Monday 15 July 2019

Roscommon rethink needed as Harte plays down Omagh factor for Dubs visit

Tyrone 4-24 Roscommon 2-12

Tyrone boss Mickey Harte and Matthew Donnelly Photo: Sportsfile
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte and Matthew Donnelly Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kevin McStay conducted much of his post-match media interview in darkness as the lights went out prematurely in the GAA museum auditorium on Saturday.

It could well have been a metaphor for Roscommon's day, as even one of the most positive sideline voices can't have salvaged anything from this.

Cathal Cregg of Roscommon in action against Conor Myler, left, and Richard Donnelly of Tyrone Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Cathal Cregg of Roscommon in action against Conor Myler, left, and Richard Donnelly of Tyrone Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The nature of the Super 8s is games come thick and fast, but beyond the next few weeks McStay knows there's a fundamental question to be addressed. It's not that these performances are happening too often, it's where they're happening that's the concern.

They shipped four goals here to a rampant Tyrone team, the same number leaked to a Cavan team that they beat in a league final (Division 2) last April and the same number again to Mayo in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final replay. At least they're consistent. All told, they've conceded an average of three goals per game in their last six Croke Park visits.

"We genuinely thought these days were gone, obviously they're not, we have so much more to do," McStay admitted.

Almost every time a Tyrone runner - Mattie Donnelly, Niall Sludden, Tiernan McCann, Conor Meyler - looked up from midfield they saw vast prairies of unguarded space in front of them. And it became an embarrassing turkey shoot.

Tyrone's Peter Harte is tackled by Cathal Compton. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Tyrone's Peter Harte is tackled by Cathal Compton. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

"That's a debate that we're going to have to have going into the early part of the winter," McStay conceded.

"Because that's the way we play, which is easy to play against. But it's a type of football that, you know, I'm not sure the Roscommon supporters would go and watch if we changed our style dramatically and if we started looking at a Galway model, or something like that, whether our supporters would want that, whether our players would want that. But now going into the next level, that elite level perhaps, is going to take some big strategic decisions in style, in personnel, etc.

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"That's what a day like today does to you. We're not eejits. We know the style of play that beat Armagh last week, it's lovely to watch and it's grand, but the hard-nosed managers and analysts that go on and say, 'ah sure that's grand lads, but it won't stack up when the real gravy starts being divvied up', we know that."

Style matters to him of course, but the pragmatist may be speaking louder now.

"I'm not judged by style, I'm judged by results. The style of play? Patches of today were so hard to watch, there were three or four minutes where the life is just being sucked out of the game, hand passing over and back and across. It's not a style I particularly like, but you have to be a realist as well."

For Tyrone, that hard-nosed approach has long been ingrained and their superior strength in the tackle and, critically, being able to ride the tackle in possession, proved invaluable so often.

They posted 4-24, after hitting 3-20 against Cork, leaving the perception that they are not ambitious enough going forward in doubt.

Ambition should not be disguised by the absence of an instinctive full-forward line, though Richie Donnelly certainly gave the impression of one with his 1-4 contribution, on top of a contribution to Conor Meyler's second goal.

They had 13 players on the scoresheet and ruthlessly exploited Roscommon's defensive generosity.

Nothing reflected that ruthlessness more than the opening goal from Niall Sludden, who intercepted Enda Smith's crossfield pass in the 11th minute in midfield and popped up at the end of a swift counter-attacking move to beat Colm Lavin.

It was a common theme all evening: Roscommon players caught in isolation, hunted down by ravenous packs and paying the price.

Tyrone led by 1-10 to 0-6 at the break as Roscommon went 20 minutes without a score. They responded after the break and Smith powered through for a trademark goal. But they lapsed again as Meyler struck on 49 minutes.

The understanding between the Murtagh brothers, Ciaran and Diarmuid, was Roscommon's most profitable route and when Diarmuid broke down Conor Devaney's delivery to Ciaran, his pick-up was crisp, giving him a straight run at goal which he made the most of. It still left them 10 points, 2-19 to 2-9, behind.

Harte can look forward to Omagh next weekend and a shot at redemption after last year's All-Ireland semi-final defeat.

However, he won't be relying on venue to get them over the line.

"I feel very comfortable in Croke Park, I think our players feel very comfortable in Croke Park. We'd love if it was our home game, we'd love to play in Croke Park as often as possible. It's a very unique place...Dublin and Croke Park. That's where they are and that essentially becomes their home venue," he said.

"So I have no issue with that and I think anybody else that's playing the game should love to get playing at Croke Park. Is Omagh any big fortress for us? There's no real history to suggest that it is."

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