By Francis Mooney
Tyrone 0-18 Roscommon 1-9
Tyrone have returned to the top tier with an opening day win in NFL Division One, seeing off Roscommon by six points at Healy Park.
They had to recover from a double early setback, conceding a goal to Niall Daly and losing All-Star Mattie Donnelly, who looks likely to miss next weekend’s clash with Dublin due to concussion.
The Red Hands played some delightful counter-attacking football, but left themselves open at the back on occasions, and needed a couple of important saves from Mickey O’Neill.
Roscommon stunned their hosts with a goal after just two minutes. The long ball which was to become as feature of their approach to this league opener paid dividends, with Ultan Harney fetching to lay off for Niall Daly’s firmly struck finish past Mickey O’Neill.
Goalkeeper O’Neill was a busy man throughout the first half as he dealt with the high balls raining down on his area, and he was called upon to make s mart save from Ciaran Murtagh, who was also released by full forward Harney.
But the Red Hands were more fluent and accurate in their build-up play from deep, a series of sweeping moves testing the Rossies defence.
Darren McCurry and Peter Harte knocked over points from placed balls as they went in front by the tenth minute.
Despite losing All-Star Mattie Donnelly to a head injury after 15 minutes, the Ulster champions continued to press, with Harte and Niall Sludden playing central roles in their well rehearsed moves.
They moved into a four points lead by the 25th minute, and the Connacht men went 17 minutes without a score, before Donie Smith landed an excellent point.
Once again, a fast-moving Red Hand side got going again, with wing backs Tiernan McCann and Johnny Munroe pushing forward to score, while Harte’s fourth, and first from play, sending them in with a 0-10 to 1-2 interval lead.
Smith fired over two wonderful scores inside two minutes after the restart to kick-start Roscommon’s challenge, but they continued to pay a price for indiscipline at the back, with Ronan O’Neill knocked over a couple of frees.
Niall McInerney and Sean Mullooly displayed defensive steel, and the Rossies rallied to cut the gap with scores from substitutes John McManus and Niall Kilroy
Another sub, Fintan Cregg, floated over another to cut the deficit back to three
But the movement of the Tyrone men continued to pose serious problems, and substitutes Mark Bradley and Sean Cavanagh combined for the former to hit a couple of scores.
Roscommon did have their chances, but some poor finishing cost them dearly.
Tyrone: M O’Neill, P Hampsey, R McNamee, C McCarron, T McCann (0-1), M Donnelly, J Munroe (0-1), C Cavanagh (0-1), D McClure, C Meyler (0-1), N Sludden (0-2), P Harte (0-04, 3f), D McCurry (0-2, 1f, 1 ’45), C McShane, R O’Neill (0-3, 3f).
Subs: A McCrory for Donnelly (15), M Bradley (0-2) for O’Neill (55), S Cavanagh for Munroe (57, C McCann (0-1) for Meyler (63), L Brennan for McCurry (67), C McCullagh for Sludden (69).
Roscommon: C Lavin, D Murray, T Featherston, N McInerney, R Stack, S Mullooly, C Devaney (0-1), K Higgins, T O’Rourke, N Daly (1-0), S McDermott, E Smith, D Smith (0-3), U Harney, C Murtagh.
Subs: S Killoran for Higgins (24), J McManus (0-01) for Murray (35), F Cregg (0-3) for Daly (h-t), N Kilroy (0-1) for Smith (42), C Connolly for Murtagh (55), G Patterson for Smith (68)
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow)