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Conor Meyler celebrates after scoring a goal for Tyrone against Roscommon at Croke Park.
Conor Meyler celebrates after scoring a goal for Tyrone against Roscommon at Croke Park.

Harte satisfied with Tyrone win


By Michael Devlin

Despite running up a huge total of 4-24, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte was quick to point out the areas of improvement in the Red Hands’ 18 point win over Roscommon in the opening weekend of the All-Ireland Quarter Final Group Stage.

It was a more than comfortable margin in the end at Croke Park with 12 different players getting on the score-sheet, and Niall Sludden, Conor Meyler, Peter Harte and Richard Donnelly providing the goals that blew the Rossies out of the water.

Harte though had slight concerns over his side concession of 2-12, and in particular the second half goals from Enda Smith and Ciaran Murtagh, though he was ultimately pleased in the strong response shown by his players to get their Group 2 campaign off to a fine start.

“It’s takes a bit of doing to do that, so we’re very pleased with what we scored,” said Harte after the game. “But obviously there’s always a downside, we’re not entirely happy with what we conceded. That would give us a cause for concern. 

“Even in the second half, we got a point to go further ahead, and they got back a goal right away. It wasn’t the way we planned for the game to go. But it’s good that we responded to that setback of the goal. It really brought them back into the game and they were within touching distance of making it very difficult for us. It’s good the players responded positively to that setback.”

A stand out performer on the day was full forward Donnelly, who was a constant outlet for possession all afternoon, and finished with a tally of 1-4. Traditionally seen as a conventional midfielder or half forward, Harte isn’t surprised that the Trillick man has been excelling in the number 14 jersey since taking up the role in the round one qualifier against Meath. 

“Some of us did see him playing there before earlier in his career and playing some football there for his club, so I knew he was no stranger to that position. 

“He had difficulties there for a year or two with injuries, but when he is injury free he is a really good footballer, a smart footballer and a physical presence, so lots of things that are very useful for that position. I think he’s seizing his chance there with both hands at the minute.

Tyrone got out of jail that day in Navan against Meath, but have steadily improved game on game since, recently racking up 3-20 against Cork before bettering that total with this afternoon’s consummate attacking display. However, Harte insisted those big winning margins were easy to come by.

“I wouldn’t think that anybody would think they didn’t work hard in those games. Our players worked very hard in those games even though there ended up quite a bit in the margin at the end. You don’t create those types of opportunities for yourself by slacking it, our players worked their socks off. 

“I think it was good for them. It gave them a chance to use up a lot of their energy and see what they have in them when they need to go full out. I’d be happy enough with how the games went. We got plenty of work done, and we weren’t under serious pressure in the second half on both days, and that was good.”

Meanwhile, Kevin McStay believes his Roscommon side have a lot of ground to make up to compete at the level of the top counties.

“We’re not on the cusp of the elite any day soon,” a despondent McStay commented after the game. “Tyrone are ranked perhaps in the top four or five. We certainly think we are better than what we showed out there, are Tyrone as good as they showed out there? It was just a non-contest unfortunately.

“It was everything we didn’t want it to be. We were trying to keep the gap very manageable, but it’s very hard to play against Tyrone when that gap gets out to six or seven. They’re hugely comfortable with what they believe in. 

“We tried hard in the second half, we got it back to four or five, but then we fell away again. Their athleticism and conditioning is a good touch ahead of ours. They’re at elite level conditioning and we’re not. 

“There’s four or five powerful runners coming through there, Harte, Donnelly, these fellas are pouring out. They are strong, strong runners. That’s just a level we’re not at yet, but you know we’d hope to get there. Once you go behind against Tyrone, it’s a very difficult place to be.”

Next up for Roscommon is another onerous task in the shape of Ulster kingpins Donegal at Dr Hyde Park next Saturday, before returning to Croke Park to take on the might of All-Ireland champions Dublin the following weekend. 

It’s an ominous proposition for a bruised Roscommon team, but a challenge that McStay and his troops must tackle head on.

“We had Dublin in the league here [in Croke Park] , we got an awful trimming here one night. You come up here hoping for the best, planning for the best, expecting the best. We genuinely thought these days were gone, but obviously they’re not. We’ve so much more to do.

“Some of the standard that we produced just wasn’t good enough, and there’s different patches of the game that we’ll have to go back and take a look at in terms of selection and so on. We thought we put out our strongest team on the day, but it just never happened for us.”

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