Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Tyrone's progress can lead all the way to Croke Park

On the ball

Tyrone's manager manager Mickey Harte look on dejected

There is no doubt that Tyrone struggled to beat Roscommon in Doctor Hyde Park on Saturday afternoon, but knowing Mickey Harte the way that I do I believe that he will be pleased with how close the game was.

Roscommon were being written off by everyone that I had been talking to, but they were dangerous opponents especially the way that they had been slated within their own county and by sections of the media after their heavy loss to Mayo.

They were always going to come out and try to prove everybody wrong and while they went about it in a very defensive manner you have to say that their tactics were spot-on.

The result will keep expectation levels down within the county and when you are playing at this level that's exactly the way that you want it.

Supporters were getting carried away with the win against Offaly the previous week.

Let's face it, Offaly were a very poor side who showed little or no fight on the day and there was no way that Roscommon were going to roll over for Tyrone for a third year running.

Players can't help being caught up with what is written in the papers as well and I would say that we took our eye of the ball a little and almost got caught.

That can be a good thing though and Mickey (pictured) will concentrate on getting things right on the training field over the next couple of weeks.

A good close contest like that helps expose any weaknesses that your side have.

You certainly weren't going to find anything out about the team by the manner in which they beat Offaly.

This was more like it against a side who didn't worry about Tyrone's reputation and who got stuck into us from the word go.

The football on display wasn't good apart from the spell that Tyrone had either side of half-time when they really should have pulled away from Roscommon.

Mickey will be annoyed at the way Tyrone let slip a six-point lead and left themselves hanging on in the end – that was so unlike them.

At the end of the day though they are in the hat for the next round of the qualifiers and that is all that matters.

In many ways it reminded me of 2008 when we had a comfortable win away to Louth and everybody thought that things were rosy again.

We were paired against Westmeath in Omagh and we didn't play well that day and only just about got over the finishing line against a side who finished the game with 13 men.

We then struggled to beat Mayo in the next round and everybody had us written off but in the quarter-final against Dublin everything clicked into place and we never looked back on our way to the All-Ireland.

I'm not saying that is going to happen again, but Tyrone are a work in progress and what happened in Doctor Hyde Park will no doubt stand to them and make them stronger and I don't think that anyone will want to draw them in the next round.

I would expect Armagh to beat Leitrim and that would leave four Ulster sides in the draw for the next round and the chances are there will be at least one Ulster derby.

I think from a Tyrone point of view they would rather avoid that at the moment as they would get a better chance of playing their game against opponents who aren't as familiar as them.

Having said that, Tyrone will fear nobody in the draw and I don't believe it will be that big a deal if they are drawn away from home again.

I fancy them to learn from their scare at the weekend and providing the avoid Cork in the fourth round draw I would expect them to make it back to Croke Park.

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