Roscommon 3-11 Tyrone 1-12
Knowing full well a good start is more than half their battle, this was a delightful afternoon at Dr Hyde Park, a Roscommon victory in their first home game of the Allianz Football League and with some considerable style to boot.
When an initially stuttering Tyrone drew level early in the second half, then went three points clear after Kieran McGeary’s fisted goal in the 46th minute, with their wind in their backs, Roscommon appeared somewhat doomed, any hopes for this league campaign possibly too.
Instead they rallied hard and raised further spirit, Ciaráin Murtagh striking back with Roscommon’s first goal, brilliantly picked out by Enda Smith, both players not long on as second-half replacements. Then Diarmuid Murtagh struck their second, getting the critical touch after Ben O’Carroll’s searching pass across the face of the Tyrone goal.
Niall Daly also put in an inspiring performance for Roscommon, scoring three sweet points from play from wing-back.
In the frantic endgame, Tyrone getting it back to a one-point game thanks to replacement Niall Sludden, Roscommon then made sure of it four minutes into injury time when a crazy run of play down the field saw O’Carroll find the net, Niall Morgan just about winning the race to get back into his goal, unable to stop the brilliant finish.
Freshly promoted again from last year, Roscommon have been the yo-yo champions of the football league for the last decade or so – playing in all four divisions, and in each of the last six seasons, ending in either promotion from Division Two or relegation from Division One.
No wonder manager Davy Burke was beaming, the 34-year-old Kildare native and youngest intercounty manager in the senior game, only taking charge in late October.
“All in all, have to be happy, and delighted with the impact the bench made,” he said. “I thought David Murray was brilliant off the bench, Enda Smith and Ciaráin Murtagh, the young lads too, Ben O’Carroll, Daire Cregg.
“And three great goals, team goals, but who did the first come from? Two subs, Enda Smith and Ciaráin Murtagh, two lads who in their heads ask ‘why aren’t they starting’. It’s competition, lads.
“Tyrone are a top side, they could have gone even more up, Peter Harte missed a couple of frees as well. It was great to see the resilience and heart of the lads, the tackling, brilliant to see, I got a huge buzz of it, and I hope everyone else did.”
Indeed starting with three debutants – Conor Carroll in goal, Robbie Dolan and Daire Cregg in attack, Cregg in fiery Sigerson form with UCD – Roscommon certainly opened up the livelier, aided by the January breeze. Cregg was soon orchestrating this, O’Carroll excellent too, Cregg helping himself to a mighty point that helped push them five up, 0-8 to 0-3.
“That’s the new wave coming, these young lads have been successful all the way up, let’s do it,” added Burke. “We’ve Galway next, we’re targeting to win every game, want another two boards this time next Sunday. We’re realistic, but it’s a good start, a really positive start, but on Tuesday night there needs to be hair and skin flying, that’s ultimately how it works.”
Tyrone did get three back before the interval, David Mulgrew and Darragh Canavan adding two from play, the worry for Roscommon at that stage being they didn’t maximise their wind advantage.
The 2021 All-Ireland champions had also came to town looking to reignite some consistency of their own after their dismal run last season, surviving in Division One being the only highlight. Their endgame wasn’t helped when full-back Cormac Munroe picked up a black card on 60 minutes, but even when restored to their full compliment they couldn’t halt Roscommon’s thunderous finish thanks to O’Carroll.
“Possibly one that got away,” conceded Tyrone joint-manager Feargal Logan “At a time in the second half‚ you thought we were in a commanding position but in fairness Roscommon picked it up from there. We had a great chance [of a second goal], that might have sealed it possibly but that’s football, one swing of momentum and things can leave you.
“We struggled towards the end, it’s a game we certainly could have won but credit to Roscommon.”
Indeed Logan and joint-manager Brian Dooher gave the team a lengthy talk-down in the dressing room afterwards, their seventh successive season in Division One under some early threat.
“In fairness Enda Smith came in, he’s a quality footballer and he got things shook up a bit coming up the field for Roscommon and we just didn’t manage to keep on it. We thought we were well set up, dealing with their kick-outs well, had the press on them, but we just needed more scores. Obviously we didn’t get them and we paid the price in the end.
“It wasn’t that we had had a bad first half as such we had contained them rightly and they picked off some lovely scores. We were well in the game at half time, then we go out and we get level quickly and go well ahead, it’s almost inexplicable but it has to be explained because it actually happened.”