CAUGHT BETWEEN ROCK AND A SOFT PLACE

Condition of Hyde Park in spotlight again as impressive Rossies rattle champions
Allianz National Football League Division One: Dublin 1-13 Roscommon 1-12

Dublin sharpshooter Dean Rock was in the mood last Sunday in the changed venue of Carrick-on-Shannon as the All-Ireland champions made it seven wins from seven games against a plucky Roscommon team.

  Dublin manager, Jim Gavin, was adamant that the late venue change didn’t upset his charges: “From the Dublin football team’s point of view it wasn’t an issue – we had an alternate plan and we just put that into place when we found out just shortly after 9 o’clock this (Sunday) morning.”

  Roscommon started well and took the lead in this absorbing contest, with Niall Daly and Ciarán Murtagh on target. The ‘home’ side were playing with energy and finding space. When Dublin arrived into the match it was devastating. Dean Rock took advantage of over-zealous Roscommon defending as he converted two frees to add to his opening score from play to edge Dublin in front after 17 minutes.

  Rock was to convert three more frees before half-time to add to a Conor McHugh effort and a well-taken score from Kevin McManamon following a pick-up and turn by McHugh that was so beautiful it made the main stand purr. Shane Carthy added a fisted point before Donie Shine responded for Roscommon.

  Sean McDermott and Cathal Cregg of  Roscommon both saw black in a first half that wasn’t particularly cynical. As the half ended with Dublin 0-9 0-3 in front, Roscommon joint manager, Fergal O’Donnell, made his views known to the officials who were booed off by the Roscommon fans.

  O’Donnell believed his charges were hard done by the referee in the first period: “I thought he was harsh on us in the first half I have to say that. I thought Seanie’s (McDermott) was a shoulder, a yellow card for rough play.”

  The second half started in much the same vein as the first as Donie Shine was denied a goal by Dublin goalkeeper Michael Savage and Conor Devanney opened the scoring, all in the first few moments. This provided encouragement and Shine set about making amends for his missed opportunity. Niall Daly fed him and Shine turned and struck a fine score.

  Suddenly Roscommon were in freeflow – Sean Purcell fed Ciarán Murtagh who struck over as the underdogs smelt blood.

  Dean Rock meanwhile was back in service giving Dublin a four-point lead with another free before Murtagh added a free of his own to leave a goal between them with 11 minutes played in a breathless opening to the second half. Dublin then entered a wasteful period as McManamon, Rock and substitute Paul Mannion all struck wides and the league leaders became guilty of over-playing the ball in scoring positions.

  Rock steadied the Dublin ship with another free after 20 minutes of the second period. Then Ciarán Murtagh pulled one back for Roscommon before a devastating Dublin passing move sent Rock through on goal. He made no mistake and provided daylight for the Dubs.

  If the sizeable Carrick crowd thought that was game over they were mistaken as two minutes later a speculative Fintan Cregg effort saw Senan Kilbride beat Savage in the Dublin goal to the punch as he fisted in a lifeline for Roscommon. John Small then blasted over for Dublin to leave the score 1-12 to 1-8 going into the last ten minutes.

  Back came Roscommon again, Donie Shine’s workrate rewarded with a huge score as his team pressed high and fought bravely for breaking ball. Cregg and Murtagh added scores either side of a Shane Carthy point for Dublin as the Roscommon resistance continued. They were even denied a goal for a square ball before Conor Devaney kicked a fine effort from a tight angle. Niall McInerney was imperious at the back and it was he who launched a last-ditch Roscommon attack in search of an equaliser. Niall Daly was hauled down within kicking range and Ciarán Murtagh lined it up as the Roscommon faithful began to pinch themselves. It wasn’t to be however, as Murtagh’s free sailed wide. The final whistle ended a palpitating second half as the Dubs held on to  maintain their perfect record.

  O’Donnell was pleased with the second-half response: “In the second half when we were 0-9 0-3 (down) we were very happy with the fightback. In the first half we turned over silly ball – that was the difference.”

  So Roscommon once again providing ample evidence that they belong alongside the finest company on a day when Down and Cork were relegated and the blue and primrose underdogs booked a semi-final date with Kerry in Croke Park.

Roscommon: D. O’Malley; S. McDermott, N. Collins, N. McInerney; D. Murray, S. Purcell, D. Keenan; N. Daly (0-1), C. Shine; F. Cregg (0-1, 1 free), N. Kilroy, C. Murtagh (0-5, 2 frees); D. Shine (0-3), S. Kilbride (1-0), C. Cregg. Subs: S. Mullooly for McDermott (black card, 26 minutes), C. Devaney (0-2) for Cregg (black card, half-time), J. McManus for Keenan (44 minutes), J. McDermott for C. Shine (51 minutes), B. Murtagh for Kilroy (56 minutes), T. Corcoran for D. Shine (64 minutes).

Dublin: M. Savage; K. O’Brien, M. Fitzsimons, D. Daly; E. Lowndes, C. O’Sullivan, D. Byrne, B. Fenton, E. O’Conghaile; T. Brady, D. Rock (1-8, 7 frees), S. B. McCarthy (0-2); P. Mannion, K. McManamon (0-1), C. McHugh (0-1). Subs: R. McDaid for O’Sullivan (half-time), P. Flynn for Brady (44 minutes), E. O’Gara for McManamon (49 minutes) J. Small (0-1) for Daly (51 minutes), C. Costello for Mannion (57 minutes), C. Kilkenny for Lowndes (black card 64 minutes).

Referee: D. O’Mahoney (Tipperary).