Mulligan and McCurry fire Tyrone

They had nearly finished sweeping the stand in preparation for the Connacht final the following day when Mickey Harte went off to the dressing rooms on Saturday night, the last man to leave the pitch, alone with his thoughts as he headed down to the changing facilities at Hyde Park.

The insignificance of sport could never be more clearly illustrated than by what that man and his family have had to go through in the past 18 months. But, equally, the value of the distraction of football has never been more priceless.

His community and Tyrone football has rallied around him and Harte has responded by giving it his all. Every newsman from here to Mauritius wanted to get a reaction and Harte was still speaking to the media an hour after the game. Talking sport, and nothing else.

He had a lot to muse over. His team looked in danger for over half an hour and then they opened their shoulders. He has seen them through a few rebuilding jobs and on Saturday a player heading towards the end of a great career provided the guidance while one just embarking on his added the gloss.

The ability to call on someone of Owen Mulligan’s experience is invaluable when leadership is needed, and he edged them in front before the break.

And then after Peter Harte put some daylight between them with a penalty, on comes Darren McCurry for his first taste of senior football. He fired over four points, jinking left and right and kicking with both feet. Early days but this guy seems special and Harte did not hide it.

Roscommon could have done with being able to spring someone like that.

Donie Shine had an off-day with frees into the wind and only Cathal Cregg and Senan Kilbride provided real threat up front and not often enough.

They did well to haul back an early Tyrone surge — Joe McMahon impressed for a side badly missing captain Stephen O’Neill — and were level at 0-4 each after half an hour.

Then Shine, his confidence badly hit, went short with a free to Cregg but he blazed wide.

A few minutes later it was a four-point swing as Mulligan landed a brace and Jonathan Lafferty made it 0-7 to 0-4 at the interval.

Roscommon had the breeze in the second half but the wind was quickly taken out of their sails when Mark Donnelly was bundled over and Peter Harte slotted the penalty.

There was just no way back from there for Roscommon, not least when Mulligan pointed a free and then hit a superb effort from the right to make it 1-9 to 0-4.

There was a real danger that the 14-point loss to Galway would be surpassed but Roscommon responded with a good point from Cregg after McCurry got his opener.

But Tyrone kept plenty of players back behind the ball and Roscommon never looked like getting in for a goal, and Tyrone centre-back Conor Gormley felt they got stronger as the game progressed.

“We were maybe nervous in the first-half,” he said.

“We weren’t flying. Maybe losing the Donegal game upset us a wee bit. But I think when we got into our rhythm in the second-half we showed what we can play some good flowing football.”

He was not surprised by the impact of McCurry and had got a foretaste of what he can do.

“At training he’s a nightmare to mark, he’s a flying machine and I try and stay away from him as best I can. He showed what he can do there with some great scores off the left and right — that’s what you need, boys to come in and make an impact,” added Gormley.

Harte will now gear them up for another run through the back door, as one season rolls into the next as life goes on.

“Sometimes in the qualifiers you can build some momentum,” said Harte.

“I think you want a phased introduction to something more difficult at each stage. You don’t want a top drawer team at this stage but you want somebody who is a progressive team who will challenge you to play some good football and if you can get that kind of run of games then you can arrive at the latter stages well prepared.”

Scorers for Tyrone: O Mulligan 0-5 (2fs), D McCurry 0-4, P Harte

1-0p, J McMahon (1f), M Penrose (1f) 0-2 each, J Lafferty, S O’Neill, N McKenna 0-1 each.

Scorers for Roscommon: C Cregg 0-4, D Shine 0-2 (1f), S Kilbride, G Heneghan 0-1 each.

Subs for Tyrone: R McMenamin for McCarron (41), D McCurry for Lafferty (43), B McGuigan for Mark Donnelly (56), A Cassidy for Cavanagh (58), N McKenna for Penrose (62).

Subs for Roscommon: G Heneghan for Kilroy (ht), D Ward for Collins (51), M Finneran for Compton (51), D McDermott for N Daly (59), D Smith for Mannion, (67).

Referee: R Hickey (Clare).

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