Peter Harte and Niall Sludden made Tyrone tick, and even after losing Mattie Donnelly to injury after just 15 minutes, they never looked like losing. That was despite a few first-half scares, when the Connacht side’s direct approach created a handful of goal chances, but Niall Daly was the only man who found the net.
“Roscommon could have had more scores in the first half — they got one goal and we had two very good stops to stop it being three goals,” said Tyrone boss Mickey Harte. “If they had had three goals by half-time, it would have been a very different game.”
“Some other teams would be more clinical if they got gilt-edged chances like that — a superb save from Mickey O’Neill and Tiernan McCann got the block in for another one. We weathered the storm and we picked off the points then, so we’re happy enough with the result — a six-point win is convincing enough.”
The Rossies stunned the Ulster champions with a goal inside two minutes, a product of the long ball strategy that was to be an important part of their approach all afternoon. Ultan Harney rose high to fetch and lay off for Daly to finish with a firmly struck shot past O’Neill.
O’Neill was a busy man dealing with the long balls lofted into his goal area, and he also had to race off his line to make a smart save from Ciaran Murtagh, before denying Harney as well. Once Tyrone got their running game, going, it was clear they were going to be too hot to handle for a more direct Roscommon side, who coughed up the frees that Darren McCurry and Harte converted.
Harte was at the centre of all the Red Hands best-attacking efforts, and his fine point from play eased his side in front.
Roscommon went 17 minutes without a score until Harney sent Donie Smith in for a tidy effort, but another effective Tyrone burst brought scores from Johnny Munroe and Tiernan McCann, with Harte’s fourth sending them in with a 0-10 to 1-2 interval lead.
A couple of Donie Smith points trimmed the deficit, and even when Tyrone responded with scores from Ronan O’Neill, and Sludden, the Rossies were able to respond strongly. Manager Kevin McStay turned to his bench, and found able warriors in John McManus and Fintan Cregg, who both added in terms of creativity and score-taking as the gap came down to three points with 20 minutes to play.
Tyrone had their own super-subs in Sean Cavanagh and Mark Bradley, Bradley ending a 19-minute barren spell with a couple of stylish scores as the home side steadied the ship. And Niall Sludden capped a highly influential performance with his second score to confirm the result late on.
Roscommon manager Kevin McStay was pleased with his side’s response to a difficult first half. “At half-time we were in a very tough place — these are a top four team playing at home, so it couldn’t really get any tougher for us,” he said.
“We said this game could get really ugly if we don’t knuckle down into it and really fight on. I was very happy with the second half, but it comes back down to missed chances. You get the big chances and you put them away, it changes the tempo of it.
“I’m not suggesting for a minute that Tyrone weren’t deserving winners, but I am suggesting we had opportunities.”
P Harte (0-4, 3 frees), R O’Neill (0-3, 3 frees), D McCurry (1 free, 1 ’45), N Sludden, M Bradley (0-2 each), C Cavanagh, T McCann, J Munroe, C Meyler, C McCann (0-1 each).
N Daly (1-0), D Smith, F Cregg (0-3 each), J McManus, N Kilroy, C Devaney (0-1 each).
M O’Neill; P Hampsey, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann, M Donnelly, J Munroe; C Cavanagh, D McClure; C Meyler, N Sludden, P Harte; D McCurry, C McShane, R O’Neill.
A McCrory for Donnelly (15), M Bradley for O’Neill (55), S Cavanagh for Munroe (57, C McCann for Meyler (63), L Brennan for McCurry (67), C McCullagh for Sludden (69).
C Lavin; D Murray, T Featherston, N McInerney; R Stack, S Mullooly, C Devaney; K Higgins, T O’Rourke; N Daly, S McDermott, E Smith; D Smith, U Harney, C Murtagh.
S Killoran for Higgins (24), J McManus for Murray (35), F Cregg for Daly (h-t), N Kilroy for Smith (42), C Connolly for Murtagh (55), G Patterson for Smith (68)
A Nolan (Wicklow).
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