Tyrone ease to first win but gaping holes and Donnelly injury cause concern

Kevin McStay laments missed goal chances as Roscommon unable to contain runners

Tyrone 0-18 Roscommon 1-9

Tyrone's opening day win over Roscommon wasn't all good news for Mickey Harte with All-Star Mattie Donnelly picking up an injury which may rule him out of next weekend's clash with Dublin. That and the concession of goal chances, the only concerns after an otherwise routine home win.

Donnelly was forced off after 15 minutes, and a concussion assessment may rule him out of Saturday’s Croke Park tie.

“He’s got a bit of concussion, and that’s a pity, he didn’t get to play much before that,” said manager Mickey 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 for too long but it is as it is and we have to possibly plan without him for next week.”

Tyrone recovered from an early scare, when Niall Daly fired in a Roscommon goal, however the Ulster outfit were never able to put it safely out of sight until late on.

The Rossies did carve open and exploit some alarming gaps in the home defence in the first half, and goalkeeper Mickey O'Neill had to pull off a couple of fine saves from Ciaran Murtagh and Ultan Harney.

“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 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.”

Roscommon manager Kevin McStay was pleased with his side’s response to a difficult first half.

“At half-time we were in a very tough place - these are a top four team playing at home, so it couldn’t really get any tougher for us,” he said.

“We said this game could get really ugly if we don’t knuckle down into it and really fight on.

“I was very happy with the second half, but it comes back down to missed chances. You get the big chances and you put them away, it changes the tempo of it.

“I’m not suggesting for a minute that Tyrone weren’t deserving winners, but I am suggesting that we had opportunities.”

The visitors stunned the Ulster champions with a goal inside the opening two minutes. Harney rose high to fetch and lay off for Daly to finish with a firmly struck shot past O’Neill.

But once Tyrone got their running game, going, it was clear they were going to be too hot to handle for a more direct Roscommon side. One who who coughed up frees throughout, and Darren McCurry and Peter Harte were happy to convert.

Harte was at the centre of all the Red Hands best attacking efforts, and his well taken point from play eased his side back in front.

Roscommon went 17 minutes without a score until Harney sent Donie Smith in for a tidy effort, but scores from wing backs Johnny Munroe and Tiernan McCann, and Harte’s fourth gave Tyrone a 0-10 to 1-2 interval lead.

A couple of Donie Smith points trimmed the deficit as the Rossies made a lively start to the second half, and even when Tyrone responded with scores from Ronan O’Neill, and Sludden, McStay’s team responded strongly.

The Roscommon manager turned to his bench, and found able warriors in John McManus and Fintan Cregg, who both added in terms of creativity and score-taking as the gap came down to three points with 20 minutes to play.

Tyrone had their own super-subs though in Sean Cavanagh and Mark Bradley, the latter ending a 19 minute barren spell with a couple of stylish scores as the home side steadied the ship.

And Niall Sludden capped a highly influential performance with his second score to confirm the result late on.

TYRONE: M O'Neill, P Hampsey, R McNamee, C McCarron, T McCann (0-1), M Donnelly, J Munroe (0-1), C Cavanagh (0-1), D McClure, C Meyler (0-1), N Sludden (0-2), P Harte (0-04, 3f), D McCurry (0-2, 1f, 1 '45), C McShane, R O'Neill (0-3, 3f).

Subs: A McCrory for Donnelly (15), M Bradley (0-2) for O’Neill (55), S Cavanagh for Munroe (57, C McCann (0-1) for Meyler (63), L Brennan for McCurry (67), C McCullagh for Sludden (69).

ROSCOMMON: C Lavin, D Murray, T Featherston, N McInerney, R Stack, S Mullooly, C Devaney (0-1), K Higgins, T O'Rourke, N Daly (1-0), S McDermott, E Smith, D Smith (0-3), U Harney, C Murtagh.

Subs: S Killoran for Higgins (24), J McManus (0-01) for Murray (35), F Cregg (0-3) for Daly (h-t), N Kilroy (0-1) for Smith (42), C Connolly for Murtagh (55), G Patterson for Smith (68)

Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow)

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