.

McCurry was an obvious introduction and would likely have come into the starting 15 regardless. He scored a point from the bench in the drawn game, to add to the four he claimed when introduced against Derry. The Edendork man has surely earned this opportunity since scoring five goals in an As-versus-Bs training match in Carton House.

As with most teams, the Tyrone half-forward line is vital to the county’s gameplan and, if McCurry, Mark Bradley and Cathal McShane can link the likes of Mattie Donnelly with Ronan O’Neill and Sean Cavanagh inside, then Tyrone should be looking at a hat-trick of victories over Cavan.

Brought to you by AIB GAA, proudly backing Club & County. Follow AIB GAA on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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