Sun, Mar
21 New Articles

Tyrone’s blanket defence trips Mayo up once again


Caught red-handed

Division 1
Tyrone 1-11
Mayo 1-7

Mike Finnerty

RUMOURS of Tyrone’s demise have been greatly exaggerated judging by the events that unfolded at MacHale Park, Castlebar on Sunday.
Mickey Harte’s revamped side made light of the criticism that had enveloped the group since their first round defeat at home to Monaghan by going back to basics, adopting an ultra-defensive approach to engineer their third straight league victory over Mayo.
A reshuffled Mayo selection (that felt the loss of injured duo Chris Barrett and Seamie O’Shea keenly) had few answers to Tyrone’s tactic of defending en masse when the Connacht champions tried to attack; the homeside didn’t have the required guile or conditioning to punch holes in Tyrone’s defensive screen while fifteen wides took their toll too.
The loss of Aidan O’Shea to a black card on 49 minutes didn’t help their cause either; the midfielder was adjudged to have deliberately collided with Tyrone goalkeeper, Niall Morgan, as he cleared a ball and his departure robbed Mayo of a key ‘line breaker’.
Tyrone’s commitment to their game-plan stood them in good stead with, at times, their entire team packed into their own half, denying Mayo the time and space they needed to work.
The winners led from pillar to post and restricted Mayo to just 1-2 from open play over the course of more than seventy, frustrating minutes for the homeside.
They were 0-10 to 0-5 down fifteen minutes into the second half, and struggling to make any inroads into Tyrone’s advantage, when a lifeline arrived in the shape of a goal from substitute Cillian O’Connor.
The goal, strongly disputed by Tyrone who felt that a defender had been fouled, and that O’Connor had been in the square when he won possession, was only allowed after referee Eddie Kinsella had consulted with his umpires.
On second viewing, it seemed that the visitors had a strong case.
However, O’Connor’s intervention threw Mayo a lifeline and gave the impression that , despite all their offensive shortcomings, they might be about to make a game of it.
The large partisan home support roared their approval as the gap had been sliced back to a more manageable two points.
It was at this stage though that a timely intervention from Seán Cavanagh tilted the scales back in Tyrone’s favour again as the former Footballer of the Year delivered a defence-splitting pass that set up Peter Harte for a 57th minute goal that ended the argument.
PJ Lavery’s role in the score shouldn’t be underestimated either, the substitute taking Cavanagh’s pass in his stride before unselfishly playing in Harte for a simple finish past the despairing David Clarke.
Tyrone had Mayo right where they wanted them again, and they proceeded to shut up shop impressively. They ran their opponents down blind alleys, tackled in packs, and built an impregnable barricade in front of Niall Morgan’s goal.
All Mayo could muster by way of scores in the last twenty minutes were a couple of frees from Cillian O’Connor while Tyrone could afford the luxury of only tagging on one more score themselves in the last quarter from Darren McCurry.
They were dictating the rules of engagement and the hard work had been done by that stage.
Tyrone had led at the end of an uneventful first half by 0-8 to 0-4.
They sprinted from the blocks to lead by 0-4 to 0-1 as their game-plan started to take shape with Darren McCurry, Cathal McShane, Mattie Donnelly and Sean Cavanagh all on target.
Mayo replied with points from Mark Ronaldson and Mickey Conroy but that was as good as it got for the out-of-sorts locals.
Tyrone kicked on before the break with Niall Morgan landing two huge frees and Darren McCurry (free) and Tiernan McCann also on the mark.
There was to be no way back from there for Mayo.
They now have three weeks and counting to get ready for Monaghan and they can expect more of the same. The 2013 Ulster champions will be a hard nut to crack too.

N Morgan (0-2, 2fs); J McMahon, R McNamee, C McCarron; P Hughes, R McNabb, A McCrory; C Cavanagh, P McNulty; T McCann (0-1), M Donnelly (0-2), P Harte (1-0); D McCurry (0-4, 3fs), S Cavanagh (0-1, 1f), C McShane (0-1).
Subs: PJ Lavery for McShane (46 mins), C McCann for McNulty (56), B tierney for McNamee (59), N McKenna for McCurry (64).

D Clarke; M Hall, K Keane, K Higgins; L Keegan, S Coen, C Boyle; S O'Shea, D Vaughan; D O'Connor, K McLoughlin (0-1, 1f), J Doherty (0-2, 2fs); M Conroy (0-1), A Freeman, M Ronaldson (0-1).
Subs: C O'Connor (1-2, 2fs) for Ronaldson (46 mins), P Durcan for Boyle (46), B Moran for A O'Shea (50, black card), M Sweeney for Freeman (57), G Cafferkey for Keegan (60), A Dillon for D O'Connor (67).

Referee: E Kinsella (Laois)