Bullseye! Roscommon youths strike All-Ireland gold again

Last Saturday Roscommon County Darts lived one of its greatest moments as the young darts players of the county captured a third All-Ireland title in five years. Roscommon’s win came after 12 long hours of skill, effort and determination – and with that came the usual moments of nervous tension and agony associated with the sport of darts.    Unlike the last two years there was to be no ultimate agony for the Roscommon lads this time, making up for the losses endured in the past two finals, in ’06 and ’07.    Held in The Springhill Court Hotel in Kilkenny City, the Championships attracted 22 teams and as many as 120 young players from all corners of the country. Counties were fortunate enough in having the advantage of fielding two or three teams under the same flag. Roscommon were in position to enter two teams with players from the Ballaghaderreen, Loughglynn, Lisacul, Ballinaheglish, Castleplunkett and Rockfield areas of the county – all players representing their county impeccably.    The Roscommon team, managed by Luke Concannon and captained by his son David, landed the much-coveted overall prize.    Right from the word go they set a very good pace with an early 5-0 win over Kildare B. A 4-1 victory over Mayo and another 5-0 over Dublin C guaranteed progression to the knockout stages.    In the final game of the group Kilkenny beat Roscommon 3-2 in a cracking match. David Concannon and Ray Finan were beaten in the first two games. Mark Finneran and Thomas Concannon then levelled. In the deciding game Gary Concannon was very unfortunate to have been beaten 2-0 missing several doubles to win in both legs.       Limerick proved tough opposition at all stages of the quarter-final clash. Limerick won the first game as David Concannon was beaten 2-0. Thomas Concannon and Mark Finneran earned Roscommon the lead and an impressive Gary Concannon ended Limerick’s challenge with a fine 2-1 win.    A much-improved (on recent years) Kildare team came closer to fulfilling their ambitions this year as they nearly put an end to Roscommon’s hopes in the semi-final. David Concannon was beaten 2-0 by John McKenna, who won with a 14-dart-leg. Thomas Concannon and Mark Finneran – not for the first time – recovered the situation to put Roscommon 2-1 up. Gary Concannon unfortunately failed to put away his doubles in game four. He was beaten 2-1 by his opponent.    Ray Finan was now left with the unenviable task of putting Roscommon in the final. Loughglynn lad Finan got off to a good start and took the opening leg with a flurry of steady scores and a crisp checkout. Kildare took the second leg to level but Finan started the third and final leg with a 140 to open up a decent gap. However his finishing when he got to it was not as crisp as his opening leg and Kildare found themselves with six darts for the match. Amid the growing tension it was on his third dart, a double 1, that Ray Finan put Roscommon into their fifth successive final.   Unlike the group stage game where Kilkenny won 3-2, the final was to be short and sweet. David Concannon in his last game as an U-18 player finished with a superb and dominant 2-0 win over Kevin Mulally. That was followed by another 2-0 win from Thomas Concannon who ended his outstanding day unbeaten.    The first opportunity of wrapping up the match fell to an inspirational Mark Finneran who pulled off one of the best performances ever seen from a Roscommon Youth in any tournament. His opposition was talented Irish Number 1 Youth Patrick Meaney. Meaney took the first leg aided by a 180 and a 60 checkout. The Kilkenny player took a decent lead in the second but failed to finish the leg, missing an uncharacteristc seven darts at doubles. Finneran made no mistake in his finishing, punishing him with the most beautiful 120 checkout to level. In what was to be the Chamionship-winning leg Mark went score for score with his more experienced opponent. In a leg that included 3 tons, he struck a priceless 98 checkout under pressure in a 17-dart-leg to win the title for Roscommon.    Presentations were made by I.N.D.O. Officials Tom Keogh and Kieran Corbett to the beaten finalists and the winning Roscommon team.      Managed by Sean Fleming Roscommon’s B team had a host of new faces for the future and enjoyed a good tournament, although missing out on qualification to the knockout stages by four points. Wins in the group stages over Cork C (3-2), Tipp B (3-2), and Cork B (4-1) were all deserved. But two defeats of 4-1 to Dublin and Donegal prevented progress this time round. Kevin Fleming was in flying form with four checkouts over 50 on the day, winning three out of his four games.     The win means that Roscommon continue to lead the way in producing quality young darts players of national standard year after year. Since 1999 young players of Roscommon have participated in 6 All-Ireland Youth Championship finals, winning 3. This is added to the 3 West Coast Challenge titles from the past 6 years.    This year’s captain David Concannon has now joined a long list of players who having had a successful youth spell must now play senior darts. All other Roscommon players involved in the weekend’s action are eligible next year, and will now know what that winning feeling is like, and how hard it can be to get it. The massive effort put in week in, week out by all 12 players, and their managers has been rewarded.   Mark Finneran, Sean Fleming and both Gary and David Concannon will be looking for further rewards having qualified for the Irish U-21 team to participate in the 4 Nation Youth Friendship Trophy in England in May.      Roscommon County Darts wishes to thank Hannon’s Hotel, Roscommon Town and Roscommon Sports Partnership Ltd. for their kind sponsorship of the Roscommon County Youths Team. A word of thanks also goes to all the travelling support who turned up in Kilkenny on Saturday. Much appreciated.    The entireity of Roscommon County Darts wishes to extend their sympathies to Mark Finneran and the extended Finneran family, Ballymacglancy on the death last Saturday morning of Rosaleen Condon (nee Finneran) formally of Ballymacglancy and Clonmel which occurred prior to the Championships.   Entire All-Ireland winning Roscommon panel –  Managers: Luke Concannon and Sean Fleming. Captain: David Concannon, Mark Finneran, Ray Finan, Gary Concannon, Thomas Feely, Thomas Concannon, Kevin Fleming, Damien McDonald, Chris Finan, Shane McDonagh, Darragh Kenny and Richard Coffey.   Upcoming events: Sunday, April 27th – The Martin Kelly Cup All-Ireland Open Singles. In the Church Street Station, Roscommon Town.