CHAMPIONS! – U-21 Hurlers end 40-year wait!

All-Ireland B U-21 B Hurling Final Roscommon      0-13 Kerry                  0-8 Roscommon’s U-21 hurlers powered to victory over Kerry by a five-point margin to lift the All-Ireland B title in Semple Stadium, Thurles last Saturday. The win is another giant step in the revival of Roscommon’s hurling fortunes this year and is the first time in 40 years that Roscommon have won a title at this grade.   The victory is a tribute to the great work that has been carried out by David McConn and his management team since the start of the year and it is a big boost to the Roscommon senior team as they prepare to face Armagh in the Nicky Rackard Cup Final this Saturday in Croke Park.   The first half was a rather undistinguished affair with Roscommon more than holding theirn own against a fancied Kerry outfit but it was in the second half that Roscommon really shone. They seized the initiative and with captain Michael Kelly leading by example in  midfield Roscommon never allowed Kerry any latitude and in the end they were the comfortable winners.   In a match played on the magnificent Semple Stadium pitch, the sides were tentative in the early stages. Tim Hanafin scored Kerry’s first point in the 3rd minute from a free but Roscommon were level within a minute when Enda Rogerson was on target with a 40 metre free.   Hanafin edged Kerry in front again in the 6th minute before Aidan Sweeney got a smart point for Roscommon from play in the 10th minute and three minutes later the quicksilver Johnny Moran squeezed over a neat point from a tight angle to give Roscommon the lead that they never relinquished.   In the 16th minute the excellent Michael Kelly  drove over a 60 metre free and although Hanafin grabbed another pointed free in the 17th minute Kelly was on target again with a ’65  three minutes later.   Kerry were very reliant on the freetaking of Hanafin, who pointed again from a free in the 23rd minute. Kelly was on target with another 65 (in the 29th minute) before Alan Dineen got Kerry’s final point of the half from play (in the 32nd minute) to leave Roscommon ahead by 0-6 to 0-5 at half-time.   Roscommon came out from the dressingrooms in very determined fashion on the resumption and they drove forward at the Kerrymen. Rogerson scored a 5th minute free to extend Roscommon’s lead before Sweeney extended the lead again with a good point from close range.   In the 12th minute Gary Fallon scored an excellent point on the run and now Roscommon led by four. Kerry then experienced a mini-revival when Gerry Wallace and Darren Dineen grabbed two points in a row in the 15th and 17th minutes but Roscommon steadied the ship again.   Kenny Doolin and Kelly were dealing with everything that was thrown at them around the middle and a Rogerson free and another mighty ’65 from Kelly got the Rossies back on track.   Hanafin’s pointed free in the 22nd minute gave the Kerrymen hope but Roscommon closed the deal in impressive fashion. Firstly there was a point from Cathal Kelly (23rd minute) and then it was fitting that the final point was scored by the game’s best player, Michael Kelly – two minutes from time – this score a mighty drive from 60 metres.   The final whistle brought great joy to the Roscommon players, officials and fans alike as a 40-year gap had been bridged in impressive fashion.   Roscommon had many great performers on the day. Mark McLoughlin was a tower of strength at full-back while outside him Kenny Doolin was master of all he surveyed. Beside Doolin Alan Creavin was quick and decisive and had a great game overall.   The aforementioned Michael Kelly was a colossus at midfield and is surely a Roscommon hurling great of the future. Johnny Moran was quick and elusive at wing-forward while Enda Rogerson was unerring from the placed ball and Aidan Sweeney and Joe Fallon were also impressive in the attack.   Since the start of this year Roscommon have won the National Hurling League Division 3 and  now the All-Ireland U-21 B title – and the third leg of the treble awaits in Croke Park on Saturday. The wind is firmly on the back of Roscommon hurling now. Let’s hope it stays there for another few days at least! Roscommon: Mark Miley; David Loughnane, Mark McLoughlin, Brendan Mee; Kevin Carty, Kenny Doolin, Alan Creavin; Gerry Fallon, Michael Kelly (capt.) (0-5, 3 65s, I free); Johnny Moran (0-1), Cathal Kelly (0-1), Enda Rogerson (0-3,  frees); Gary Fallon (0-1), Joe Fallon, Aidan Sweeney (0-2). Subs: Padraig Kelly for Carty, C. Melia for Fallon.   Kerry: TJ Stack; P. Twomey, J. Godley, E. Dunne; N. Roche, M. Quilter, D. Walsh; M. Lynch, A. Dineen (0-1); D. Dineen (0-1), M. Boyle; T. Hanafin (0-5, all frees); C. McElligott, A. Kelly; J. McCarthy. Subs: J.  Flaherty, J. Wallace (0-1), F. Keane. Referee: D. O’Driscoll (Limerick).  Match at a glance Player of the match: On a great day for Roscommon Michael Kelly was head and shoulders above the rest of the players, leading by example and striking over three 65s, a massive free and a monster pont from play. Truly a captain’s performance. Weather: Overcast but warm and little wind – a perfect day for hurling.The pitch at Semple Stadium must be the finest in the country. Crowd: Some of the 3,000 crowd left after the minor football match which was a pity as the vast majority were from Roscommon. Nevertheless there was a good Roscommon crowd there to cheer their side to this great  victory. There was hardly anyone from Kerry there at all. Entertainment value: Not the greatest game of hurling ever played. Roscommon played really well in the second half and were well worth their win.  Referee: Declan O’Driscoll of Limerick was hardly seen at all throughout the game, which is a good sign of a referee. There was little controversy throughout. Speaking to The Roscommon People Roscommon team manager David McConn said he was thrilled with his team’s display.    ‘I wanted us to be able to hold our own in the first half and that’s what we did, although it was very close at half-time’ he said.    ‘We played really well in the second half and I’m delighted for the lads