A satisfying end to one of the most bizarre weeks ever for Tyrone GAA ended up with a controlled second-half performance, featuring five unanswered scores in a 13-minute period, which proved enough to get them the opening two points of the Super 8s series against Roscommon.
The week began with breaking news of the team bus stopped before an Orange march in Aughnacloy and leaked footage of a few indulging in singing ‘Come Out Ye Black and Tans,’ leading to team manager Mickey Harte swiftly apologising for offence caused.
Asked about developments on that front after the game, Harte replied: “I think I said what I needed to say about that and I think it was well received. And I am very happy with that.”
He then moved on to the other big issue of the week in appealing Peter Harte’s suspension — overturned on Thursday night — with manager Harte not happy all three black cards were not thrown out.
“Yeah, I am disappointed in that. Very disappointed,” he said, opening the door to perhaps another level of appeal for the two infractions that were ruled to be proven.
“I think there is some capacity to appeal and maybe that is being considered.”
The narrative going into this game was that after their 18-point mauling in the opening round in Croke Park last year to the same opposition, had Roscommon done enough work on the two key areas then manager Kevin McStay identified; conditioning and defence.
They improved significantly on both fronts, but Tyrone are battle-hardened to a ridiculous extent and have game smarts.
With a significant period left to play here, they were utterly on top.
“They are very clinical on the ball. They have a hard system to break down, they are the best in the country at playing it. They sit back and counter-attack,” said Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham.
“Their game is to be admired but they are many, many years playing like that and they are an established, serious team.
"It was hard to cut through them. I am disappointed for the fans we didn’t come out on the right side.
"It was there for us in certain aspects and I am disappointed we didn’t get something from the game.”
Tyrone got off to a customary fast start, aided by Niall Sludden who has enjoyed a sensational return to form.
He scored two and set up two others in their first five points, perhaps fired up by marker Conor Hussey who delivered an almighty drive into his shoulder before the ball was thrown in.
Three first-half frees from Cathal McShane, marked by Sean Mullooly with Conor Daly sweeping directly in front of him was the other notable contribution to the scoreboard.
Niall Morgan’s continuing excellence was in full display here. Highlighted as someone who has mastered all the modern aspects of goalkeeping, he excelled on the basics here.
When Niall and Ronan Daly knitted together a chance for Cathal Cregg to get a shot on goal, Morgan got his knees to the ball on 15 minutes.
That was even bettered by the second save of the first half when Enda Smith horsed through the tackles to unleash, with the Edendork man getting a strong hand to the shot.
Roscommon, roared on by a boisterous home crowd craving a good start to the Super 8s series, were not so much hanging on but keeping tight to Tyrone’s coattails who benefitted from the breeze in the first half.
They shot their first and only wide of the half on 26 minutes but dropped two Conor Cox frees short of the goals as they went in at half-time, 0-8 to 0-6 adrift.
Watch all the Full-Time Highlights from Roscommon v Tyrone here on GAANOW. pic.twitter.com/YDgn4gqGjR— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 13, 2019
A Diarmuid Murtagh point straight from the second half throw-in brought Roscommon to within a point.
Tyrone stretched it back out to three with a free from their new talisman Cathal McShane and a smart point from Darren McCurry but another flurry from the Rossies, Conor Cox and Murtagh pointing frees and Shane Killoran floating another over cut the lead to the minimum again on 46 minutes.
That was as good as it got. Roscommon might have worked hard on their conditioning over the winter and spring into the summer, but Peter Donnelly’s work in Tyrone has been building blocks over the course of years.
The Connacht champions grew weary as Tyrone reeled off their decisive five consecutive point run.
They could have been buried altogether with a Peter Harte bullet of a shot that came out of nowhere, bouncing on the line before spinning away to safety.
Four points in it at the end. A fair margin.
“I think that is the difference, they have been on the road for a while now,” Harte added.
“They have been gradually building to become a more composed side, a more mature side and the evidence is on days that really matters that ought to come out.”
D Murtagh (0-4, 3f), N Daly, S Killoran, C Cregg, C Cox, E Smith, B Stack, A Glennon (0-1 each), D O’Malley (0-1f)
C McShane (0-8, 5f), N Sludden (0-3), M Donnelly (0-2), F Burns, B Kennedy, P Harte, D McCurry 0-1 each.
D O’Malley; D Murray, S Mullolly, C Daly; N Daly, C Hussey, R Daly; T O’Rourke, S Killoran; H Darcy, C Cregg, N Kilroy; D Murtagh, C Cox, E Smith.
B Stack for Darcy (26m), C Compton for Hussey (48m), D Smith for C Cregg (50m), F Cregg for Killoran (62m), A Glennon for Cox (63m)
N Morgan; HP McGeary, R McNamee, R Brennan; M Cassidy, F Burns, M McKernan; C Cavanagh, B Kennedy; M Donnelly, N Sludden, P Harte; D McCurry, C McShane, C Meyler.
B McDonnell for Kennedy (29m), K McGeary for HP McGeary (30m), P Hampsey for Cassidy (50m), R Donnelly for McDonnell (50m), C McAliskey for Sludden (62m), A McCrory for Meyler (72m).
David Coldrick (Meath).
How they lined out
Are Tyrone any better than last year? They have reverted to a counter-attacking game that will beat most, but have they still got a method to beat Dublin in mind?
As the teams completed their warm ups, the stadium announcer broke the news that number 17 Peter Harte would be playing.
A defiant roar went up from the travelling support in acknowledgement of their star player winning his midweek appeal after being initially ruled out for this after compiling three black cards.
He may not have been a hugely central figure but some of his focus had to have been derailed the by events of the week.
He crashed a shot off the bar in the 54th minute that might have polished Roscommon off entirely, but he will grow throughout the series.
Niall Sludden began like a train, scoring three and setting up two in the first 22 minutes and was fouled for another.
He was fouled at the very start of the second half for a converted free and set him up again from play.
Involved in eight points. Some outing for the Dromore man.
Nothing much to report, although Brian Kennedy was reportedly taken off with a minor niggle.
Roscommon are on borrowed time, alas. They have Dublin in Croke Park next weekend and a defeat there will surely have them facing a dead rubber in the final game away to Cork.
The Super 8’s are ruthless that way.
Tyrone head for another Saturday afternoon in Croke Park this coming weekend, facing Cork, a side they beat 3-20 to 0-13 in Portlaoise last year.
For all Cork’s improved showing against Dublin, Tyrone could have their semi-final place wrapped up after that, with a free swing at Dublin in the final round.