Points win points for Red Hands in league opener

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Points win points for Red Hands in league opener thumbnailDarren McCurry looks to evade his marker.

THE Red Hands made a winning return to Division One with a battling display at Healy Park, recovering from conceding an early goal to Roscommon to impose themselves on the game, and eventually carving out a six points success.


An entertaining contest played in front of a crowd of 6,110 did present some difficulties for the Red Hands, who were lucky to concede just one goal in the first half, with Mickey O'Neill pulling off a couple of important saves.

Peter Harte and Niall Sludden made Tyrone tick, and even after losing Mattie Donnelly to injury after just 15 minutes, they never looked like losing.

That was despite a few first half scares, when the Connacht side's direct approach created a handful of goal chances, but Niall Daly was the only man who managed to put one away.

“Roscommon could have had more scores in the first half - they got one goal and we had two very good stops to stop it being three goals. If they had had three goals by half-time it would have been a very different game," said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

“Some other teams would be more clinical if they got gilt-edged chances like that - a superb save from Mickey O'Neill and Tiernan McCann got the block in for another one.

“We weathered the storm and we picked off the points then, so we're happy enough with the result - a six-point win is convincing enough."

Tyrone's All-Star Mattie Donnelly could be out of next weekend's trip to Croke Park after shipping a bang to the  head. A concussion assessment will decide whether he's allowed to face the Dubs.

“He's got a bit of concussion, and that's a pity, he didn't get to play much before that," said Harte.

“It seemed innocuous enough at the time, I didn't think it was as serious as that, but obviously the doctors know better and he had to take a break from it.

“Hopefully it won't keep him out too long but it is as it is and we have to possibly plan without him for next week."

Harte will be looking for a more polished display at Croke Park on Saturday evening against a Dublin side defending league and championship titles.

“Some of our passes were a bit sloppy, some of our handling wasn't as good as you'd want it to be - but you have to be realistic, this is the early part of the year.

“Conditions were a little bit slippery and players aren't as fine-tuned as they would be, hopefully, later in the season, but 18 points is not a bad day's work."

An opening day win makes it a solid start as the Red Hands bid to hold on to their premier status, and the manager wants to maintain that early season success.

“To do as well as we can, to be in the competition as long as we can, the top two get to the final and that's the ambition you have to have. Obviously the target initially is to stay away from the relegation zone.

“We've been in that zone a few years and escaped it a few times and found that we didn't on one occasion. Our first job is to get away from the relegation zone, it'd be lovely to be in a league final

“We're happy with parts of it, other parts we could do much better. Some of our passes were a bit sloppy, some of our handling wasn't as good as we wanted, you have to be realistic, it's the early part of the year, conditions are a bit slippery and players aren't as fine-tuned as they would be later in the season.

“We'd like to take some unforced errors, poor shot and pass selection out of our game but other than that, 18 points isn't a bad day's work."

The Rossies got in for a goal inside the opening two minutes. Ultan Harney fetched a high ball and slipped it to the inrushing Niall Daly, who beat Mickey O'Neill from eight yards.

But Tyrone were level by the fourth minute, Darren McCurry with a '45 and Colm Cavanagh both splitting the posts.

Niall McInerney's interception averted a dangerous situation, but Harney crated another goal chance at the other end, sending Ciaran Murtagh through to bring a fine save from O'Neill.

Tyrone suffered a blow with the loss of All-Star Mattie Donnelly, who went off after 15 minutes after suffering as bang to the head.

Harte cancelled out Conor Devaney's excellent score to keep the homes ide marginally ahead going into the second quarter.

While Tyrone's sweeping moves from deep were well constructed, their opponents were always dangerous with a more direct approach, and when Enda Smith and Murtagh combined, Sean Mullooly had a shot on goal charged down by Tiernan McCann.

The Red Hands went three in front with frees from Harte and Ronan, and after a 17 minute spell without a score, the Connacht men hit the target again, Harney sending Donie Smith in for a well taken score.

But another volley of scores, from Harte and wing backs Johnny Munroe and Tiernan McCann, sent the home side in with a 0-9 to 1-2 lead.

Smith fired over two wonderful scores inside two minutes after the restart to kick-start Roscommon's challenge, but they continued to pay a price for indiscipline at the back, with Ronan O'Neill knocked over a couple of frees.

Niall McInerney and Sean Mullooly displayed defensive steel, and the Rossies rallied to cut the gap with scores from substitutes John McManus and Niall Kilroy

Another sub, Fintan Cregg, floated over another to cut the deficit back to three

But the movement of the Tyrone men continued to pose serious problems, and substitutes Mark Bradley and Sean Cavanagh combined for the former to hit a couple of scores.

Roscommon did have their chances, but some poor finishing cost them dearly.

Tyrone - Mickey O'Neill; Padraig Hampsey, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron; Tiernan McCann (0-1), Mattie Donnelly, Johnny Munroe (0-1); Colm Cavanagh (0-1), Declan McClure; Conor Meyler (0-1), Niall Sludden (0-2), Peter Harte (0-4); Darren McCurry (0-2), Cathal McShane, Ronan O'Neill (0-3).

Subs - Aidan McCrory for Donnelly, Mark Bradley (0-2) for O'Neill, Sean Cavanagh for Munroe, Conall McCann (0-1) for Meyler, Lee Brennan for McCurry, Cahir McCullagh for Sludden.


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