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Harte hails Red Hands' maturity after their Super start

Roscommon 0-13 Tyrone 0-17

Pressure on: Tyrone’s Peter Harte is tackled by Cathal Cregg and Enda Smith
Pressure on: Tyrone’s Peter Harte is tackled by Cathal Cregg and Enda Smith
Cathal McShane
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

One of the most bizarre weeks in the history of Tyrone GAA had a satisfying end as the Red Hands' controlled second-half performance, which featured five unanswered points in a 13-minute period, was enough to earn the opening two points of the Super 8s series against Roscommon.

The week began with manager Mickey Harte swiftly apologising for any offence caused when footage leaked of some Tyrone players singing 'Come Out Ye Black and Tans' on their team bus, which had stopped before an Orange march in Aughnacloy.

Asked about developments on that front after the game, Harte replied: "I think I said what I needed to say about that and I think it was well received. And I am very happy with that."

He then moved on to the other big issue of the week in appealing Peter Harte's suspension - it was overturned on Thursday night - with manager Harte unhappy that all three black cards were not thrown out.

"Yeah, I am disappointed in that. Very disappointed," he said, opening the door to perhaps another level of appeal for the two infractions that were ruled to be justified. "I think there is some capacity to appeal alright and maybe that is being considered."

The narrative going into this game was that after their 18-point mauling in the opening round in Croke Park last year to the same opposition, had Roscommon done enough work on the two key areas that then manager Kevin McStay identified; conditioning and defence?

They improved significantly on both, but Tyrone are battle-hardened to a ridiculous extent and have game smarts.

With a significant period left to play here, they were utterly on top.

Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham said: "They are very clinical on the ball. They have a hard system to break down, they are the best in the country at playing it. They sit back and counter-attack.

"Their game is to be admired but they are many, many years playing like that and they are an established, serious team.

"It was hard to cut through them. Small margins, but the unfortunate thing is I am disappointed for the fans that we didn't come out on the right side but it was there for us in certain aspects and I am disappointed we didn't get there."

Tyrone got off to a customary fast start, aided by Niall Sludden who has enjoyed a sensational return to form. He scored two and set up two others in their first five points, perhaps fired up by marker Conor Hussey who delivered an almighty drive into his shoulder before the ball was thrown in.

Three first-half frees from Cathal McShane, marked by Sean Mullooly with Conor Daly sweeping directly in front of him, was the other notable contribution to the scoreboard.

Niall Morgan's continuing excellence was in full display here.

Highlighted as someone who has mastered all the modern aspects of goalkeeping, he excelled in the basics. When Niall and Ronan Daly knitted together a chance for Cathal Cregg to get a shot on goal on 15 minutes, Morgan got his knees to the ball.

That was bettered by the second save of the first half when Enda Smith horsed through the tackles to unleash a shot, with the Edendork man getting a strong hand to it.

Roscommon, roared on by a boisterous home crowd craving a good start to the Super 8s series, were not so much hanging on but keeping tight to Tyrone's coattails, despite the Red Hands benefiting from the breeze in the first half.

They shot their first and only wide of the half on 26 minutes but dropped two Conor Cox frees short of the goal as they went in at half-time 0-8 to 0-6 adrift.

A Diarmuid Murtagh point straight from the second half throw-in brought Roscommon to within a point. Tyrone stretched it back out to three with a free from their new talisman McShane and a smart point from Darren McCurry, but another flurry from the Rossies, Cox and Murtagh pointing frees and Shane Killoran floating another over, cut the lead to the minimum again on 46 minutes.

That was as good as it got. Roscommon might have worked hard on their conditioning over the winter and spring into the summer, but Peter Donnelly's work in Tyrone has been building blocks over the course of years.

The Connacht champions grew weary as Tyrone reeled off their decisive run of five consecutive points.

They could have been buried altogether with a Peter Harte bullet of a shot that came out of nowhere, bouncing on the line before spinning away to safety.

Manager Harte said: "It goes with the maturity of how the modern game has to be played. When you have a lead, yes you want to attack and add to it but you can't be reckless in doing that, particularly if the opposition are back in numbers.

"You ought not to go into the nest until the time is right and that is where the maturity comes in. Can you bide your time until you make sure it is the right time and break?

"I think we have a number of players that can do that."

Four points in it at the end. A fair margin.

"I think that is the difference, they have been on the road for a while now," Harte added.

"They have been gradually building to become a more composed side, a more mature side and the evidence is on days that really matter."

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