WEEKENDER PODCAST: Tyrone travel to take on battling Roscommon
Allianz Football League Division One, round three: Roscommon v Tyrone (Dr Hyde Park, 2pm tomorrow, deferred coverage on TG4)
ROSCOMMON should bring a warm glow to the thoughts of Mickey Harte – but there may also be a nagging worry at the back of the Tyrone manager’s mind.
The Red Hands have mostly whipped the Rossies in recent times, culminating in an 18-point thrashing in the first round of the ‘Super Eights’ in Croke Park last year.
Before that, Tyrone had also triumphed in the previous four meetings, by an average 7.5-point margin, including two wins by 11, both in the Championship.
Yet Harte will undoubtedly remember his first ever clash with them in charge of Tyrone seniors, his first League game in fact – which ended in defeat at ‘the Hyde’.
The visitors also struggled to a two-point victory there in the Championship in 2013, and even the six-point success in the League opener at Omagh two years ago was closer than that score-line suggests.
Harte and his squad would take a one-point win now, but they certainly won’t take such an outcome for granted.
The Rossies overcame Monaghan last weekend, who had defeated champions Dublin in the opening round, so it’s clearly dog-eat-dog in Division One.
Although they realise they’re not guaranteed a win, Tyrone know they really need win. Even if you’re sensible and ignore the ridiculous over-reaction in some quarters to their two defeats so far (they started the League in the same disappointing fashion last year and still survived comfortably), there’s no denying that the performances have been poor.
Roscommon, now with Anthony Cunningham over them instead of Kevin McStay, have shown battling qualities and Tyrone must match them at the very least in order to come home with a point or more.
Both sides are likely to be much-changed since that meeting in Croke Park last year – ariound half of each team altered - but not for the better as regards Tyrone.
The Red Hands’ line-up remains without their two current Allstars, Colm Cavanagh and Padraig Hampsey, although at least the versatile Coalisland man is on the bench again, having come on for the second half against Mayo.
Harte readily agreed that the absence of Cavanagh showed against Mayo, who repeatedly cut through the Red Hand rearguard:
“It did, big time. We can’t lose a two-time Allstar and not notice it. Something would be very wrong if that was the case. Obviously his experience and the way he plays for us, we’re certainly missing that badly.
“He had an ear operation that he had to get done, something he got damaged earlier last year, he had to get it done in case it would get any worse.” The Moy man may hear the plaintive call for help sooner rather than later.
At least Cathal McShane is available again, having been named at full-forward to face Mayo before being ruled out due to illness.
Harte declared that the Owen Roe’s clubman “was a big loss to us as well because he’s one of our energy players, covers a lot of ground, gets on a lot of ball, and certainly we missed him…”
McShane named to start instead of Frank Burns, who started last Sunday, is the only announced personnel change by the visitors, although they may re-shuffle some more.
There’s no doubt that Peter Harte will push forward; however, there are questions over whether Mattie Donnelly should be deployed in a deeper role, as he has been, rather than operating from midfield up and offering more of a scoring threat.
That’s been the biggest problem area for Tyrone in the League so far, with only five points from play in a tally of 0-17. Harte acknowledged that much improvement is required in his side’s scoring return: “That would probably be about enough for one game. That's the reality of life and the place we find ourselves in right now. We have to accept we have a huge amount of work to do to be staying at this level of football.”
Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, HP McGeary; T McCann, R Brennan, P Harte; B Kennedy, D McClure; M Donnelly, N Sludden, K McGeary; D McCurry, C McShane, L Brennan.
Subs: B Gallen, F Burns, K Coney, C Grugan, C McCann, A McCrory, B McDonnell, C McLaughlin, C Meyler, R O’Neill, L Rafferty.
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).
Start your sporting weekend on the winning team.
Listen in to The Irish News WEEKENDER Sports Podcast featuring former GAA county players Benny Coulter and John Clarke in conversation with Irish News journalist Neil Loughran.
Listen in to the WEEKENDER for expert sports insight, news, analysis and.. maybe even the odd winning tip.. up online from early evening every Friday..