Armagh defeat sends Cunningham’s charges back to Division 2

Sinking feeling returns after failed Orchard raid

Allianz NFL Division One Relegation Play-off:

Armagh 1-17 Roscommon 0-11

It was a familiar tale of woe for the Roscommon senior footballers last Sunday at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh as they slipped back down to Division Two following a very disappointing performance against the Orchard County.

Speaking at the full-time whistle, Roscommon manager, Anthony Cunningham, admitted his side had lost their way after an impressive first quarter.

“It makes it harder to take, the fact that we were going very well in the first quarter and then to see how it finished up. I don’t think that’s a true reflection of our form but we have to face the music now. The positive thing is that we played at a very high level for a quarter of the match but it went wrong after that,” he said.

“The game is over now but we will have to learn massively from what happened here today ahead of the big game against Galway in three weeks’ time”.

The Roscommon manager insisted, however, that relegation to Division Two wasn’t the end of the world for his charges.

“It’s not a massive blow. We performed well in a lot of the games and today was disappointing and we will have to react to that. But there is a reaction in this group of players and we have shown that before. The big thing for us over the past year is to banish the poor performance we had against Mayo in the championship last year. We are determined to put that record straight on the 4th of July,” he said.

“We have looked at a lot of players in this league and some have picked up great experience. We have a few knocks and niggles after today but we should be ready on all fronts for July 4th. We are back training this week and we really only have two weeks’ preparation left ahead of the Galway match,” he concluded.

On a warm cloudy day and in front of a crowd of 500 (and about 50 Roscommon supporters) it was Anthony Cunningham’s team who started the better, as they tore into the home side in the opening quarter. Points from Conor Cox (mark), Diarmuid Murtagh and three from the excellent Ciaráin Murtagh (1 free) saw the visitors ahead by four points inside the opening quarter.

When Armagh’s Andrew Murnin kicked a point in the 16th minute there didn’t seem to be too much for Roscommon to be worried about, but after the first water break the complexion of the game changed completely.

Rian O’Neill kicked a great score, and almost immediately, Jemar Hall flashed over two more points and the scores were level. Roscommon were beginning to struggle and there was more to come from the home side. The outstanding O’Neill kicked a great mark over from 40 metres in the 27th minute and from the kick out, Colm Lavin’s pass was fumbled by Richard Hughes and the home side punished the error clinically with Oisin O’Neill blasting to the net.

  Hughes was taken off and his replacement Niall Daly kicked a long-range point before half-time. Having played with the strong breeze in the opening half, Roscommon were behind at the interval – 1-7 to 0-7 – and the home side were given a standing ovation by their supporters as they made their way to the dressing rooms.

The second half was controlled by Kieran McGeeney’s men, who were far more direct than Roscommon. The visitors did enjoy a fair amount of possession, but with very little in the way of penetration. In contrast, Armagh’s movement was superb and Rian O’Neill, Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan and Andrew Murnin led their effort as the scores piled up.

Conor Cox kicked a couple of good scores for Roscommon as team management emptied the bench but at no stage did it look like Armagh’s lead might be in any real danger.

The teams met last October in the league at the same venue when Roscommon were the impressive winners. This time around the tables were turned and it’s clear that Armagh are a rapidly improving side while it would sadly appear that Roscommon are going in the opposite direction.

This Roscommon team has given supporters and the people of the county some great days over the past five years and we can only hope that there are still more to come.

However, the challenge against Galway in the championship on July the 4th now looms large on the horizon. This performance would not be good enough to win that game. A huge improvement is needed in the coming weeks.