Roscommon savour Red Hand raid to secure quarter-final draw against Kerry, Armagh or Donegal

This was not in the Sam Maguire script. Roscommon came to Omagh craving the county’s first ever championship win over Tyrone. A relatively small army of Rossie diehards made the long trip, obviously not expecting too much.

How wrong they were.

This qualifies as Davy Burke’s finest 70 minutes in his two years at the helm.

After a desperately poor league and very little hint of an improvement since, Roscommon came to Tyrone’s citadel and conquered.

They did so on the back of a superlative first half, bequeathing a six-point interval lead.

Tyrone’s desperation after an admittedly woeful first half was to empty the bench, bringing on three subs including midfielder Conn Kilpatrick, who had been cleared to play only on Friday night after the Central Appeals Committee quashed a two-match ban.

To their credit, largely prompted by the sublime cut and thrust of Darragh Canavan, the hosts starting eating into the Rossie lead.

But it took them until the 64th minute to eventually edge within a point, after Michael McKernan’s excellent strike from the right wing.

That was as close as they came. Canavan had already landed three points including two from play after the break, but his eye-catching effort from the wing curled tantalisingly wide of the far post.

Reprieved and relieved, Roscommon hit back with a superb point of their own. Advancing ‘keeper Conor Carroll played a clever foot pass inside to Daire Cregg, who crowned his own magnificent display by shooting, left footed on the turn, high and handsomely over Niall Morgan’s bar.

That proved the final score, securing a two-point victory that was wildly celebrated by those Rossies who had made the journey.

It means their season has extended by another week: they will face either Kerry, Armagh or Donegal in the quarter-final draw, to be made on Monday morning.

Both teams arrived in Healy Park on the back of badly-needed victories last weekend, Tyrone against Cork (securing back-to-back SFC wins for the first time since 2021) and Roscommon in their de facto third-place play-off against Cavan.

It was only their second win in 11 games all season, after which Burke declared: “You hear a lot of rubbish about what’s going on in the camp. So I’m delighted for the players … I’m glad they might have shut a few people up for a while.”

And not for just one week either.

They were backed by the first half breeze, but that wasn’t the reason they led by 0-9 to 0-3 at the break.

Striking the perfect balance between swarm defence and breaking fast on the counter, the visitors made the 2021 All-Ireland champions look worse than ordinary.

Tyrone actually struck first, a sharp fisted point from Seán O’Donnell after five minutes. But by the time Darren McCurry struck a tasty effort off his weaker right, a further 13 minutes had passed during which the Rossies had rattled off six eye-catching points from play.

Donie Smith started the onslaught before Conor Cox intercepted a short Niall Morgan kickout to edge his team ahead. There followed a further necklace of points from Diarmuid Murtagh; Cox at the second attempt after hitting the upright from an easy free, only to be gifted back possession by Pádraig Hampsey; and then another brilliant brace from Smith, bringing his haul to three inside 16 minutes.

Tyrone were paying a heavy price for a mixture of running into congested traffic around the Roscommon ‘D’ and errant shooting from frees and play – by half-time they were leading the wide count 8-1, the first Rossie wide only arriving in stoppage-time via Smith.

They already led by six, and it might have been more if Murtagh had off-loaded instead of going for glory himself, Morgan making the save. Tyrone duly went straight down the field only for Ciarán Daly to spurn his own goal chance, shooting agonisingly wide.

Tyrone were a team transformed on the restart, but Murtagh and Cregg (with 0-2 apiece) and Smith (with his fourth from play) did enough to keep their noses in front – and create a little piece of history after a difficult season.

Scorers – Roscommon: D Smith, D Murtagh 0-4 each, C Cox (1f), D Cregg 0-3 each. Tyrone: D McCurry 0-5 (4f), D Canavan 0-3 (1f), S O’Donnell, E McElholm, B Kennedy (1m), M McKernan 0-1 each.

Roscommon: C Carroll; R Dolan, N Higgins, R Dolan, D Murray; E McCormack, B Stack, R Fallon; D Ruane, S Cunnane; U Harney, D Murtagh, E Smith; D Cregg, C Cox, D Smith. Subs: R Daly for Ruane (44), C Lennon for McCormack (48), N Daly for Harney (59), A Glennon for Cox (64), K Doyle for Murtagh (inj 70).

Tyrone: N Morgan; B Cullen, P Hampsey, N Devlin; N McCarron, M McKernan, M O’Neill; B Kennedy, M Donnelly; C Daly, R Canavan, C McShane; D McCurry, D Canavan, S O’Donnell. Subs: C Kilpatrick for O’Neill (ht), E McElholm for R Canavan (ht), P Harte for Cullen (ht), K McGeary for Daly (59), S O’Hare for McShane (64).

Ref: D Coldrick (Meath)

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