All eyes are now on Derry after Mourne men mastered

Allianz Football League Division 2
Roscommon 1-18 Down 0-10

Manager Anthony Cunningham is aiming for a minimum of two wins from the team’s remaining three league games as Roscommon’s impressive promotion drive continues.

  Cunningham wasn’t calling on hyperbole when he described the upcoming game against league leaders Derry as “a huge test”. He knows it’s a crucial fixture, one which could have a big bearing on the promotion race.

  The Roscommon manager was understandably pleased with his team’s comfortable win over Down in Newry last Saturday.

  “We played some great football. We produced some good moves and a lot of our players were very good. Colm (Lavin) was excellent and he made a few good saves…overall it was a good effort from all the lads and a great bounce back after the draw (against Clare) last weekend”.

  Cunningham also hailed his midfielders. “The experience that Eddie (Nolan) has had over the past few years is really coming to the fore right now and it is fantastic to see Ultan (Harney) getting a run without any injuries. He is a fine footballer and both of them compliment each other well.

  “We are in a good position now but we still have a lot of work to do. We have to win at least two out of our last three matches (to be promoted) so we have to continue to work hard. Derry next will be a huge test but we will prepare hard for that now” he concluded.

  It may have been the longest journey on their league itinerary, but Roscommon footballers chose this sojourn to Newry last Saturday night to produce their best performance of the campaign. Their win puts them in a super position with three rounds of games left.

  On a blustery but dry night, Anthony Cunningham’s men set about their task with a huge work rate and intensity and some of their attacking football, especially in the opening half, was a treat to behold. The big crowd of travelling Rossies roared their approval accordingly.

  Donie and Enda Smith, Conor Cox, Cian McKeon, Brian Stack, Richard Hughes and Ciarain Murtagh were all outstanding, but the platform for Roscommon’s comprehensive win was built at midfield where Ultan Harney and Eddie Nolan were superb all through. They are forging a very effective partnership in the engine room which has often been a problem area for Roscommon in recent years.

  Down, still minus the Kilcoo players, started well enough, with two early points. But once Roscommon got going, the home side were overwhelmed. In the 4th minute Cathal Heneghan was fouled on his way to goal and Enda Smith planted the subsequent spot-kick in the bottom corner. Roscommon went on to play some wonderful football for the rest of the half, with Harney and Nolan majestic in midfield.

  Conor Cox (4, 3 frees) and Donie Smith (2, 1 free) tacked on great points for Roscommon, who could have scored two more goals, but Ciarain Murtagh was wide in the 17th minute and Eddie Nolan blazed over in the 21st minute. Still, two superb points from Cian McKeon and a pointed free from Donie Smith saw Roscommon go in at the break with a handsome 1-10 to 0-5 lead.

  The scoring rate slowed down in the second half but Roscommon were always in control and it will please the team management that no less than ten different players got on the scoresheet on the night.

  With the points already in the bag Anthony Cunningham used the second half to look at a number of his players off the bench, and the contribution of Keith Doyle caught the eye, with some clever play and good use of possession.

  It was an excellent display from Roscommon who now will face a huge game against high-flying Derry at Dr Hyde Park on Sunday week. However, it must be said that Down were very disappointing on the day and their status as a footballing power has sadly disappeared in recent years.