Red Hand holds off improved Rossies




All-Ireland SFC Super 8s: Tyrone 0-17 Roscommon 0-13

In the rarefied atmosphere of the Super 8s competition, teams like Roscommon need to have all their ducks in a row to win big games. They need a good game plan, heart, determination, courage, and will to win. But they also need to have a little bit of luck and a fair dollop of street smarts.

  Roscommon had most of the above qualities in Dr. Hyde Park last Saturday evening except for the last two and that’s what cost them after a hugely competitive encounter against a top class Tyrone outfit.

  In terms of luck, Roscommon needed to take one (or both) of the two clear goal chances that fell their way in the first half. In the 14th minute Cathal Cregg’s effort was beaten away by Niall Morgan and with a minute to go to half-time Enda Smith made a lung-bursting run along the town goal end line before letting fly, but again Morgan was equal to the shot. Add those missed chances to the two frees Conor Cox missed, which he would normally put over with his eyes closed, and the fact that the ball came back off the post three times, and you begin to get the picture. Against a team like Tyrone, you simply have to convert those chances.

  In terms of street smarts, Roscommon gave away too many frees with needless tackles in the scoring zone, especially in the first half, and that kept Mickey Harte’s men in the contest and crucially kept the scoreboard ticking over for them. Down the other end of the field the Tyrone defence gave away very few scoreable frees and their tackling was predictably fierce and effective.

  There was also a problem down the centre of the Roscommon defence in the first half and that was ruthlessly exposed by Niall Sludden and Mattie Donnelly, both of whom repeatedly punched holes in the Roscommon rearguard with very direct running.

  But there were so many positives to take away from this performance from a Roscommon point of view. In the space of a year massive progress has been made. Last year Tyrone handed out an 18-point hammering to Roscommon in Croke Park. The gap is now down to four and is narrowing all the time.

  Last year Roscommon looked out of their depth in the Super 8s, but this year they look like a side that is well able to compete at this level. Anthony Cunningham’s men have not yet conceded a goal in this championship, which is a remarkable statistic.

  Despite having to deal with Conor McShane, I thought Sean Mullooly had a fine game at full-back. David Murray did a great job with the Tyrone danger man Darren McCurry, restricting him to just one point from play. Niall Daly again led from the front in defence and had another fine outing. He is having his best year in a Roscommon jersey.

  Meanwhile, Shane Killoran had a fantastic game and worked tirelessly in the intense heat. Niall Kilroy was probably Roscommon’s best player. He popped up everywhere and ran himself into the ground. Enda Smith had a mighty first half and looked a threat every time he got the ball but that massive effort took its toll and he tired as the game went on.

  Diarmuid Murtagh and Conor Cox just didn’t fire on the day. Tyrone ensured that no quality ball was getting into Conor Cox and they deployed Colm Cavanagh as a sweeper in front of the Roscommon full-forward line. Cox has been a revelation for Roscommon all year. He has won many a game for the Rossies but this was not his day. He will be back bigger and better than ever though.

  With 47 minutes on the clock Roscommon were just a point behind (0-11 to 0-10) and the huge primrose and blue following were roaring them on in the sweltering heat. But Tyrone reacted in the manner of a really top class side. They rattled off five points in a row and by the 57th minute it was 0-16 to 0-10 and game over. Tyrone were never going to allow Roscommon back into it. They are simply too experienced, too streetwise and too skilful.

  Ronan McNamee was imperious at full-back while Frank Burns continues to enhance his reputation at centre half-back. Colm Cavanagh did a lot of the heavy lifting as a very effective sweeper in front of his full-back line. Niall Sludden had a great first half and Roscommon will have to work out how he was given so much freedom. Cathal McShane is an impressive target man and his free-taking was flawless. But my man of the match and the best player on the field was Mattie Donnelly. He got on the ball throughout and never wasted possession. He always plays the game with his head up and is the hesartbeat of this Tyrone team. He is a class act.

  All is not lost yet for Roscommon though. They are still in this competition despite the fact that they have to travel to Croke Park next Saturday to play Dublin. Cork showed last weekend that if you go out and attack Dublin with intensity, you can score against them. However, it’s further back the field that may well be the problem with the Dubs.

  It was a marvellous occasion last Saturday. A big crowd, a lovely evening for a game, and a mighty atmosphere. Hyde Park is a great venue for a big game. There was a huge crowd of Rossies there and they gave the team great support. Regardless of what happens this Saturday in Croke Park, Roscommon are going in the right direction. With the likes of Conor Devaney, Ultan Harney, Niall McInerney, Ciaráin Murtagh and Cathal Compton to come back into the fold, the future is looking bright. Hopefully the Rossies go to Croker this Saturday and give it a right rattle!


Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Hugh Pat McGeary, Ronan McNamee, Rory Brennan; Michael Cassidy, Frank Burns (0-1), Michael McKernan; Colm Cavanagh, Brian Kennedy (0-1); Matthew Donnelly (0-2), Peter Harte (0-1), Conor Meyler; Niall Sludden (0-3), Cathal McShane (0-8, 5 frees), Darren McCurry (0-1). Subs: Ben McDonnell for Kennedy (28), Kieran McGeary for HP McGeary (30), Richie Donnelly for McDonnell (51), Padraig Hampsey for Cassidy (51), Connor McAliskey for Sludden (63), Aidan McCrory for Meyler (70+2).

Roscommon: Darren O’Malley (0-1, free); David Murray, Seán Mullooly, Conor Daly; Niall Daly (0-1), Conor Hussey, Ronan Daly; Tadhg O’Rourke, Shane Killoran (0-1); Hubert Darcy, Cathal Cregg (0-1), Niall Kilroy; Diarmuid Murtagh (0-4, 3 frees), Conor Cox (0-2, 1 free), Enda Smith (0-1). Subs: Brian Stack (0-1) for Darcy (25), Colin Compton for Hussey (49), Donie Smith for Cregg (51), Fintan Cregg for Killoran (63), Andrew Glennon (0-1) for Cox (64).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).