Tyrone a tough test for Rossies!

All-Ireland SFC preliminary quarter-final:
Tyrone v Roscommon on Saturday at Healy Park, Omagh at 5 pm

Roscommon footballers were handed probably the toughest of the three possible draws that they could have got on Monday morning. It was either Galway, Tyrone or Louth away, and now Davy Burke and his side find themselves preparing for the mother of all battles in Omagh this Saturday.

Tyrone will be hot favourites to go through, but Roscommon are not without a chance if they play to their very best. But there is no denying that this is a very formidable challenge.

Tyrone are certainly not the team of three years ago, nevertheless they still have some top class players. Players who are still there from their All-Ireland winning campaign of 2021 include brilliant goalkeeper Niall Morgan, Michael McKernan, Padraig Hampsey, Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Conn Kilpatrick, Brian Kennedy, Michael O’Neill, Cathal McShane and Darren McCurry. When you add in the multi-talented Canavan brothers, Ruairí and Darragh, it’s a reminder that the Red Hand are still a force to be reckoned with.

Tyrone have been in mixed form in this championship. In Ulster, they edged out a gritty Cavan team by a point in the quarter-final before being defeated by two points by Donegal in the semi-final.

In their subsequent round robin group games they were well beaten by Donegal, recorded an emphatic win against Clare and defeated Cork by four points last weekend.

While their form may have been up and down, the one constant is the threat of the Canavan brothers and Darren McCurry up front. They can also point to their strong midfield partnership and the performances of Mattie Donnelly in his new position at centre half-back.

The loss of Conn Kilpatrick (who received a red card against Cork) will be significant as he and Brian Kennedy have been the established Tyrone midfield in recent years. Expectations in Tyrone are always high when it comes to the championship, but the reality is that they have been overtaken by Armagh and Donegal in the Ulster pecking order in the past three years.

So what of Roscommon? They will go into this game in a much better frame of mind after that good win against Cavan last weekend. It was so refreshing to see Roscommon play attacking football and using their talented forwards.

It was also a big bonus to see all of our marquee players doing well. Enda Smith playing well is so important to this Roscommon team. Brian Stack was also excellent last Saturday and centre half-back is his best position. Diarmuid Murtagh is back to his very best this year and is a joy to watch when in full flight, and Daire Cregg is beginning to realise his full potential. When you add in Donie Smith and Conor Cox, it’s a great mix of attacking talent.

In the NFL game between the two counties Roscommon were in a good position initially, but in the second half Darragh Canavan ran riot, inspiring a Tyrone win. The Roscommon defence, which worryingly conceded 1-20 against Cavan, will have to tighten up considerably in Omagh.

Roscommon will have to get a foothold in midfield to give their attack the required scoring chances. It’s a tall order, even with Tyrone being without Conn Kilpatrick.

The Cavan win has given Roscommon a timely boost and they will travel with a good chance of causing a shock. Roscommon being in the role of underdogs is good. I’m not ruling out the Primrose and Blue producing a surprise, but everything points to a Tyrone win on their home turf.

Prediction: Tyrone.