Bowie, pink boots and a wake-up call

PAUL HEALY – View from the Stand

‘Then came Mr. Pink Boots, with a perfectly weighted pass to Feely, who rose to claim a magnificent mark, from which he struck a great winner’

If you were a neutral, this was a thoroughly enjoyable, end-to-end game played in a great atmosphere.

Of course we’re not neutral, which is why the last quarter was extremely tense, excitement levels rising as the teams’ respective fortunes swung one way and then another.

I think my last visit to this stadium was in 2012, for a rousing All-Ireland U-21 final between Roscommon and Dublin (we were excellent that day, but lost).

As then, I was struck last Sunday by what a fine stadium O’Connor Park is. The facilities are excellent, down to the ample array of refreshments available in the shop(s) under the main stand.

The teams emerged to the always inspirational Let’s Dance (David Bowie) – and dance they did. During the warm-up (his, not mine) I wasn’t blinded by Daniel Flynn’s bright, pink boots, but I was drawn to them. Naturally, being Kildare, they were big, athletic and strong, just like Kildare teams of recent decades, if I may generalise!

The roars that greeted Roscommon immediately  established that there were far more Rossies in the crowd (of just over 7,000) than Lilywhites. A terrific welcome for Davy’s flying warriors.

The excellent Cian McKeon kicked a super early point, evidence of Roscommon’s current self-belief. But then Kildare began to pick off a few scores, while at the other end, Roscommon’s non-pink boots weren’t doing their thing.

When the Kildare goal came, it was a wake-up call, an excellent move finished with outrageous aplomb by Alex Beirne.

Kildare then had an undisciplined period which resulted in two black cards in quick succession, and a booking for a man who was lying down on the job (alleged time wasting). Glenn Ryan’s team were down to 13 men for six or seven minutes. Roscommon sensed blood. The key score of their comeback came from a familiar source.

Kildare spilt possession, Enda Smith making off with the ball and bearing down on goal with the weight of a county on his back. As ever, he was up to the task, his goal a welcome settler. Roscommon led 1-6 to 1-4 at the break.

‘If you say run, I’ll run with you’ Bowie sang as the teams lined up to resume battle. They took the singing superstar’s advice, Roscommon and Kildare going toe to toe in an enthralling second half. Every time Roscommon went two ahead – apparently finding their stride – Kildare calmly cut the deficit in half.

Kevin Feely was having a big impact for Kildare, Ben McCormack very effective too, and the ever-tricky man with the pink boots – Daniel Flynn – still has a box of tricks at his disposal.

Some Roscommon players looked tired in the final quarter, while Kildare were full of running. There was nothing in it, it’s just that Roscommon seemed a bit flat (even weary) in the warm conditions, which could be a worry ahead of this Saturday’s all-or-nothing game against Cork.

The magnificent Enda Smith scored a brilliant equaliser for Roscommon in the 73rd minute, and the draw that would have secured second place in the group seemed on. Then came Mr. Pink Boots, with a perfectly weighted pass to Feely, who rose to claim a magnificent mark, from which he struck a great winner.

Kildare deserved to win. Roscommon had an off day. I am very confident that we will beat Cork. On Saturday, Let’s Dance.