Burke building towards Mayo date

Win over Armagh maintains league momentum

Allianz National Football League Division One

Roscommon 1-12 Armagh 0-12

Davy Burke and his players have more work to do in the Allianz National Football League, but the ebullient Roscommon manager admits that much of his focus is now moving towards the big championship date with Mayo on Easter Sunday.

Roscommon’s phenomenal start to the league campaign continued apace at Dr Hyde Park last Sunday when another rousing second-half performance saw Burke’s men sweep past Armagh for their third win in a row. This latest victory not only sees Roscommon sit proudly on the top of the table, more importantly it means Division One football is almost a certainty for next season as well.

Roscommon’s Conor Daly tries to get the ball from Armagh’s Andrew Murnin during last Sunday’s Allianz League Division One match in Dr. Hyde Park. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

Little wonder that Burke is now adopting a dual approach – maintaining league momentum, while also focussing more than ever on that Mayo fixture.

“It’s brilliant, a top class position to be in” the manager told the Roscommon People moments after Sunday’s final whistle.

“They’re a brilliant bunch of lads, so now we can maybe look forward to Connacht. I’m trying to pick up to 25 players for Mayo on Easter Sunday. The lads know that. Niall Kilroy, Cian McKeon, Cian Connolly and Feargal Lennon are back, so these guys are going to be getting game time”.

As to Sunday’s performance, Burke hailed yet another decisive second-half improvement.

“I wasn’t impressed at half-time. I thought we were extremely poor in the first half. Our shot selection was very poor. We couldn’t break down a blanket defence, which is all we do in training. I was disappointed with that, and I let them know about it at half-time. I think you saw a different team in the second half”.

The Kildare native was full of praise for the way his players responded.

“I thought that Ben O’Carroll really stood up. Diarmuid Murtagh was class for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half. People look and wonder why Diarmuid is coming off. The tank is empty, his job is done, move on and get the other man in”.

Murtagh wasn’t the only player with an ‘empty tank’ in a ferociously hard-working Roscommon team. Every player contributed to the win, with Robbie Dolan, Brian Stack, Keith Doyle, Conor Daly, Enda Smith, Ben O’Carroll and sub Richard Hughes all outstanding.

In a cagey first half, Roscommon – with the strong wind at their backs – struggled to make inroads against a very impressive Armagh defence. The Orchard County led 0-6 to 0-3 after 26 minutes, corner-forward Jason Duffy causing havoc with four super points from play.

Roscommon improved, points from Ciaráin Murtagh, Enda Smith and Ciarán Lennon steadying the ship. Rian O’Neill, who always looked dangerous, fired over two late points and Armagh led 0-8 to 0-7 at half-time.

Roscommon were a different team on the resumption, tackling hard in defence and now much more direct going forward. Points from Diarmuid Murtagh (2) and Ben O’Carroll saw the home side lead by two.

A goal was always going to be vital in a tight game. So it proved. It arrived in the 51st minute when the excellent Ben O’Carroll was hauled down by Barry McCambridge, Enda Smith scoring from the resultant spot-kick to put Roscommon four points up at that stage, and into the driving seat.

Armagh laid siege on the Roscommon goal late on, but the home defence stood firm. Roscommon could have scored a second goal in injury-time, but Conor Cox was denied by a brilliant save from Ethan Rafferty. Seconds later Rian O’Neill was through on the Roscommon goal but Keith Doyle dragged him down at the expense of a black card.

When Ben O’Carroll lofted over the final score of the game in the 7th minute of injury-time, the roar from the Roscommon fans was deafening. Another superb win, a terrific atmosphere, and a very memorable day in Dr Hyde Park.

Surrounded by hundreds of fans after the game, a beaming Davy Burke was taking it all in. “Look at the people around here, the buzz and the energy…it’s just a class feeling”.