Tyrone save the best for last in Nickey Rackard Cup triumph

 The Tyrone squad celebrate winning the Nickey Rackard Cup at Croke Park on Saturday Picture: Philip Walsh

Nickey Rackard Cup final: Tyrone 1-27 Roscommon 0-19

THERE'S no richer reward for a sporting team or individual than the satisfaction that flows from a personal best.

And when that pinnacle is reached when it matters most, on the big stage, here is perfection.

This was Tyrone’s finest hour, a modern-day, perhaps all-time high in terms of quality and performance, a display that unfolded in perfect harmony at Croke Park.

Roscommon were simply blown away by a fearless, irresistible Red Hand side in a Nickey Rackard Cup final that never looked like ending in anything other than glorious triumph for the Ulster men.

“I’m just so proud of the players, not just because we won, but for the manner in which we won, the style of hurling we played and the victory we got – just over the moon,” said manager Michael McShane.

Damian Casey’s spectacular 14 points haul somehow wove itself seamlessly into a cohesive, controlled yet fiercely intense expression of collective will.

Sean Og Grogan’s first half goal simply reinforced the message and applied an added layer of comfort for a team driven by unflappable self-assurance and unbreakable brotherhood.

The Rossies never got close, in the end driven to despair and disbelief at the manner in which a 12 points win over their northern rivals earlier this month had given way to an 11 points defeat in the space of two weeks.

“We lost to Roscommon two weeks ago by 12 points down in Hyde Park, and that was a sore one,” McShane said.

“But I’ll tell you what. In the long run, it was the best thing that ever happened to us, because we learned so much from it, about ourselves, and obviously learned a bit about Roscommon.

“And for the last two weeks, every man in the panel, every man in the management team has put their shoulder to the wheel to correct it, and we got it right, and thank God we got over the line.”

Casey got his eye in early on, firing over a volley of scores as his side established an early lead and built levels of confidence.

By the end of the opening quarter they were ahead by 0-10 to 0-2, and mastering their opponents in every sector.

CJ McGourty and Sean Og Grogan also chipped in with points, while Daniel Glynn finished accurately from limited opportunity at the other end.

Grogan’s 23rd minute goal pushed Tyrone ten points clear, and while Glynn and Mickey Joe Egan responded for the Rossies, the Red Hands held a commanding 1-14 to 0-9 interval lead.

The Connacht men made an energised start to the second half, with Glynn and substitute Oisin Kelly on target to trim the deficit to five, but the Red Hands responded with defenders Oran McKee, Ruairi Devlin and Dermot Begley closing gaps at the back.

Casey added a string of long range points from placed balls, with Grogan and McGourty also finding the target as they pushed the advantage out to ten.

The Rossies were floundering, and could find no way to break their opponents’ momentum.

Glynn was their only genuine scoring threat, finishing with 14 points, but lacking support, while Tyrone had eight different players on the score-sheet to complement Casey’s magnificent contribution.

Tyrone: C McElhatton; O McKee, R Devlin, D Rafferty; C Kearns (0-1), D Begley, R Slane; B McGurk (0-2), T Morgan; A Kelly, C Grogan, CJ McGourty (0-4); L Devlin (0-1), D Casey (0-14, 0-9 frees, 0-2 65s), S Og Grogan (1-3).

Subs: R Weir for McGourty (57), A Crossan for Morgan (69), C McNally for Slane (73), J Devlin for McElhatton (73), C Lagan (0-1)for S Grogan (74)

Roscommon: E Lawless; M Ward, P Kellehan, H Rooney; C Coyle, P Kelly, C Cosgrove; MJ Egan (0-1), B McGahon; D Glynn (0-14, 0-8 frees, 0-1 65), C Dolan (0-2), E Mulry; C Kennelly, E Fitzgerald, B Mulry (0-1).

Subs: J Martin for Rooney (25), O Kelly (0-1) for E Mulry (h-t), E Kiernan for McGahon (46), N Connaughton for Fitzgerald (48), A Donnelly for B Mulry (61)

Referee: C McDonald (Antrim).

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