Tyrone justified their favourites tag to win a 15th Ulster U20 title and a third in the last four seasons but they had to dig deep to fend off the challenge of a determined Cavan side at Brewster Park on Friday evening.
There is no doubt that Tyrone didn’t play the football that they are capable off as Cavan really asked questions of them throughout a close and tense affair. The Red Hands had to wait until the 52nd minute to lead in the game and even after going three clear they had to hold on in the closing stages as their opponents closed the gap to the minimum before having a chance to force extra time from a free with the last kick of the game but it sailed wide. At the end of the day its all about getting the right result and Tyrone can now look forward to an All Ireland semi final date with the winner of the Munster Final between Cork and Kerry.
Darragh Lovett was lively for Cavan early on with two well taken points, the first of which was the opening score in the 2nd minute. Fionntan O’Reilly doubled their advantage from a free before impressive full back Brian Conway opened Tyrone’s account with a well taken 7th minute point. Cavan though continued to look the better side with O’Reilly knocking over another free for a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after ten minutes. A Ruairi Canavan free kept Tyrone in touch and the same player made no mistake from another placed ball after the referee had brought it forward following a mark. Brian O’Rourke was going well in midfield for Cavan fired over a fine score as his side continued to find gaps in the Tyrone defence. The Tyrone kick out was coming under increasing pressure and it took a good block from Niall Devlin to prevent a Cavan goal chance.
Cavan worked the ball well for O’Rourke to split the posts again as Cavan moved three clear again. That proved to be their last score of the half though as Tyrone finished strongly. Conor Cush took a superb score from out on the right wing before Canavan had the final say of the opening period from another free after he had been fouled himself to leave Cavan leading 0-6 to 0-5.
Straight from the throw in Tyrone midfielder Ruairi McHugh levelled matters but Cavan responded with a superb effort from Lovett and a close in O’Reilly free. A brace of Canavan frees brought the sides level before Tyrone got their noses in front for the first time in the contest when Canavan knocked over another placed ball. The same player then weighed in with an unbelievable conversion from a sideline ball on the right wing. In the 52nd minute the Red Hands got their noses in front for the first time in the contest from yet another Canavan free. Tyrone now had their tails up and substitute Gavin Potter drove the ball over the bar.
That proved to be Tyrone’s last score of the game as they had to withstand a Cavan comeback. Tyrone lost Steve Donaghy to a black card while Cavan substitute Daire Madden hit a brilliant brace from out on the right wing to reduce the deficit to the minimum. O’Reilly had a chance to bring the game to extra time but a long range free went wide as Tyrone hung on.
Tyrone: S McMenamin, M Rafferty, B Conway (0-1), E Corry, J Donaghy, S Donaghy, N Devlin, R McHugh (0-1), C Daly, C Cush (0-1), C Bogue, R Canavan (0-7, 7F), S O’Donnell, M McGleenan, L McGarrity. Subs: G Potter (0-1) for McGarrity, C Devlin for Cush
Cavan: J Norris, C Brady, C Reilly, E Hartin, N Carolan, C Leddy, C McKeogh, E Kelly, B O’Rourke (0-2), P Devine, F O’Reilly (0-3, 3F), T Madden, D Lovett (0-3), F Smith, T Farrelly. Subs: C Reilly for Smith, D Madden (0-2) for Farrelly, C Casey for Devine, C McCabe for McKeogh, S McGearty for Kelly