Mickey Harte expects fierce battle from Kevin McStay's Roscommon

Mickey Harte is braced for a Roscommon onslaught against his Division One newcomers in Sunday’s NFL opener.

Last season, Kevin McStay’s side channelled high levels of energy into the early rounds of the league, a strategy that served them well, as they not only held on to their status, but reached the semi-finals.

Tyrone boss Harte is anticipating a similar approach from the Rossies, and he’s prepared for a difficult afternoon at Healy Park.

The Connacht men revelled on the road in 2016, scoring away wins over Kerry, Donegal, and Cork, and a trip north will not faze them.

“They put a lot of energy into having a really good start to the league, and they got the points because of that, which actually brought them to the semi-final, never mind kept them clear of relegation,” said Harte.

“So I think that they probably know that that served them well last year, and I don’t expect them to come to Omagh looking to give any points handy to us.”

Tyrone coasted through last year’s Division 2 campaign with an unbeaten run that secured promotion with two games to spare, but a season spent away from the premier grade may have blunted the competitive edge.

It’s a consideration that will not have escaped the shrewd McStay, who will want to exploit any chinks that may appear.

“They retained their status, that’s the main thing, and they set out to do that. They did it very comprehensively by not only retaining it, but getting to the semi-final.

“So yes, obviously they’re not fazed by going on the road, and they believe they have a style of football that will serve them well in this division.

“And I don’t think that Tyrone will hold any fears for them, because they’ll believe they have a year’s experience in Division 1, which we haven’t got at the minute, so they’ll probably want to use that psychological edge if they can.”

Harte has introduced many young players to his squad over the past two seasons, and they have yet to experience the tempo of Division 1 football, but the three-time All-Ireland-winning manager is confident he has assembled a group of players capable of quickly finding their feet and excelling at the highest level.

“It’s a challenge to go up to the highest level and play there, but I think these players are well capable of doing it.

“They have played at a high level of underage Tyrone teams, they have played at a high level at college, and there’s still a lot of good football played in Ulster.

“A lot of the teams that we would be playing are Ulster teams in Division 1 of the league, so you’re talking about the big ones of Kerry, Dublin, and Mayo, who have been there all the time this last lot of years.

“Outside of them, there’s a lot of people who feel that can challenge each other, and we want to be in that challenging pack.”

A sixth Dr McKenna Cup success rounded off a busy January that gave the Red Hands a solid platform for a testing NFL campaign.

“It’s certainly a good way to finish the month, but that’s over now, we have that job out of the way. Two points against Roscommon is the thing that’s really most important now.”


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