By Mark Jones
Tyrone 0-16, Cavan 0-7
Tyrone won their first-ever senior national title and still they weren’t uncorking the champagne. The somewhat muted reaction to last Sunday’s National Football League triumph at Clones could be put down to two things. First, it was a bloodless victory over a hugely disappointing Cavan side, and second, the All-Ireland championship appears to be highest on the winners’ priorities at the moment.
“We’re playing Armagh in the championship on May 19, so that should concentrate the minds pretty quickly,” said man of the match Peter Canavan. “It’s great to win the league after all these years, but we’ve got to move things up a further notch for the All-Ireland.”
So, while Tyrone were laying down a marker for the real business of the summer with a dominant display, Cavan were wondering where an occasion that had promised so much had gone so badly wrong. Outplayed, outthought and overwhelmed in every area of the pitch, their tally of 5-13 in the semifinal against Roscommon seemed a distant memory.
Indeed, Tyrone could afford to kick a staggering 15 wides and without ever having to fret about the outcome. It took Cavan nearly half an hour to register a point from play, and Peter Reilly’s score turned out to be just one of two that didn’t emanate from frees.
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“We got a lesson out there,” said manager Mattie Kerrigan. “We have to be honest about that and then go away and assess why so much went wrong and correct it. We have to learn from our mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again.”
Kerrigan then added with a rueful smile that Galway had lost the league final last year.
On this performance, Cavan haven’t the remotest of chances of making a serious challenge for either the Ulster or the All-Ireland titles. Their forwards never made any impact as Conor Gormley and Brian Robinson were in control at the back for Tyrone, and all the spice was gone out of the contest well before the interval at which stage it was 0-10 to 0-3.
Tyrone had begun with four wides, but soon got into their stride as Stephen O’Neill, Brian Dooher, Brian McGuigan and Kevin Hughes all announced their intent. However, once more it was the class of Canavan that set his team apart. Full of intelligent movement and accurate finishing — until the closing minutes, when his touch deserted him — Canavan hit six points and was involved in the build-up to several other scores.
Eamonn Reilly was first to take on the marking duties, only to be replaced by Michael Brides, who stuck to his job with admirable tenacity even though Canavan’s effectiveness was hardly reduced. If the Tyrone star keeps clear of injury, other defenses are going to struggle later in the summer.
As Cavan’s problems became more acute, their controlled passing game, which had served them so well earlier in the campaign, disintegrated as a series of hopeful high balls were launched toward the full forward line. All the while, Cormac McAnallen and Colin Holmes were getting most of the important possession around centerfield, and there was an added threat from Ryan McMenamin, who embarked on several dangerous runs from right halfback.
“Any day you win a national title has to be a good day,” reflected joint manager Eugene McKenna. “It was by no means a classic, but it was a statistic that needed a line drawn under it and the line is there now. I don’t think you’ll see too many of our fellas celebrating.”
The phony war is over — the championship awaits.
Tyrone: P. Ward; C. Gormley, C. Lawn, B. Robinson; R. McMenamin (0-2), C. Gourley, P. Jordan; C. McAnallen (0-1), C. Holmes; B. Dooher, S. O’Neill (0-4, one free), G. Cavlan (0-1); B. McGuigan (0-1), K. Hughes (0-1), Peter Canavan (0-6, two frees). Subs: S. Kavanagh for Hughes, 51 mins.; Pascal Canavan for McGuigan, 64 mins.; D. McCrossan for Jordan, 65 mins.
Cavan: A. Donohue; E. Reilly, T. Prior, C. Hannon; J. Doonan, A. Forde, M. Brides; P. McKenna, C. Collins; P. Galligan (0-1), P. Reilly (0-1), F. O’Reilly (0-5, all frees); L. Reilly, J. Reilly, M. Graham. Subs: E. O’Reilly for Graham, 43 mins.; E. Jackson for Doonan, 50 mins.; R. Rogers for L. Reilly, 68 mins.
Kerry 1-9, Laois 1-5
It was another trophy for Kerry, but then the National Football League Div. 2 title won’t get the pulses racing in the Kingdom. Last Sunday’s win at the Limerick Gaelic Grounds was routine fare with Kerry having too much guile and experience for Laois.
If that sort of craft and composure was the key on a sodden day, there was still a note struck for the future as 18-year-old Colm Cooper made his mark on his senior competitive debut. A total of 1-2 was an impressive return by the Killarney youngster and whether on the bench, or in the starting lineup, Cooper is now certain to figure in some capacity during the upcoming Munster championship game against Limerick.
He had the ball in the net after just 4 minutes, when he cut inside two defenders and clipped in a low shot past Fergal Byron, but soon Laois had replied in kind after full-forward Greg Ramsbottom got in on the end of Ian Fitzgerald’s lobbed free and the Leinster county found themselves 1-4 to 1-2 ahead at the break.
Given the strength of the breeze at their backs, that was never going to be a wide enough margin, and, critically, Laois failed to raise a flag of any color until injury time as Kerry began to dominate.
“The wind was a major influence,” said Kerry manager Paidi O Se, “and we possibly won our game in the first half. After the changeover, it was only a matter of time before we got the scores.”
With Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Seamus Scanlon and Noel Kennelly all in impressive form, the winners pulled clear and the margin would have been greater if Eoin Brosnan hadn’t had what looked like a perfectly good goal disallowed for charging.
The Leinster hurling championship got under way last weekend with Westmeath coming up with a strong performance to defeat Kildare by 1-14 to 1-10 at Mullingar. Andrew Mitchell scored an outstanding 1-9 for the winners, who trailed by 1-7 to 0-6 at halftime.
Meath edged out Carlow by 1-9 to 0-9 in a wind-affected game at Dr. Cullen Park, and there were three players sent off as Laois got the better of Wicklow by 1-12 to 0-9 at Aughrim.
St. Jarlath’s of Tuam took the All-Ireland colleges senior football title with a convincing 3-13 to 0-6 victory over St. Michael’s of Enniskillen in the final at Carrick-on-Shannon. The hurling equivalent was a much closer affair as St. Colman’s of Fermoy battled to a one point win against St. Kieran’s of Kilkenny in Thurles.