Tyrone escape capital offence

WE have become accustomed to Dublin dominating the agenda at Croke Park — but this was something new.

The Leinster champions weren’t even on the bill two days ago and yet their presence permeated this round four qualifier.

Ryan McMenamin admitted afterwards that, try as they might, Tyrone were unable to prevent an element of complacency from invading the camp last week as eyes gazed furtively beyond Roscommon and towards a fourth quarter-final against Dublin in six seasons.

Mickey Harte agreed.

“A lot of people had billed this as ‘Roscommon shouldn’t bother turning up’ and when that gets out into the ether it affects the psyche of the players, despite the fact that you have been working hard all the time and Roscommon deserved more respect than that,” he said.

“We had no control over that but everyone you met on the street was talking about Dublin. That makes it very difficult to get yourself in the right place. You would have to say that we didn’t latch onto things the way we should have done.”

This was Tyrone’s biggest win this summer but it was a less impressive performance than those which had accounted for Longford and Armagh in the earlier rounds of the back door system.

They had their troubles in defence, they are in desperate need of a fit Aidan Cassidy in midfield and, unless Stephen O’Neill rediscovers his form and fitness, they lack a forward who can grab a game by the scruff of its neck. Yet their difficulties here were hardly self-inflicted.

It was unfair on Roscommon that they had been viewed merely as a useful barometer of Tyrone’s health before their physical with the Leinster champions and it looked distinctly unwise too with less than 15 minutes to play and two points between the teams.

Harte was critical of his side’s performance but credit to Roscommon who played some superb football for almost three-quarters of what was, until then, a wonderful game before blowing a gasket and spluttering over the end line in some disarray.

The pair drew level eight times in the first half but the Connacht side should have been some way ahead and would have been were it not for Conor Gormley’s block on Senan Kilbride’s goal-bound shot and nine incriminating wides.

Roscommon were tigerish at the back, fielded an exceptional midfield duo in Karol Mannion and Michael Finneran and had Cathal Cregg and many more feeding Kilbride and Donie Shine with some Michelin-starred service.

Mannion’s 27th-minute goal put them four points to the good but Sean Cavanagh found the other net within a heartbeat and the sense of ‘what if’ began to calcify when Shine kicked a second easy free wide before Cavanagh handed Tyrone a one-point lead.

The Moy midfielder’s sense of timing amplified a fine overall performance, one boasting less of his trademark jinks and far more of his trademark surges in what was a lead-from-the-front display.

“He had a mighty performance,” said Harte, “and if you are getting two goals and whatever number of points he got then that has to be a nice bonus for any team and those surging runs... I like to see them happening.”

Cavanagh wasn’t going to do it on his own, however, and Tyrone’s tinkering at the break paid dividends. Brian Dooher and Owen Mulligan came on and the half-back trio — operating without a sweeper — retreated deeper to give the last line of defence more security.

It worked.

Five of the next six points were claimed for Ulster and, though Roscommon roused for one more purple patch, it was a raging against the dying of the light.

Cavanagh’s second goal, and another from Mark Donnelly, rounded off the scoring as the clock registered the 70 but they distorted the final tally into a set of figures that bore little resemblance to the contest it had been.

“I would describe it as flat,” Harte said of his side’s effort. “No way did we deserve that scoreline at the end of the game and certainly Roscommon did not deserve to get beaten by that amount.

“They were the far superior for the first half, even though they went in a point down, so we had a lot to think about at the break.

“We got a good start to the first half which gave us a cushion we could never get in the first half but then they came back at us some more.”

So on they go, fully focused on the Dubs.

Scorers for Tyrone: S Cavanagh 2-3 (1f); M Donnelly 1-1; P Harte 0-4 (4f); C Cavanagh, B McGuigan, K Coney 0-2 each; Sean O’Neill, C Gormley, P Jordan, K Hughes, O Mulligan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Roscommon: K Mannion 1-2; S Kilbride, D Shine 0-4 (1f) each; D McDermott 0-2; C Cregg, J Rogers (1f) 0-1 each.

Substitutes for Tyrone: B Dooher for T McGuigan (35), O Mulligan for Coney (35), Justin McMahon for McMenamin (51), D Harte for Swift (70), Stephen O’Neill for B McGuigan (72).

Substitutes for Roscommon: D O’Gara for Higgins (41), N Daly for O’Grady (50), J Rogers for McDermott (57), C Devaney for Ward (67), E Kenny for Finneran (71).

Referee: M Deegan (Laois).

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