Tyrone rollercoaster ride heads off to 'the Hyde' against Roscommon

New Roscommon captain Brian Stack watches Tyrone'sPeter Harte shoot at goal during the 2019 'Super Eights' meeting at Dr Hyde Park. Picture by Philip Walsh
New Roscommon captain Brian Stack watches Tyrone'sPeter Harte shoot at goal during the 2019 'Super Eights' meeting at Dr Hyde Park. Picture by Philip Walsh New Roscommon captain Brian Stack watches Tyrone'sPeter Harte shoot at goal during the 2019 'Super Eights' meeting at Dr Hyde Park. Picture by Philip Walsh

Allianz Football League Division One, round one: Roscommon v Tyrone (Dr Hyde Park, Sunday, 1.30pm, live on TG4)

FOR a county that has regularly hit the heights, Tyrone football has also plumbed the depths.

Red Hands lifted the Anglo-Celt Cup and Sam Maguire Cups in 2021, but largely the same group of players has suffered a league semi-final hammering by Kerry, and two heavy defeats by Derry.

The most recent of those involved Tyrone drawing level in the McKenna Cup Final, with a strong wind at their backs, only for the Oak Leafers to out-score them by 3-4 to 0-1, to triumph by 12 points.

For much of that final quarter, indeed for the entire second half, in Armagh's Athletic Grounds last Saturday night Tyrone were close to full strength.

Goalkeeper Niall Morgan had come on – albeit only after injured forced off the impressive Benny Gallen – and had been joined off the bench by Peter Harte, Conor Meyler, and Cathal McShane. Frank Burns and Niall Sludden came on late in the game.

Yet Derry repeatedly ran through them and could easily have netted double their eventual goal tally on the night.

A 'rollercoaster' metaphor is entirely appropriate. Tyrone can be flying high, or they can have plummeted downwards, leaving their supporters with a sick feeling in their stomachs.

At present Tyrone are back down at the 'making the climb up' stage.

Who knows that type of performance they will produce in Dr Hyde Park tomorrow?

It's not about a lack of quality personnel, rather about the right attitude and tactical approach.

Joint-boss Brian Dooher pinpointed the failure to track runners against Derry, and called for greater work-rate, with the latter surely going some way to rectifying the former.

He and fellow boss Feargal Logan may be able to call on more young talent after the midweek Sigerson Cup exits of both Ulster and Queen's universities, such as Darragh Canavan, Conor Cush, Ryan Jones, and Rory Donnelly, while the versatile Liam Rafferty helped Galbally reach the All-Ireland Club Intermediate Football Final.

Roscommon are looking upwards too, manager as well as team. New boss Davy Burke, a Kildare man, has enjoyed success with Maynooth University, but acknowledges this is another level, even though he already has had inter-county experience in charge of Wicklow.

Burke has appointed Brian Stack of St Brigid's as his captain, with the returning Tadhg O'Rourke of Tulsk as vice-captain. Cian Connolly is also back, but Ultan Harney has gone travelling and Ronan Daly is working abroad.

With all due respect, Roscommon are probably the best opponents Tyrone could have wished for in their divisional opener.

Back in the top flight, the Rossies are Division Two champs, but fellow Connacht risers Galway are a better team.

A battle against one of the three Ulster teams in this top flight might have fired the blood, but Tyrone have performed poorly against provincial rivals over the past year.

Roscommon famously inflicted defeat on Mickey Harte in his first League game in charge of Tyrone seniors 20 years ago, at tomorrow's venue – but that 0-11 to 0-10 result was their last victory in this fixture.

The Red Hands have won six of the seven meetings since then, and by an average margin of more than eight points, with five of those games in Championship, the two most recent in the ‘Super Eights’. Tyrone’s victories also include the 2017 Division One opener at Healy Park, by 0-18 to 1-9, although the last league encounter, four years ago, ended in a Division One draw at the Hyde.

Tyrone's recent record on the road in the League is a strange one. They've lost seven of the last dozen away matches (if you include the infamous 2021 semi-final shellacking in Killarney by Kerry), but their four wins have been impressive.

They edged to a one-point success in Killarney last season to ensure survival, won at Armagh in Division One North in 2021, beat Mayo in Castlebar (of course) in 2020, and won at Croke Park against the Dubs in 2019.

Obviously nothing is settled after just one match, and nothing is certain with the great unpredictables that are Tyrone.

Yet with only three home games – and Healy Park is far from a fortress, especially against Donegal, Kerry, and Armagh – then further trips out west, to Galway and Mayo, as well as the short journey to Monaghan, Tyrone could do with starting their 2023 League ride on an upward trajectory.

They are unlikely to coast to victory, or roll over Roscommon, but Tyrone can get their League campaign heading off in the right direction.