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'Defensive' Tyrone rack up the scores once more as Super 8s begin

Roscommon 2-12 Tyrone 4-24

By Declan Bogue

For a team that has become synonymous with 'defensive' football, Tyrone sure know how to rack up the scores.

Sixteen point winners over Cork the week before, they were 18 points better off than Roscommon here to pick up their very first points in Super 8 history, giving them a nice confidence boost ahead of Dublin's visit to Healy Park next Saturday night and also making their scoring difference very healthy indeed, should it be required.

With an average score of just slightly over 24 points from their Championship games this season, they will certainly feel their attack - which let them down so appallingly last August in the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin - is now accumulating the kind of tallies to trouble the All-Ireland champions.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte stressed, however: "You don't end up with that kind of margin without working hard.

"Our players worked their socks off out there.

"I think it was good for them. It gave them the chance to use up all their energy and see what they had in them when they had to go all out."

No one worked harder than Niall Sludden, who buried the first goal past Colm Lavin's near post. He had forced the turnover, slapping down an Enda Smith crossfield ball, and arching his run around the back of the Roscommon defence to get on the end of a lovely weighed Cathal McShane pass and finish the move.

You cannot pinpoint one particular quality as the difference between the sides. Tyrone had too much quality in all the positions for that, but the gap in terms of running power and aerobic fitness was alarming.

After going in 1-10 to 0-6 ahead at the break, Roscommon hopes were raised in the third minute of the second half when Enda Smith got clear on a patch of grass to gallop through and collect his second goal in a week, Tyrone's defence left exposed by pushing up on the Roscommon kick-out just prior.

Panicking Padraig Hampsey into over-running it, forcing Mattie Donnelly into stumbling over the sideline and a turnover on Sludden soon followed in the next few minutes but Tyrone, with a slight alteration in tactics and Richie Donnelly being serviced with early ball, did the telling damage on the scoreboard.

The second goal was again engineered by a McShane pass, this time coming off the shoulder of Donnelly, who is really developing in his novel role of full-forward, thriving when Tyrone kicked long, particularly in the second half.

This time it was Conor Meyler who got the chance and again went low past Lavin.

"He's a physical presence," said Harte of Donnelly's new role.

"He has a lot of things that are really useful for that position. So he's seizing his opportunity with both hands at the minute."

The third goal came from a Peter Harte penalty and the final one ended with Donnelly palming a move to the net with the final play of a game in which Roscommon were hopelessly outclassed. It could be a long month for them with Donegal up next and Dublin in the final game.

"We certainly think we are better than we showed out there today," Rossies manager Kevin McStay said.

"Are Tyrone as good as they showed? It was just a non-contest unfortunately, everything we didn't want it to be.

"It's so hard to play against Tyrone when that gap gets out to six or seven. The system, they are hugely comfortable with, the belief, and once that gap emerged.

"Their athleticism and conditioning is a good touch ahead of ours."

Two areas of concern to Tyrone may be the knocks to Cathal McCarron and Colm Cavanagh. Of the two, McCarron's may be the worst and he will have to go for a scan, while Cavanagh's seemed to be an impact injury on his shin, which he can recover from.

However, the panel depth is getting there. Three substitutes registered on the scoresheet while Ronan O'Neill set up fellow replacement Hugh Pat McGeary to be bundled over for a penalty. Four defenders scored. It's hard to pick out the negatives this side of the weekend. Ask us after next Saturday.

Still, the Tyrone defence seems a more balanced unit this season with Michael McKernan and Frank Burns in there, two very polished defenders and Padraig Hampsey has brought his midfield form from Coalisland onto the county scene.

Tyrone still need something out of this weekend's game against Dublin or away to Donegal on August 5, but already Harte was looking forward to Healy Park on Saturday.

"It is something special, no doubt about it," he said.

"We could have been out of it altogether on the day we played Meath in Navan. We might not have been in this place at all.

"So we used some of our luck up that day. And then I think we learned to build on that. Sometimes you get an opportunity.

"It's very fine line between a degree of success and a huge failure. We have a degree of success at this stage and we'd like to keep it going a while longer."

They go into it red hot. Twelve of the last 16 scores belonged to Tyrone.

They had swallowed Roscommon whole long before they began resting players. They will more to chew on next week when they assemble on the Gortin Road.

"We can't be saying much about what we're doing until we meet the acid test and the acid test is coming to Omagh next week," said Harte.

Dublin blew a lot of dirty diesel out of the system in their win over Donegal. Some believe they are vulnerable, especially with Diarmuid Connolly spending the summer in Boston. That remains to be seen.

There won't be a spare ticket going at Healy Park on Saturday.

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