Tyrone struck an early and perhaps decisive blow in their Super 8s opener at Hyde Park, where they scored a four-point win over Connacht champions Roscommon.
The Rossies now face a massive challenge in their bid to get to the last four in the All-Ireland series, while last year’s beaten finalists have some breathing space with two precious round-robin points in their possession.
The Ulster side took some time to shake off the challenge of their Connacht opponents, and needed two excellent first-half saves from Niall Morgan to keep their noses in front.
Full forward Cathal McShane led the way with eight points as Mickey Harte’s side set themselves up perfectly for next weekend’s second-round clash with Cork at Croke Park.
In front of a crowd of 14,465, Tyrone’s challenge got off to a promising start, easing ahead with scores from Frank Burns, Brian Kennedy and McShane.
But the Rossies got their running game going, support players vital against a packed visiting defence as they crafted openings for shots at the posts.
Niall Daly and Enda Smith were on target, and the Red Hands needed some smart defending from Rory Brennan and Peter Harte as Diarmuid Murtagh and Smith continued to cause problems.
Goalkeeper Niall Morgan also came to the Ulster side’s rescue, spreading himself to keep out a Cathal Cregg effort, after brothers Niall and Ronan Daly had created the opening.
Niall Sludden twice profited from the vision and creativity of Darren McCurry to pop over points, with Harte also setting up a third for the Dromore man, and when McShane converted his second free, Tyrone led by double scores, 0-6 to 0-3 after 18 minutes.
Darren O’Malley struggled with his kick-outs, while Morgan’s re-starts, long or short, were of a much higher order, providing his side with a platform to build from, but the Rossies displayed tenacity to turn over possession and attack on the counter for Cathal Cregg and substitute Brian Stack to hit the target.
And they had a second goal chance, Ronan Daly once again involved as Smith charged in to rifle in a shot from a tight angle which Morgan again kept out.
McShane’s third free sent Tyrone in with a 0-8 to 0-6 interval lead, and stretched the advantage with a neat McCurry score on the loop, along with another McShane placed ball.
Roscommon managed to hold the gap to two points, responded through Diarmuid Murtagh, and Cox, from a free, but space was beginning to open up at the back, and when Sludden recycled to McShane for his first point from play, Tyrone led by three.
Anthony Cunningham’s side found another gear to narrow it back to one, Shane Killoran reducing it to the minimum.
But O’Malley’s kick-out difficulties persisted, and he had to save from McShane after gifting possession from a poor re-start, with Harte pointing from the loose ball to make it a four point game on the end of another Red Hand spell, which also saw McShane bring his haul to six.
Harte saw a fiercely struck shot come back off the crossbar as the Red Hands tightened their grip, Mattie Donnelly strolling through to steer over his second of the afternoon.
Roscommon, facing into a six points deficit, never gave up, pulling back scores through ‘keeper O’Malley, Murtagh and substitute Andrew Glennon, but they never looked like overhauling a Tyrone side propelled by momentum and confidence.
Roscommon: D O’Malley (0-1, f); D Murray, S Mullooly, C Daly; N Daly (0-1), C Hussey, R Daly; T O’Rourke, S Killoran (0-1); H Darcy, C Cregg (0-1), N Kilroy; D Murtagh (0-4, 3f), C Cox (0-2, 1f), E Smith (0-1).
Subs: B Stack (0-1) for Darcy (25), C Compton for Hussey (47), D Smith for Cregg (50), F Cregg for Killoran (61), A Glennon (0-1) for Cox (63)
Tyrone: N Morgan; HP McGeary, R McNamee, R Brennan; M Cassidy, F Burns (0-1), M McKernan; C Cavanagh, B Kennedy (0-1); M Donnelly (0-2), N Sludden (0-3), P Harte (0-1); D McCurry (0-1), C McShane (0-8, 5f), C Meyler.
Subs: B McDonnell for Kennedy (27), K McGeary for HP McGeary (30), R Donnelly for McDonnell (50), P Hampsey for Cassidy (50), C McAliskey for Sludden (61), A McCrory for Meyler (71)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).
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