Darragh Canavan and Niall Morgan guide Tyrone to opening day win over Roscommon

Tyrone's Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher

Allianz National Football League Division One: Tyrone 0-17 Roscommon 1-11

From Brendan Crossan at Healy Park

AS soon as Tyrone midfielder Conn Kilpatrick made his way to the line after a controversial straight red card on 40 minutes, Roscommon quickly morphed into a busted flush.

Kilpatrick’s challenge on Rossies defender David Murray was deemed dangerous, and after consulting with his linesman, referee Martin McNally surprised everyone in Healy Park by brandishing a red card to the big midfielder.

Trailing 0-10 to 1-6 at that point, the visitors were expected to push on. But, apart from a goal that was quickly chalked off for a square ball, Roscommon never got to grips with having an extra player.

Visiting manager Davy Burke could easily have side-stepped the reasons behind why his team struggled so badly with an extra man – but fronted up instead.

So, why did Roscommon struggle to make it count?

“Probably coaching, to be honest,” said Burke.

“We haven’t put a huge amount of time into it. It’s all scenario based.

“You try and work on black cards. You try and work on everything else. And we probably hadn’t worked on it.

“It’s helter-skelter, you’re trying to touch on everything for the 28th of January, just to have enough done at this stage to try and get points on the board.

“But don’t worry, we’ll get it sorted.”

Fresh from claiming the Connacht FBD title earlier in the month, Roscommon looked to be Tyrone’s equal in the opening half of yesterday’s Division One opener.

Their attacking runs from deep had more menace and cutting edge than their hosts in the first half and that directness paid dividends when Donie Smith declined claiming an advanced ‘mark’ after catching Daire Cregg’s high centre above Michael McKernan to rifle past Niall Morgan on 15 minutes.

Aidan Clarke
Tyrone's Aidan Clarke and Roscommon's Conor Cox and Daire Cregg in action during the Allianz Football Division one Round one between Tyrone and Roscommon

By contrast, Tyrone played in front of Roscommon’s defensive screen and didn’t carry much of a goal threat in the opening half, but their kicking from distance was hugely impressive.

Paudie Hampsey, Michael McKernan, Ciaran Daly and Darragh Canavan all found their range to carry a 0-10 to 1-6 lead in at the interval.

Fielding six NFL debutants and missing Frank Burns, Kieran McGeary, Conor Meyler (all injured) and Darren McCurry (suspended), Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher’s slightly makeshift starting line-up displayed an appetite for doing the ugly things exceptionally well.

Corner-back Aidan Clarke from the host club Omagh was solid throughout, wing-back Tarlach Quinn chased and harried in disciplined fashion, while further forward Niall Devlin and Ciaran Daly were hugely resourceful and bagged a combined five points from play.

Tyrone have never been short of worker-bee footballers – but in Niall Morgan, Michael McKernan, Brian Kennedy and Darragh Canavan, the Red Hands have a unique quality that helped the home side post an opening day win with not too much stress.

Canavan gave a masterclass in if your movement is good enough, you really don’t have to beat your marker with pace or strength. Brain power and execution are enough.

With his composure and decision-making in possession, McKernan graduated to a leadership role in Tyrone some time ago now – and showed these qualities yesterday.

Morgan’s ability to move out the field so effectively nullified Roscommon’s numerical advantage after the 40th minute mark.

A stack of his kick-outs needed to be inch perfect in the second half, and they were.

But to catch Donie Smith’s high punt above several players on the edge of his square in the 68th minute was incredible.

“To be honest, there’s very few in the air like Niall,” said co-boss Brian Dooher, “and we have seen that before. You’re fairly content once you know that you have Niall back there, and you know what he can do.

“He was exceptional, with his work around the back, sweeping and contributing going forward.”

On his courageous catch, Morgan joked afterwards: “If you can get two hands on the ball, you catch it!”

If Morgan and Darragh Canavan displayed the wonderful aesthetics of Gaelic football, this victory also needed midfield dogs like Brian Kennedy.

Some of the possessions the big midfielder won in the second half were as important as any wonderful moments Morgan and Canavan delivered.

Nevertheless, Roscommon – missing the St Brigid’s contingent as well as Allstar and leader Enda Smith through a suspension carried over from last year’s Championship loss to Cork – will be disappointed with their second half challenge.

“We were very poor in the second half,” said Burke.

“I thought we were well in control. We were cutting through them at will in the first half; we didn’t do enough damage when we had our opportunities. Yeah, a very tame effort in the second half.

“There are about 12 players [missing] – I think ten of them will be starting in June.

“But it’s still not an excuse. We should have got something out of the game. We didn’t turn up in the second half, we didn’t cope with the red card, so it wasn’t good enough, simple as that.”

Tyrone: N Morgan; C Devlin, P Hampsey (0-1), A Clarke; C Quinn, M McKernan (0-1), T Quinn; B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick; N Devlin (0-2), P Harte (0-1 mark), B Cullen (0-1); S O’Donnell, D Canavan (0-8, 0-3 frees), C Daly (0-3) Subs: Subs: R Canavan for T Quinn (55), D Mulgrew for C Quinn (63), J Donaghy for B Cullen (75)
Yellow card: M McKernan (40)
Red card: C Kilpatrick (40)
Roscommon: C Carroll; D Murray, E Flynn (0-1), N Higgins; N Daly (0-1), C Walsh, E McCormack; K Doyle (0-1), D Ruane; C Connolly (0-1), D Smith (1-0), D Gregg; D Murtagh (0-5 0-4 frees), C Lennon (0-1), C Cox Subs: T O’Rourke for N Higgins (49), L Glennon for E Flynn (53), A McDermott for C Lennon (55), A Glennon for C Cox (60), J Fitzpatrick (0-1) for C Walsh (67)
Black cards: (K Doyle (35+1 to 47)
Referee: M McNally (Monaghan)