Still Tyrone heroes through the January gloom as Red Hands despatch Roscommon

Darragh Canavan
Tyrone's Darragh Canavan was brilliant against Roscommon Picture: Philip Walsh
Allianz National Football League Division One: Tyrone 0-17 Roscommon 1-11

From Brendan Crossan at Healy Park

BEYOND the January gloom in Omagh, the Tyrone supporters could still see heroes in their midst.

Time’s the weirdest thing as the county’s 2021 All-Ireland triumph sometimes feels like a decade ago.

So much has changed in that time, so many household names have come and gone. But through the measly rain at Healy Park, some men still shine like beacons.

Notoriously slow starters in the National League, 14-man Tyrone got off to a winning start against a Roscommon side that flattered to deceive in the end.

Fielding no fewer than six League debutants, Tyrone’s victory had the signatures of Niall Morgan, Brian Kennedy, Michael McKernan and Darragh Canavan written all over it.

The Red Hands made light of Conn Kilpatrick’s controversial 40th minute red card and game-managed their way to a fully merited three-point win as they now eye an Ulster derby with Derry next weekend with their former manager Mickey Harte now in the opposite corner.

Afterwards, joint manager Brian Dooher praised the new and older heads that chiselled out this important victory and also confirmed that they would appeal Kilpatrick’s dismissal.

“I’ve seen a quick replay of it,” Dooher said in the corridors of Healy Park.

“If that’s the benchmark for red cards this year then we’re going to be in trouble. We’ll see what happens and we’ll get a look at it again, but I thought it was harsh.”

Tyrone's Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher near the end of the Allianz Football Division One Round one tie between Tyrone and Roscommon at Healy Park Picture: Philip Walsh

Tyrone rallied impressively after Donie Smith raised a green flag after 15 minutes - and nearly every time Darragh Canavan gained possession he split the visitors’ posts.

Canavan is a work of art of a Gaelic footballer.

Even the consummate king of the understatement, Brian Dooher reached for superlatives to describe the Errigal Ciaran man’s wonderful eight-point haul.

“We know what Darragh can do,” said Dooher. “He’s an exceptional footballer.

“Apart from the finishing ability, there’s everything else about him too - his work-rate, his dedication.

“He’s just a joy to have around the panel.”

Morgan’s 68th minute catch on the edge of his own square as Roscommon hunted a goal was absolutely ridiculous.

McKernan’s composure and intelligence in both halves of the field were superb and Brian Kennedy’s sheer doggedness to win a glut of 50-50 balls sickened the life out of the Rossies.

With the likes of Kieran McGeary, Darren McCurry, Frank Burns and Conor Meyler unavailable, some of the newer members of the squad laid down a marker, including corner-back Aidan Clarke, Tarlach Quinn, Niall Devlin and Ciaran Daly.

On the prospect of facing Derry in Celtic Park next weekend and sharing the sideline with Harte, Dooher said: “I’m sure a lot of people will read into that, but you have to go back to what it is: 15 against 15 on the field.

“I don’t think we should forget that. It is about the players on the field.”

He added: “Derry are a great team and they are the in-form team in the country.

“I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. You saw where they were last year and they could have been in an All-Ireland final as easily.

“We know what they have and they’ve brought in a few more boys into the panel who have added value. We’re under no illusions about the task; it will be another step up, but our boys are looking forward to it. They’ll get themselves ready this week, recover and we’ll go again.”