By Mike Fitzpatrick
Tyrone 2-12, Roscommon 2-8
A minute’s silence before this game out of respect for the Omagh bombing victims (it being Tyrone’s first game at Gaelic Park since the tragedy) set the tone for this relegation dogfight between two decent footballing sides who have found themselves in the precarious position of holding up the rest of the division.
The early stages of the game were very evenly contested with Ian Smith, Owen McGrath and Ross O’Callaghan grabbing points for Roscommon, and Eamon Devlin, Seamus O’Hanlon and Shane Devlin replying for Tyrone. Shane Devlin’s first point resulted from a John Burke shot that bounced back into play off the post. Burke scored a great goal only seconds later, having received the ball from a rebounded shot from Devlin, who appeared to be returning the compliment. Joe Murray punched in a goal for Roscommon after a long-distance shot from Donie Farrell was parried by the Tyrone backline. Seamus O’Hanlon scored two free kicks in quick succession to grab the lead for Tyrone, only for Richie Maher to snatch an equalizing goal for Roscommon after a long run tricking his way through the Tyrone defense, firing the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
Noel Bonner in the Tyrone goal kept his side in the game on a number of occasions, saving acrobatically from Kevin O’Brien’s snapshot at goal. Ian Smith continued his accuracy in shooting three more points for Roscommon, but the death knell for his side came when Tyrone’s Emmet Woods fired in a low cross from the right wing only to have it bundled over the line and credited as an own goal. This really appeared to take the wind out of Roscommon’s sails and Tyrone, rather than sitting back, continued to press forward in search of the points, that would clinch the game.
Some great passing movement involving Shane Devlin, Seamus O’Hanlon and John Burke saw a great point from Burke scored in the final few minutes. Devlin himself punched one over the bar and Barry Tally grabbed his sole point late in the second half. Playing football at this pace, it is hard to fathom why both sides have relegation misery rather than championship glory on their minds. With on-form players like Tyrone’s O’Hanlon and Bonner in goal, and Roscommon’s McGrath, Smith and O’Callaghan surely good times aren’t that far off for these two sides.
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Tyrone’s victory kept their heads above the icy waters of Div. II football, leaving the relegation fight involving three teams, Sunday’s opponents, Tyrone and Roscommon, and Cavan.
Tyrone lineout and scorers: Noel Bonner, Mark Daly, Phil Mallon, Peter Hannah, Barry Tally (0-1), Gary McConnell, Kevin Ryan, Seamus O’Hanlon (0-6), Damian Daly, Paul Halligan, Duke Devlin, Shane Devlin (0-2), John Burke (1-1), Emmet Woods, Eamonn Devlin (0-2). Own goal (1-0).
Roscommon: David Syms, Ollie Hoare, Andy Connellan, Donie Farrell (0-1), David Kelly, Ross O’Callaghan (0-1), Tommy Syms, Ian Smith (0-4), Owen McGrath (0-1), Joe Murray (1-0), Aidan Smith, Kevin O’Brien, Stephen Bogue, Richie Maher (1-0), Noel Kirwan (0-1).