Tyrone slip silently out Championship as Roscommon roar through

All-Ireland SFC preliminary quarter-final: Tyrone 0-12 Roscommon 0-14

Tyrone forward Darragh Canavan trailed by three Roscommon defenders.
Tyrone forward Darragh Canavan trailed by three Roscommon defenders. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THE rest is silence.

More than an hour after Tyrone’s exit from the All-Ireland Championship the media finally got word that the Red Hand management had also slipped away without comment. The only word they got.

Unusual, unexpected behaviour from Brian Dooher; whether he and joint-manager Feargal Logan are back in charge next season remains to be seen, or heard.

What could they say anyway after this desperately disappointing display?

An alarm rang for a long time afterwards in the corridor outside the Tyrone changing room; the warning bells had been sounding from very early in this match.

The hosts put in a largely dreadful first half performance. Just three scores and eight wides, three of those from frees.

In complete contrast, Roscommon were ruthlessly efficient. Their opening wide only came in first half added time, before which they had notched nine scores, only one of those from a free.

The most remarkable aspect of this result was that it was close at all. Sure, Tyrone ended with 13 efforts off target compared to just three from Roscommon, but the latter were by far the superior side.

Tyrone came close to levelling after 65 minutes, when an effort from Darragh Canavan drifted narrowly wide, but anything other than a Roscommon victory would have been a travesty.

Fittingly, Daire Cregg sealed the win with yet another splendid score, the Rossies’ 13th from play.

Tyrone's Cathal McShane is put under pressure by a Roscommon defender.
Tyrone's Cathal McShane is put under pressure by a Roscommon defender. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Boss Davy Burke was obviously delighted with their performance, which earned the county its first ever senior championship win over Tyrone at the sixth attempt, with all those meetings from 2011 onwards.

“It’s huge. In fairness to those lads, they’re playing for Roscommon a long, long time. They needed a result like today. They needed to go out and do that – perform, and beat a top team – and that’s what they’ve done today.”

In truth, no Tyrone supporters would apply that ‘top team’ label to the current crop. Indeed a few clutched to the consolation straw that this defeat at least avoided a much heavier hammering in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Tyrone could have met All-Ireland Champions Dublin, Kerry, or Armagh. It’s slightly different for Roscommon, but Burke insists they believe in themselves:

“It’s Kerry, Donegal or Armagh are our three potential oppositions next weekend, and sure we’ll get nothing easy there. But we’ll go to Croke Park full of confidence. Two wins in a row, having lost a number of games in a row.

“But we were playing a very high level of football for a very long time, and I think that went a little bit under the radar, the level of football we were playing…

“We’ve been disappointed with results lately, but we knew we were knocking on the door. We played Dublin and Mayo five times this year - they’re not bad teams! I think a lot of people missed that.”

Roscommon finally showed the benefits of playing high level opponents, even though Tyrone actually took the lead – the only time they were ahead all evening.

That opening score from Seanie O’Donnell was the most Trumpian fake news of false dawns.

Roscommon reeled off the next six scores, all from play, in just 10 minutes, with Donie Smith, Conor Cox, and Diarmuid Murtagh producing a 3-2-1 that left their hosts baffled and clueless.

The visitors were turning over possession from lacklustre attacks then countering at pace into acres of space, with barely a hand being laid upon them.

Even when Roscommon were wayward, as when Cox sent a free against an upright, he was immediately presented with the ball by home full-back Padraig Hampsey, and he kicked it over the bar.

Only dramatic interventions from goalkeeper Niall Morgan prevented Tyrone from conceding costly goals. First he soared through the air to catch a free bizarrely kicked across his own defence by clubmate Darren McCurry, denying Roscommon a run at an unguarded net.

Then, close to half-time, yet another Tyrone foray forward was bottled up and Murtagh broke with barely any opponents for company. The centre-forward ran and ran but his low shot was saved superbly by Morgan.

The Red Hands almost snatched an unexpected goal but Ciaran Daly dragged a close range shot wide and they went in six points down, 0-9 to 0-3.

Clearly something, anything had to change, and Dooher did act decisively, making a triple substitution at half-time sending on captain Peter Harte, Conn Kilpatrick, and youngster Eoin McElholm for Ben Cullen, Michael O’Neill, and Ruairi Canavan.

Almost any of the Red Hands, apart from Morgan, Mattie Donnelly, and Darragh Canavan, could have been replaced without having cause for complaint.

The effort to overturn another proposed suspension for Kilpatrick did not pay off, but things had to get better for Tyrone and they did, registering four of the first five scores after the re-start. Loughmacrory lad McElholm got one of those, but the other three all came from Darragh Canavan.

As good as he is, Tyrone’s over-reliance on him for scores from play became increasingly evident.

Roscommon looked dangerous every time they went forward, and Cregg, Smith, and Murtagh added more excellent points to keep them at arm’s length.

The home support in the paltry attendance of less than 6,000 did little to lift the players but Tyrone still showed some spirit.

Somehow McCurry’s free-taking and a big point from corner-back Michael McKernan left just one in it, 0-12 to 0-13.

Yet after Darragh Canavan’s near miss there was still little urgency from the Red Hands, almost as if they wanted to be put out of their misery.

Tyrone were out of ideas and Cregg obliged by putting them out of the championship.

The home management may have made no comment, but Red Hand followers will have plenty to say, little of it good, before next season rolls around.

Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKernan (0-1), P Hampsey, N Devlin; B Cullen, N McCarron, M O’Neill; B Kennedy (0-1 mark), M Donnelly; C Daly, R Canavan, C McShane; D McCurry (0-5, 0-4 frees), D Canavan (0-3, 0-1 free), S O’Donnell (0-1).

Substitutes: P Harte for Cullen (h-t); C Kilpatrick for O’Neill (h-t); E McElholm (0-1) for R Canavan (h-t); K McGeary for Daly (59); S O’Hare for McShane (64)

Roscommon: C Carroll; N Higgins, B Stack (capt.), R Dolan; D Murray, R Fallon, E McCormack; E Smith, U Harney; D Ruane, D Murtagh (0-4), S Cunnane; D Cregg (0-3), C Cox (0-3, 0-1 free), D Smith (0-4).

Substitutes: R Daly for Ruane (43); C Lennon for McCormack (47); A Glennon for Cox (53); N Daly for Harney (59); K Doyle for Murtagh (69).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).