Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Tyrone tough it out and show hunger for final

Delight: Tyrone's David Mulgrew, Tiarnan Donnelly and Lee Brennan celebrate after the game
Delight: Tyrone's David Mulgrew, Tiarnan Donnelly and Lee Brennan celebrate after the game

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Seldom does this familiar sporting adage hold so much resonance as when applied to yesterday's stunning All -Ireland minor football semi-final win by Tyrone over a Roscommon side that had at one stage threatened to overwhelm them.

It was the Red Hands' toughness of character, cast-iron resolve along with an application of sublime finishing which ultimately ushered them into an All-Ireland final meeting with Mayo on September 22.

Manager Mickey Donnelly was almost overcome by a fusion of relief, pride and delight at the end of the contest.

"It was a tremendous show of commitment by these boys," gasped Donnelly,

"They stuck at it and dogged it out."

Donnelly, though, made no bones about the hazardous route that his side has charted into the final and indeed what they will face there.

"This team were being written off at the outset of the Ulster Championship, they got a kick in the teeth when they lost the provincial decider to Monaghan and they were no-hopers against Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-final yet here we are in the final," added Donnelly.

"But we face a massive challenge against Mayo who are an excellent side."

If yesterday's win was etched out against adversity, then Tyrone could be all the better for having overcome this challenge.

The wonder at half-time was that Roscommon took only a three-point advantage into the dressing-room (0-6 to 0-3).

Within the first five minutes alone they should have been two goals to the good but Diarmuid McGann saw his weak penalty effort saved by Sean Fox and almost immediately Diarmuid Murtagh hesitated momentarily with the net at his mercy.

Their own profligacy appeared to have an unsettling effect on Roscommon and when Tyrone's Conor McKenna landed a brace of points, one courtesy of Hawkeye confirmation and the other from a '45', to complement an earlier score from 11th-hour call-up Philip Donnelly the Ulster side were on level terms having cancelled out earlier points scored by Tadgh O'Rourke, Murtagh and McGann.

Despite garnering first-phase possession though Cathal Compton and O'Rourke in the middle third, Roscommon were unable to extend their fluency to the final pass or shot.

Instead they were forced to rely on McGann's confident free-taking and a spectacular long-range effort from Henry Walsh to nose into their rather hollow interval lead.

But when McKenna thundered in a 38th minute goal, substitute Cathal McShane imposed himself forcibly on the proceedings and Frank Burns lent an extra dimension to the attack, Tyrone's resolve made serious inroads into Roscommon's weakening psyche.

McKenna, Lee Brennan and substitute Tiarnan Donnelly along with Christopher Morris shared in a five-point haul spanning the last 15 minutes that helped take the Red Hands one step closer to reaching their promised land.

Tyrone: S Fox; C Byrne, R Quinn, C McCann; S Hamill, C Morris (0-1), P McGirr; R Nugent, F Burns; P Donnelly (0-1), C McKenna (1-4), R McGlone; L Brennan (0-2), D Gallagher, S McGrath (0-2). Substitutes; C McShane (0-1) for P Donnelly (38 minutes), D Mulgrew for Gallagher (38), T Donnelly (0-1) (free) for McGlone (52 minutes), K Coney for Bryne (58 minutes), M Lynn for McGirr (59 mins).

Roscommon: S Mannion; D Neary; S Mullooly, M Flannery; R Daly (0-2), E McGrath, E Fallon; C Compton (0-1); U Harney (0-1); T O'Rourke (0-1), J Earley, S Farrell; H Walsh (0-1), D McGann (0-4) (all frees) , D Murtagh (0-3) (0-2 frees). Substitutes: M Murtagh for Earley (52 mins).

Referee: Derek O'Mahoney

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