Tyrone clinch opener with second-half surge
Tyrone 0-17 Roscommon 0-13
Though Roscommon reduced the margin of defeat from 18 to four points compared to the same first round fixture in last year's Super 8, Tyrone still claimed the spoils at Dr Hyde Park yesterday and remain on course for a third All-Ireland semi-final appearance in a row.
Victory over Cork next Saturday night in Croke Park - a team they beat by 16 points in the qualifiers last year - is virtually certain to secure Mickey Harte's side a place in the last four, regardless of the result of their final-round tie against champions Dublin on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.
Granted, the home side were unfortunate not to score a first-half goal with Niall Morgan pulling off magnificent saves from Cathal Cregg and Enda Smith - the one Roscommon forward to consistently threaten the Ulster side's defence in the opening period.
But Tyrone simply absorbed the home side's best efforts with Rory Brennan's hit on Shane Killoran, followed later by a perfectly executed professional foul on Diarmuid Murtagh, underlining the doggedness of their defending.
"Had any of those goals gone in, it would have been a very different outcome. But thankfully they didn't go in this time. Sometimes goalkeeper make good saves and that's what we have Niall Morgan there for," remarked Tyrone boss, Mickey Harte.
"It wasn't easier to get scores out there and there was a bit of a breeze in the second half. It was a question of keeping control of the ball and attacking at the right time for scores. We had to be patient with the ball and attack at the right time."
When the game was in the balance during the first half, it was Tyrone centre-forward Niall Sludden who did most of the damage. He hit three points from play and, apart from his scoring exploits, was fouled for two frees and provided two assists.
Roscommon now face an uphill battle in their efforts to advance to the All-Ireland semi-final. Unenviably, they meet Dublin, fresh from yesterday's thrashing of Cork, next weekend in Croke Park in order to keep their ambitions alive.
Manager Anthony Cunningham insisted that it wouldn't be difficult to lift the team ahead of their visit to the capital. "It won't be hard. That's the super thing about the Super 8, you are out again the next weekend and these players just want matches and everybody wants a top championship game."
Their new-found status as Connacht champions failed to change their fortunes against the Ulster men. This was their fourth championship loss to Tyrone and though it was a significant improvement on last year's hammering, it still ended in defeat for the men from the west.
Essentially, the game was decided between the 49th and 61st minutes when five points on the trot turned a one-point lead into a decisive six-point advantage.
Having been cleared by the GAA's Central Hearing Committee, Peter Harte lined out for Tyrone's seventh championship game of the summer.
The northerners went defensive from the throw-in, pulling 14 men behind the ball.
Tyrone's covering work and tackling deep in their own defence was superb, illustrated by Brennan's aforementioned hit on Killoran as he bore down on goal. However, his professional foul on Murtagh as he raced through in the 22nd minute showed a cynical side to the Red Hand County, too.
Roscommon opted for speed and safety with their restarts with Darren O'Malley going short with his first six kicks, all of which were collected by team-mates.
Though it was 0-6 to 0-3 at the midway point of the first half, Roscommon clawed their way back into the game with Smith doing most of the damage. Substitute Brian Stack - who replaced Hubert Darcy after 26 minutes - made it a one-point game in the 31st minute.
As half-time approached, the exchanges became increasingly ragged. Manager Harte pulled Brian Kennedy and Hugh Pat McGeary ashore after they had been booked - the latter also struggled to contain Enda Smith. But their replacements, Ben McDonnell and Kieran McGeary, were both yellow-carded in injury-time.
Apart from the two goal chances, the Rossies were also left to rue two missed frees from Conor Cox. At the other end, Tyrone dropped three shots short and also struck the upright.
A key factor in Tyrone's game plan centred around containing the threat of Cox who had such an effective Connacht campaign.
He was restricted to one point from play by Ronan McNamee, though his efforts were greatly helped by the work of sweeper Colm Cavanagh.
Tyrone led 0-8 to 0-6 at the break and when Murtagh left it a one-point game in the opening minute of the second half, the home fans in the attendance of 14,465 grew optimistic.
But gradually Tyrone turned the screw with Peter Harte - who was denied a goal by the crossbar - and Mattie Donnelly making a decidedly bigger impact as Roscommon tired slightly. Those five points on the trot in the final quarter put them in control, 0-16 to 0-10, and left Roscommon needing a goal.
The visitors were now operating at their ruthless best, soaking up the pressure and playing keep ball which did enough to silence the Roscommon fans.
There was an inevitably about the contest from there to the finish as the Ulster side controlled the exchanges and both managers ran their benches.
The failure of Roscommon to score from play from the 46th minute until the third minute of injury-time - when a fisted effort from substitute Andrew Glennon skimmed the top of the crossbar - summed up the one-sided nature of the second half.
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; HP McGeary, R McNamee, R Brennan; M Cassidy, F Burns, M McKernan; C Cavanagh, B Kennedy; M Donnelly, N Sludden, P Harte; D McCurry, C McShane, C Meyler. Subs: B McDonnell for Kennedy (29), K McGeary for HP McGeary (30), P Hampsey for Cassidy (50), R Donnelly for McDonnell (50), C McAliskey for Sludden (62), A McCrory for Meyler (70 + 2)
Roscommon: D O'Malley, D Murray, S Mullooly, C Daly; N Daly, C Hussey, R Daly; T O'Rourke, S Killoran; H Darcy, C Cregg, N Kilroy; D Murtagh, C Cox, E Smith. Subs: B Stack for Darcy (26), C Compton for Hussey (48); D Smith for Cregg (50), F Cregg for Killoran (62), A Glennon for Cox (62).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)
Sunday Indo Sport