Tyrone through to third round after tough test against Meath

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By Francis Mooney

Tyrone 1-10 Meath 0-11

Tyrone came through a tough Healy Park test to book their place in the third round of the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers.

Peter Harte, right, Tyrone, is congratulated by team-mate Darren McCurry, after scoring their side’s goal from a penalty today. Picture: Sportsfile

They finally wore down a Meath side battling to restore lost pride and re-float a season that appeared to be sinking fast.

In the end, the Royals went out with heads held high, after achieving a measure of redemption at Healy Park.

Their dramatic collapse in the Leinster SFC semi-final against Westmeath was parked, and Mick O’Dowd’s men came out to play with a point to prove.

They accomplished that objective in no uncertain terms, but lacked the cutting edge that would have extended their season.

A cagey, defensive first half was played out by two teams stifled by a fear of losing, and it was only when Peter Harte netted the only goal of the game from a penalty midway through the second that the contest began to open up.

In front of a crowd of 6,895 spectators, these two counties with rich attacking heritage managed just two points in almost half an hour of cat and mouse in the opening period.

Those were both scored by Sean Cavanagh, who shot the home side in front in the ninth minute, after Connor McAliskey had shifted the ball from Mark Bradley’s threaded pass.

Cavanagh was on target again ten minutes later, sending the ball sailing between the posts after Ronan McNabb had made an incursion from deep.

Tyrone’s packed defence repeatedly halted Meath attempts to carve scoring opportunities, but as half-time approached, they were starting to prise openings.

Mickey Newman broke through to fire in a shot that goalkeeper Niall Morgan kept out with his foot, but the Royals were now on a roll, and they shot four points in the space of five minutes.

Newman converted a couple of frees, and Graham Reilly and Donncha Tobin were also on target.

Bradley’s free narrowed the gap, but the Red Hands trailed by 0-4 to 0-3 at the break.

Brian McMahon stretched the lead to two, but Tiernan McCann, off the bench at the break, was already making his presence felt with surging runs from deep, driving directly at the Meath defence

Harte and McAliskey sent over points to level the scores, and Meath had just gone back in front through Donal Keogan when referee Ciaran Branagan awarded a penalty for a foul on McCann, with Harte stepping up to rifled the kick to the roof of the net.

They opened up a three points lead through Bradley, Ronan McNabb and McCann, and going into the final ten minutes, this one was Tyrone’s to lose.

But Meath were not prepared to give up the fight, and Kevin Reilly came into the game to hit a couple of points, and Graham Reilly brought his tally to three.

But Bradley’s third point, five minutes from the end, was an important score, and left the Leinster men with too much to do.

Tyrone: N Morgan, A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron, R McNabb (0-1), Joe McMahon, R Brennan, P Harte (1-1, 1-0 pen), C Cavanagh, R Donnelly, M Donnelly, B Tierney, M Bradley (0-3, 1f), S Cavanagh (0-2), C McAliskey (0-1, f).

Subs: D McCurry (0-1) for R Donnelly (h-t), T McCann (0-1) for Tierney (h-t), C McKenna for Brennan (42), C McShane for Bradley (70)

Meath: C McHugh, J McEntee, C McGill, D Tobin (0-1), D Keogan (0-1), D Dalton, P Harnan, B Menton (0-1), H Rooney, G Reilly (0-3), M Newman (0-2, 2f), A Tormey, E Wallace, S Bray, B McMahon (0-1).

Subs: D Lenihan for Wallace (13), K Reilly (0-2) for Newman (54), S Tobin for Bray (63)

Referee: C Branagan (Down).