Tipperary 0-7 Tyrone 0-19
Tyrone advanced to the last twelve meeting with Sligo thanks to a surprisingly comfortable victory over Tipperary on Saturday.
It says something about Tyrone’s form over the last couple of years that Saturday’s victory over Tipperary was the first time since 2013 that Mickey Harte’s team has won three games in succession.
With victories come confidence and with that confidence comes a belief, that maybe - just maybe - Tyrone can somehow make a breakthrough this season.
While many pundits had tipped the Premier county to overturn Harte’s side at the weekend, the result was rarely in doubt, even if at halftime a 12 point victory wouldn’t have been easily forecast.
The Red Hands led by just a solitary point at that short whistle as Tipperary, helped in no small part by the clinical Kevin O’Halloran, kept themselves in touch.
While Tyrone’s gearstick seemed to be jammed at somewhere between second and third gear for long periods against Meath, resulting in a stuttering performance against the Royals, they smoothly moved into third against Tipperary - blowing the Division Three side away with a ruthless second half performance.
McAliskey and McCurry did the bulk of the important scoring, but it was at the back where the platform for victory was laid.
Ronan McNamee has quietly but efficiently become an important part of the Tyrone rearguard, and he and Cathal McCarron kept the Tipperary full-forward line quiet.
Joe McMahon and Colm Cavanagh dropped in to act as sweepers when the Tipperary men had the ball and Tyrone’s half back and half forward lines smothered Tipperary attacks and launched wave after wave of counter-attacks.
Tyrone made the better start of the two sides and took the lead inside the opening minutes, a foul off the ball on Connor McAliskey allowing the Clonoe man to slot over a straight forward free.
A couple of minutes later, captain Sean Cavanagh made no mistake from play as the Red Hands settled much the better.
Tyrone made their lead three after eight minutes as Darren McCurry converted a straight-forward free after Peter Harte received a nudge in the back.
Tipperary responded with their opening point in the next possession as Kevin O’Halloran curled over a free from a tight angle to get his side up and running.
While Tyrone had started well, Tipperary launched a fightback and, midway through the half, they had closed the gap to two points as O’Halloran pointed a 45.
Two minutes later, the Premier men hit two points in a minute, the first from direct running full-forward Michael Quinlivan who fisted over.
Seconds later, the sides were level when Robbie Kiely, who had been a late replacement for Jimmy Feehan in the Tipperary team, got up to point from play after a well-worked Tipperary move.
Tyrone responded immediately, however, and it was Peter Harte, who was excellent throughout, who struck. The Errigal Ciaran man fired over from 55 metres with a mammoth effort.
Tyrone showed their experience and know-how with their next point, Sean Cavanagh popping up at the end of a patient move slot between the uprights, after good work from Mattie Donnelly and Darren McCurry.
Harte was at it again in the 25th minute, slotting over after direct running from Colm Cavanagh.
Tipperary closed the gap to a solitary point again just before the break as O’Halloran pointed two frees the second of which was a massive effort from well outside the 45.
The game threatened to spill over just before the break as the protagonists tried to set down a marker heading into the second half.
That was as good as things got for Tipperary, however, as Tyrone moved up a gear, leaving the inconsistent Munster side struggling.
Connor McAliskey began the second half rout with a well-taken score from a narrow angle little over 30 seconds into the half.
Two minutes later, McAliskey did well to feed Darren McCurry who pointed from play - leaving Tyrone three points to the good.
McCurry was accurate from a free in the 45th minute as Tyrone began to turn their dominance in possession into a return on the scoreboard.
Another McAliskey point stretched the gap before McCurry could well have goaled after good hands from McCann and Sean Cavanagh set the Edendork man one-on-one with Evan Comerford.
Unfortunately for Tyrone, McCurry’s shot was always rising and it sailed over the crossbar. Mattie Donnelly was the next on target for the Red Hands before the Tipperary discipline fell apart.
Firstly, Liam Casey introduced as a substitute in the 54th minute saw red for a stamp on Colm Cavanagh in the 56th minute and, then, two minutes later Ciaran McDonald was blac- carded as he fouled Connor McAliskey.
With the result now beyond any reasonable doubt Tyrone tagged on further scores by McAliskey, Mattie Donnelly, Conall McCann and Sean Cavanagh as all Tipperary could muster for their efforts in the second half was a O’Halloran free in the 66th minute of the tie.
It wasn’t a flawless performance from Tyrone and, to progress to the latter stages of the championship, they will certainly need to produce better displays.
They are moving in the right direction, however, and, with three quickfire wins now under their belt, their new-found confidence will be growing all the time.