GAA Football

Comfortable win for Tyrone against Roscommon ahead of testing trip to face League and All-Ireland Champions Dublin

Tyrone's Conor Meyler chases down Roscommon's John McManus in the 2017 Allianz Football League opener at Omagh
From Kenny Archer at Healy Park

Allianz Football League Division One: Tyrone 0-18 Roscommon 1-9

ROSCOMMON manager Kevin McStay said he feared at half-time that this could get “really ugly” but in the end it finished up pretty much as expected.

A comfortable victory for Tyrone, but still plenty for Mickey Harte and his players to work on ahead of the testing trip to take on League and All-Ireland Champions Dublin in Croke Park on Saturday evening.

The Red Hands did appear on course for a very convincing victory, having outscored the visitors by nine points to two after their extremely early goal from Niall Daly, to hold a 0-10 to 1-2 interval advantage.

Bizarrely, the hosts could have been red-faced by that stage, though, as their defence had been opened up in a variety of ways by Roscommon, only for the visitors to spurn most of their goal chances.

Even so, the Rossies briefly threatened to take something back down south with them thanks to a spirited second half showing, inspired by several substitutes, before a few replacements of their own helped the hosts pull clear.

Harte acknowledged that this could have been a very different, probably much more lively, affair had Roscommon taken more than one of the four clear goal chances they carved out before the break, saying:

“Roscommon could have had more scores in the first half – they got one goal and we had two very good stops to stop it being three goals. If they had had three goals by half-time it would have been a very different game.

“Some other teams would be more clinical if they got gilt-edged chances like that – a superb save from Mickey O'Neill and Tiernan McCann got the block in for another one.

“We weathered the storm and we picked off the points then, so we're happy enough with the result – a six-point win is convincing enough.”

McStay was reasonably content at the end, having anticipated much worse at one stage: “At half-time we were in a very tough place, against a top four team playing at home. It couldn't really get any tougher for us and we were saying ‘This game could get really ugly if we don't knuckle down into it and really fight on'.

“I was very happy with the second half, but it comes back down to chances. You get the big chances and [if] you put them away, it changes the tempo of it.

“I'm not suggesting for a minute that Tyrone weren't deserving winners, but I am suggesting that we had opportunities.”

Tyrone were not helped in that regard by the loss of their centre half-back, current Allstar midfielder Mattie Donnelly, to a head injury – but the goal and another great opening came before he was forced to go off in the 15th minute.

The hosts had begun very brightly, with Declan McClure, starting at midfield instead of Padraig McNulty, catching the throw-in - and by the time just 22 seconds were on the clock Donnelly had sent the ball in for Darren McCurry to gather, spin, and score.

Yet Tyrone were rocked inside the second minute. Donnelly looked favourite to gather a sliced dropping ball but was beaten to it – perhaps fouled - by Kevin Higgins. Ultan Harney seized possession and sent in Daly, who coolly clipped the ball beyond O'Neill into the net.

Roscommon only managed one score in the rest of the opening half-hour, from wing-back Conor Devaney in the 14th minute, but they had further goal chances in the seventh, 19th, and 23rd minutes.

Goalkeeper Mickey O'Neill saved the first two of those, from Roscommon captain Ciarain Murtagh and then Harney, rushing out bravely on both occasions, although Donie Smith should have done better than slice the rebound wide on the second occasion.

A number of defenders then helped their keeper out on the third occasion, to get in the way of a drive from Roscommon centre half-back Sean Mullooly, after another forceful run forward from the Strokestown clubman.

The latter's forward forays were facilitated by Tyrone centre half-forward Niall Sludden dropping deeper, although the Dromore man generally played well and kicked two good scores.

Tyrone also had to re-shuffle their defence after Donnelly went off, with Aidan McCrory coming on to play in the corner and Padraig Hampsey moving more centrally.

Harte is understandably keen for Mattie to return sooner rather than later, especially with that trip to take on the Dubs imminent:

“He's got a bit of concussion, and that's a pity, he didn't get to play much before that. It seemed innocuous enough at the time, I didn't think it was as serious as that, but obviously the doctors know better and he had to take a break from it.

“Hopefully it won't keep him out too long but it is as it is and we have to possibly plan without him for next week.”

Apart from the major concern of giving up so many goal chances, Tyrone were arguably fairly disciplined defensively, with all Roscommon's scores coming from play, and the visitors only missed one free.

Pulling Colm Cavanagh back in the second period, after he'd been fairly attacking in the first half, helped reduce Roscommon's goal threat.

Still, the Connacht side continued to pose problems, notably when they twice narrowed the gap to three points in the second half with two bursts of three consecutive scores.

Harte sent on Sean Cavanagh, which lifted the crowd, although it was two other subs, the Killyclogher pair of Mark Bradley (2) and Conall McCann, who got on the scoreboard to put Tyrone well clear, ending a stretch of 19 minutes without a home score.

The boss, of course, identified areas of improvement, but was pleased enough with the performance, concluding:

“Some of our passes were a bit sloppy, some of our handling wasn't as good as you'd want it to be – but you have to be realistic, this is the early part of the year. Conditions were a little bit slippery and players aren't as fine-tuned as they would be, hopefully, later in the season…But 18 points is not a bad day's work.”

Tyrone: M O'Neill; P Hampsey, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann (0-1), M Donnelly, J Munroe (0-1); C Cavanagh (0-1), D McClure; C Meyler (0-1), N Sludden (0-2), P Harte (capt.) (0-4, 0-3 frees); D McCurry (0-2, 0-1 ‘45'), C McShane, R O'Neill (0-3 frees). Substitutes: A McCrory for Donnelly (15, inj.); M Bradley (0-2) for R O'Neill (55); S Cavanagh for Munroe (58); C McCann (0-1) for Meyler (63); L Brennan for McCurry (67); C McCullagh for Sludden (71).

Blood sub: R McHugh for McShane (74-end).

Yellow cards: T McCann (22), C Cavanagh (57), McClure (57).

Roscommon: C Lavin; D Murray, T Featherston, N McInerney; R Stack, S Mullooly, C Devaney (0-1); K Higgins, T O'Rourke; N Daly (1-0), S McDermott, E Smith; D Smith (0-3), U Harney, C Murtagh (capt.). Substitutes: S Killoran for Higgins (24); J McManus (0-1) for Murray (35, inj.); F Cregg (0-3) for Daly (h-t); N Kilroy (0-1) for E Smith (44); C Connolly for Murtagh (55); G Patterson for D Smith (67).

Yellow cards: Cregg (57), McManus (57), Harney (59).

Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).

Attendance: 6,110.

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