Saturday 17 August 2019

Harte: Victory was extra-important with Dublin match on the horizon

Tyrone 0-17 Roscommon 0-13

Tyrone's Peter Harte is tackled by Roscommon's Conor Daly. Photo: BRENDAN MORAN/SPORTSFILE
Tyrone's Peter Harte is tackled by Roscommon's Conor Daly. Photo: BRENDAN MORAN/SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrick

The spectre of Dublin hangs over Group 2 of the Super 8s like a giant football ogre. Nobody wants to have their All-Ireland semi-final ambitions hanging on the outcome of their game against the Dubs - including Tyrone.

"I suppose in this format you might think that you could afford to lose a game but not when Dublin are in your group," acknowledged Tyrone boss Mickey Harte after his side saw off the Connacht champions on Saturday night more comfortably than the four-point winning margin would suggest.

Niall Kilroy of Roscommon is tackled by Padraig Hampsey of Tyrone. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Niall Kilroy of Roscommon is tackled by Padraig Hampsey of Tyrone. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"It is up to ourselves, Cork and Roscommon to battle for second place and this was a very important result because Roscommon are a much improved team from last year. They were never going to be the open book they were last year."

In the first round of the 2018 qualifiers Tyrone hit Roscommon for four goals and beat them by 18 points, even though they conceded two goals themselves.

Under Anthony Cunningham, Roscommon are an altogether more street-wise side defensively - indeed, they're the only team left in the race that hasn't conceded a goal.

But they still face the daunting prospect of almost certainly having to beat Dublin on Saturday night in Croke Park in order to stay in the hunt for a last-four place.

Roscommon's Diarmuid Murtagh in action against Rory Brennan of Tyrone. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Roscommon's Diarmuid Murtagh in action against Rory Brennan of Tyrone. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Understandably, Cunningham refused to write off their chances. He insisted it won't be difficult to get his players motivated for the rest of the series.

"That's the super thing about Super 8s, you're out again the following weekend. It's more matches and everybody wants top championship matches. 'Let's roll it on' will be the attitude of the players."

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By the time the Roscommon players assembled yesterday for a rehab session, a small chink of hope had appeared on the horizon in the shape of Cork's spirited performance against Dublin in the other Group 2 tie on Saturday night.

It means the outcome of next weekend's Round 2 encounter between Tyrone and Cork is by no means a foregone conclusion. Were Cork to win, it would mean Roscommon, regardless of the result of their clash against Dublin, would still be in the hunt when they travel to meet the Rebels on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Tyrone won in Dr Hyde Park because their defence did a more effective job at reducing the influence of Roscommon's key forwards than the home's side back-line did at the other end of the field.

Mickey Harte got most of his match-ups right, with Ronan McNamee - helped by the presence of sweeper Colm Cavanagh - blotting out the threat of Conor Cox, who had been a revelation for Roscommon in the Connacht championship. But in the more rarefied air of the All-Ireland series, Cox struggled. His free-taking suffered as well and he was called ashore with eight minutes remaining.

At the other end, even though Sean Mullooly and at times David Murray battled bravely against Tyrone's sole target man Cathal McShane, he still scored three points from play as well as kicking more wides (4) than the entire Roscommon team (3).

But when the game was in the balance in the first 45 minutes it was Niall Sludden who inflicted the most damage on the home side. Apart from kicking three points, he was fouled for two converted frees and gave two assists for points.

Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan also played a pivotal role, pulling off marvellous saves from Enda Smith and Cathal Cregg, though Roscommon had a case for a penalty as the latter appeared to be taken out of it after he kicked the ball. "You have to be finishing one or two out of three at this level," said Cunningham.

Tyrone weren't shy about showing their physical edge, though Harte's strategy of replacing players who are booked could have backfired.

After pulling off Brian Kennedy, 90 seconds after he was booked, and Hugh Pat McGeary, who was yellow carded in the fifth minute and struggled to cope with Enda Smith, their two replacements, Kieran McGeary and Ben McDonnell, were both booked in injury time at the end of the first half.

When Diarmuid Murtagh hoisted a huge point for Roscommon 19 seconds into the second half the game was in the melting pot, with the margin down to a single point (0-8 to 0-7).

There was still only a point between the sides with 24 minutes of normal time to play. But Tyrone then turned the screw, with their key players Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly exerting a huge influence.

They outscored Roscommon 6-3 during the remainder of contest to stay on course for a third All-Ireland semi-final appearance on the spin without having to beat Dublin.

Scorers - Tyrone: C McShane 0-8 (5f); N Sludden 0-3; M Donnelly 0-2; B Kennedy, F Burns, D McCurry, P Harte 0-1 each. Roscommon: D Murtagh 0-4 (3f); C Cox 0-2 (1f); E Smith, C Cox, N Daly, B Stack, S Killoran, D O'Malley (1f), A Glennon 0-1 each.

Tyrone - N Morgan 8; HP McGeary 5, R McNamee 8, R Brennan 7; M Cassidy 7, F Burns 7, M McKernan 7; C Cavanagh 7, B Kennedy 6; M Donnelly 7, N Sludden 9, C Meyler 7; P Harte 7, C McShane 8, D McCurry 7. Subs: B McDonnell 5 for Kennedy (29), K McGeary 6 for HP McGeary (31), P Hampsey 6 for Cassidy (51), R Donnelly 6 for McDonnell (51), C McAliskey 6 for Sludden (61), A McCrory (NA) for Meyler (70 + 2).

Roscommon - D O'Malley 7, D Murray 7, S Mullooly 6, C Daly 6; N Daly 7, C Hussey 6, R Daly 6; T O'Rourke 7, S Killoran 7; H Darcy 5, C Cregg 7, N Kilroy 6; D Murtagh 7, C Cox 6, E Smith 7. Subs: B Stack 7 for Darcy (26), C Compton 6 for Hussey (48), D Smith 6 for Cregg (51), F Cregg 6 for Killoran (62), A Glennon 7 for Cox (63).

REFEREE - David Coldrick (Meath).

Irish Independent

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