GAA Football

Tyrone's economy of effort weathers Rossie storm

Tyrone's Michael McKernan in action during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 2 Phase 1 between Tyrone and Roscommon at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon on Sunday July 13 2019 Picture by Philip Walsh
Cahair O'Kane at Dr Hyde Park

All-Ireland SFC Super 8s Group Two: Roscommon 0-13 Tyrone 0-17

FORGET the cutting teams to bits and racking up big scores in the qualifiers. This was the most impressive Tyrone have been so far this summer.

It all could have had a different spin were it not for two critically-timed saves by Niall Morgan in the first half, and that will be of concern to Mickey Harte, but mostly he’ll have taken the good out of it.

Throughout most of the 70 minutes, Tyrone managed their way through an assignment made difficult by factors that ranged from Roscommon’s physicality to David Coldrick’s inconsistency and the raucous, baying mob in the Hyde.

The home side threw down a challenge wholly different to the one they brought to Croke Park last summer. They made it tight and tense and tough. They made Tyrone work for it.

An economy of effort was the real hallmark of the Ulster side’s display though. While they only got clear midway through the second half, Tyrone were never once behind in the game. It was never even level.

That’s not to suggest that it was anything easy at all, but it just seemed that every time the primrose and blue busted themselves to manufacture a score, Niall Morgan had a ball on the tee and within 10 seconds, it was over the bar at the other end.

Central to that was Niall Sludden, who played his best game for Tyrone in a year. He hit three points, played the final pass on two and won three frees that were scored.

That contribution towards eight points nudged him just ahead of Cathal McShane, who finished with eight of his own, but who almost missed a possible 1-6 on top of that.

Yet even when things weren’t perfect, he worked like a dog. The pup’s enthusiasm has been a real tonic for the Tyrone attack this year. No better example than when he fisted an effort that came down off the post and fell between three Roscommon defenders. They hesitated, he didn’t. Nipped in, stole it away and won a free that he then pointed.

Mattie Donnelly had a big second half and Peter Harte, unsurprisingly reprieved of his black card ban, was a threat every time he ran at Roscommon’s defence.

At the other end, Ronan McNamee continued his superb summer. Conor Cox got one great early score off him but was largely pushed to the periphery of the game the longer it went on, to the point where the tank was empty and the Listowel native was taken off towards the end.

Diarmuid Murtagh gave Rory Brennan more of a test, though the Trillick man had his moments, but mostly what Tyrone will be concerned by was the way Roscommon manufactured goal chances in the first half.

Amid much discussion, Tyrone have gone back to having 13 and 14 men inside their own 45’ rather than squeezing teams higher up. Indeed, having made attempts to press the opposition kickout in recent weeks, they only managed to force two contested kicks all day on Saturday – both of which Tyrone won.

Having gone to the bother of loading bodies back, they were unable to prevent Roscommon from creating a handful of decent chances.

Morgan denied Cathal Cregg with his knees when it was 0-4 to 0-2, and then made a fine stop at point-blank range to deny Enda Smith, who really should have popped the ball to Niall Kilroy on the far post rather than giving the Edendork man any chance to save the shot.

Brian Kennedy also made a crucial early turnover on Tadhg O’Rourke, while his midfield partner Shane Killoran was almost in for one as well only for a robust challenge by Rory Brennan to slow him up enough. The same defender also had the wit to drag Diarmuid Murtagh back when the St Faithleachs forward took a catch overhead when they were one-on-one inside.

Roscommon were able to circumnavigate Colm Cavanagh in the sweeper role, much the same way as Dublin did in the big games last year. The fact that Tyrone were playing such a deep-lying defensive shape yet still conceded goal chances raises questions over its effectiveness going forward.

But all they needed to do here was win, and they did. They owned a three-point cushion for most of the first 22 minutes before the home side really got their teeth into it and cut it back to a one-point game. Morgan’s save from Smith came just before the break, leaving Tyrone going in two up at 0-8 to 0-6.

That was them having played with the aid of the wind, and the home side were buoyed by every little chink of light they got. But Tyrone managed the second half superbly well.

Diarmuid Murtagh kicked the home crowd into a state of near frenzy by cutting the gap to one straight from the throw-in, but moments later Sludden was fouled again and Cathal McShane pointed the free.

It continued to bob along that way for another 10 minutes, Roscommon keeping it to 0-11 to 0-10, before Tyrone hit five on the bounce to remove the dustcaps and let all the hot air out of the Hyde.

Donnelly, Harte and McShane were at the heart of that good spell, though the latter should have had a goal when his man Sean Mullooly made a hames of a short kickout, only for the Owen Roes man to see his low shot well stopped by the boot of Darren O’Malley.

Peter Harte also owes Roscommon county board for repairs to the crossbar after he surely left it cracked down the middle. Never was a crossbar more cleanly struck than when his rasper cannoned off it, down on the line and off to safety in a flash.

Roscommon hit the bar themselves in stoppage time when sub Andrew Glennon got above five men to flick goalwards, only to see the effort slip off the top of the paintwork and over.

A goal then would have cut it to two and infused a nervous tension back into Tyrone, but it was something they’d been without for most of the 70 minutes.

It would be hard to even criticise them on those missed chances, because Roscommon had the better ones. On the whole of it, Tyrone did a lot right and didn’t do much wrong.

This was horses for courses. Bigger pictures can’t be looked near when you’re away in Hyde Park. They stepped out with one foot in the last four, and will be strongly fancied to prey on the psychological damage of Cork’s last eight minutes against Dublin when they head for Croker this weekend.

That’ll be another day when winning will be enough, no matter how it looks.

D O’Malley (0-1 free); D Murray, S Mullooly; C Daly; R Daly (0-1), C Hussey, N Daly; S Killoran (0-1), T O’Rourke; H Darcy, E Smith (0-1), C Cregg (0-1), N Kilroy; D Murtagh (0-4, 0-3 frees), C Cox (0-2, 0-1 free)
Subs: B Stack (0-1) for Darcy (26), C Compton for Hussey (47), D Smith for Cregg (49), F Cregg for Killoran (58), A Glennon (0-1) for Cox (63)
Yellow cards: E Smith (48), S Killoran (52)

Tyrone: N Morgan; R McNamee, R Brennan; C Cavanagh; M Cassidy, HP McGeary, C Meyler, M Donnelly (0-2), F Burns (0-1), M McKernan; B Kennedy (0-1); N Sludden (0-3), P Harte (0-1); D McCurry (0-1), C McShane (0-8, 0-5 frees)
Subs: B McDonnell for Kennedy (29), K McGeary for HP McGeary (31), P Hampsey for Cassidy (50), R Donnelly for McDonnell (50), C McAliskey for Sludden (58), A McCrory for Meyler (72)
Yellow cards: HP McGeary (6), B Kennedy (28), B McDonnell (34), K McGeary (35), C Cavanagh (39), C Meyler (48)

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)

Attendance: 14,465

* * * * * * * *

Key battle
Ronan McNamee v Conor Cox

Having hit 0-15 across his last three games, Cox was the obvious dangerman in the Roscommon attack. He started off brightly and was prepared to come deep in search of ball. But Ronan McNamee weathered the small bit of early pressure and went on to dominate for the rest of the day, adding to his collection of fine performances this summer that have put him in Allstar contention.

Ref watch
Perhaps a perfect example of how different a game can look on TV from in real time. David Coldrick came under huge pressure in Hyde Park, particularly from the home support, who bayed and gowled at him from the start. There were times when he listened, such as on Brian Kennedy’s booking, when he seemed to react to the shout. There were a couple of yellows that were debatable and other times he didn’t card when he might have, but it wasn’t an easy game to referee.

Tactical take: Tyrone
Did they get much right tactically? Certainly it was a day that was built for the running game, knowing it would suck the air out of Roscommon. But they will be worried at how they were unpicked several times defensively, particularly in the first half, given that they played with a whole line of free men across their half-back division. Failed to get up and press Roscommon’s kickouts with any degree of regularity, and it was telling that they won the two that they did manage to squeeze. They’ll have to do better on both points from here on.

Tactical take: Roscommon
They came with a very definite intent to get at Tyrone and it had their visitors rattled for a spell in the first half, but ultimately they left the back door just that little bit too wide open at times. Tyrone tended to punish them right after a Roscommon score, which Anthony Cunningham will want to diagnose – was it that they pushed on too far, or did they switch off for a second or two in the chaotic atmosphere? Used Diarmuid Murtagh as the key man up front and it worked fairly well, while their own sweeper, Ronan Daly, was fairly well positioned.

Top score
The best score of the day was taken by the home side on 45 minutes, when they weaved a fine move down their left that was somehow finished by Shane Killoran, kicking from the tightest of angles on his left foot while taking a belt as he shot.

Turning point
Two small moments that went against Roscommon in quick succession had a big impact. David Coldrick hopped the ball on Tyrone’s 21’ just after the gap was cut to 0-11 to 0-10, but Tyrone won it and utilised the space to push two ahead again. When that ball went dead, it was a rare time when Mickey Harte’s side pushed up on the kickout. Colm Cavanagh won it and they scored again through Cathal McShane. What could have been a level match was a three-point game in the space of 90 seconds, and Tyrone would hit the next two scores again to go five up.

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