By Niall Gartland
LAST weekend’s McKenna Cup final defeat to Derry has dampened expectations ahead of the start of Tyrone’s league campaign, but one thing’s for sure – the Red Hands won’t travel to Dr Hyde Park this Sunday with any sort of inferiority complex.
Tyrone’s record against Roscommon down the years frankly couldn’t be much better. They’ve never lost a single championship date (claiming a string of victories in the last decade, in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2019), and the last time they came out second best in a league encounter against their Connacht opponents was all the way back in 2003 in Mickey Harte’s first league game as Tyrone manager.
Even their record against Roscommon at underage level speaks volumes – Tyrone claimed a deserved All-Ireland u-20 semi-final victory over the Rossies in 2015 en route to winning the title outright with many of the players involved in both set-ups set to see action this Sunday.
Two years later, Tyrone won the inauguaral All-Ireland u-17 Championship with victory over Roscommon with Darragh Canavan picking up the Player of the Match award, and there’s other applicable examples like the All-Ireland Minor Championship semi-final win back in 2013. Basically, whatever the level, Tyrone have the hex over Roscommon.
So in theory this looks like the perfect opportunity for a ‘pick me up’ after the disappointing manner of their 12-point defeat to Derry at the Athletic Grounds last Saturday evening.
For this week at least, Tyrone are a wounded animal and given the team’s strong record of bouncing back from adversity, the county’s supporters can be hopeful that there will be a positive outcome this Sunday.
Joint-manager Brian Dooher knows nothing less will suffice and he didn’t mince his words in the aftermath of their McKenna Cup final loss to the Oak Leafers.
Tyrone haven’t lost a single competitive match to Roscommon since a round one league game in 2003. They’ve never lost a championship match against the Rossies and claimed victories in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2019. Very strong underage record against Roscommon as well.
“You learn a lot from defeats, and I think we’ll learn a lot from that result.
“We have a lot to put right for next week in a very short time-frame, but you know what, that’s the challenge that’s in front of us.
“Next weekend we’ll know where we are, depending on how we fare, but we have a lot of work to do this week, there’s no point saying otherwise.”
Tyrone were missing a few players against Derry, including Darragh Canavan and newcomer Conor Cush, who were tied up with their Sigerson Cup commitments. Others sat out the McKenna Cup due to injury, but Dooher wasn’t harbouring any excuses for their Derry performance.
“The boys that we have are the boys that deserve to start, they have trained really hard. They’re still quality players.
“We need to get back on track again. we can say that we haven’t got this, that and whoever, but we have what we have, and I still think it’s good enough.”