Rested stars return this week
Allianz National Football League Division 2
Roscommon 1-15 Meath 1-11
Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham will have a welcome selection ‘headache’ ahead of the team’s next outing as the in-form Rossies aim for three wins for three when they take on fellow unbeaten side, Clare.
The Padraig Pearses and St. Faithleach’s players who haven’t been involved in the league campaign yet – due to their recent respective All-Ireland club exertions – are rejoining the panel this week and will be in contention for places when Roscommon face Clare at Hyde Park on Sunday week. The suspicion is that it will be hard to drop any of the players who have done so well so far.
Cunningham, who was delighted with Roscommon’s win over Meath in Navan last Sunday, confirmed to People Sport that the rested players will be back with the squad this week.
Maintaining their excellent start to the league campaign, Roscommon withstood a late Meath rally to emerge deserved winners by four points after an incident-packed game played in very difficult conditions at Pairc Tailteann.
“We made it hard for ourselves there at the finish. It was a really solid performance for three-quarters of the match. We lost our way a bit towards the end. But when you come up here and play Meath you expect a battle and that’s what we got in the finish.
“We got some very good scores and some of our defending was very good, and the two lads at midfield did really well for long periods. The ten minutes before half-time is where the match was won”.
Over 83 minutes of action, eight yellow cards and two black cards were issued, as well as two red cards, one to Meath sub James McEntee, the other to Meath manager Andy McEntee. Throw in two goals, great saves, a melee, a nail-biting finish, and a raucous atmosphere, and it was like old times between these two great footballing counties.
Playing with the gale-force wind at their backs, Roscommon were slow to start. Conor Cox – back on the team after missing the win against Cork – and Cian McKeon opened the Roscommon scoring before Meath got a very well-taken goal from Matthew Costello after Colm Lavin had made a great save from Jordan Morris. After eight minutes, Meath led by 1-1 to 0-2.
Points from Donie and Enda Smith levelled matters by the 14th minute and a minute later Roscommon were three ahead with a great team goal. Enda Smith and Conor Cox were involved before Cathal Heneghan fisted to the net at the far post. Meath were competitive until the 20th minute, trailing by only two points (1-5 to 1-3) at that stage.
From there to the interval Roscommon played some delightful attacking football. Eddie Nolan (who had a great game at midfield) and Enda Smith (with a brilliant score) began the onslaught, before Conor Cox got in on the act with three points in 90 seconds. When Ultan Harney and Donie Smith weighed in with two more points, it was 1-12 to 1-3 to Roscommon at the break. The Meath cause was not helped when Robin Clarke got a black card for dissent from referee Jerome Henry on 35 minutes.
Conor Cox pointed two frees in the first ten minutes of the second half, and by the 45th minute Roscommon led by 1-14 to 1-4. As the expected Meath revival finally began to materialise, Roscommon went a remarkable 32 minutes without a score. In the 55th minute Conor Cox got a mysterious black card when it actually looked as if he might have been fouled in the incident in question.
Meath cut the deficit to six (two of the scores coming when Cox was off the field). Amid increasing tension, tempers were becoming frayed. In the 67th minute Meath sub James McEntee was shown a straight red card after a clash with Ultan Harney. As several players from both sides got involved in a melee, referee Henry showed a straight red to Meath manager Andy McEntee in response to his protestations.
That incident seemed to fire up the Royals, who were further encouraged when the board showed there would be eight minutes of additional time. Points from Niall Keane and two from Jordan Morris reduced the gap to a goal, 1-14 to 1-11. In a welter of excitement Roscommon cleverly worked the ball downfield and Conor Cox converted a close-range free for the ‘insurance point’.
It was a super win for Roscommon. Four points out of four is a fantastic start to the league campaign. Brian Stack, Eoin McCormack, Ultan Harney, Eddie Nolan, Cathal Heneghan, Enda Smith, Conor Cox and Donie Smith were outstanding again.
Next up now is Clare on Sunday week – and that welcome selection dilemma!