It became clear early in the week that Kevin Hughes was struggling to make the team for Saturday night as a result of his problem hamstring. The news came as quite a blow because it was felt that against opponents like Longford the physical nature of Hub’s game could well make the difference around the centre of the field. Of course one man’s problem is often seen as another’s opportunity and the man to grasp that opportunity was Augher’s Aidan Cassidy.
The big midfielder would certainly have sympathised with Hughes because Cassidy has had his own share of misfortune with injuries over the past two years. The game against Longford presented him with an opportunity to show just what he is capable of and he grasped the chance with both hands. Mind you that was not all he grasped with both hands as he gave an exhibition of high fielding and strong running. Big Cass was majestic at times as he soared skyward for kick out after kick out to provide a strong attacking platform for his team. His high fielding was a treat to watch but it was what he did with the ball when he hit the ground that gave most cause for optimism. In rugby parlance he broke the gain line time after time and set up numerous Tyrone attacks in the second half particularly. So effective was he that we did not really miss Hub too much and if the truth be told his performance had a major bearing on the final result.
Longford’s expected physicality and aggression around the centre of the park never really materialised but they were the better team in terms of break balls early in the first half. This break ball superiority allowed them to initiate many of their best attacking moves of the opening twenty minutes. However once Big Cass settled into his role he turned the midfield battle very much in Tyrone’s favour. It has been a long time since we have seen so many fine examples of high fielding followed by forceful running in a white shirt. His performance was measured and mature as time after time he took the right option and put his opponents on the back foot with a good pass or a determined solo run. This game will do wonders for his confidence and will stand him in good stead for the next round when the ante will be raised once again.