Composed Donegal edge game of fine margins

Allianz NFL Division One: Donegal 0-16 Roscommon 2-9

The task of remaining in Division One for Roscommon footballers, already a tough proposition, has now become an even harder task following this heart-breaking one point defeat at the hands of Donegal in this thrilling game played on the magnificent new Dr Hyde Park pitch last Sunday.

  A point from Eoin McHugh in the third minute of injury-time broke the hearts of the big Roscommon following in the crowd of 7,000 who came to see the match on a bitterly cold day. That winning point was even harder to stomach for the Rossies as just seconds earlier, Ronan Stack was through on the Donegal goal but his low shot was smothered when a point might have been the better option.

  Roscommon manager, Kevin McStay, felt his side deserved more: “It’s a tough one to take to have put so much into the game and get nothing. I can’t fault anyone on our side. We put in an outrageous effort.

  “At half-time it wasn’t looking good but the effort that the players put in during the second half was tremendous and we had the winning of it at the death but that’s the way it goes,” he said.

  His counterpart, Rory Gallagher praised his players’ “never-say-die attitude” as they came out on top in what was a riveting contest.

  However, it will not be much consolation to Roscommon players and management this week that this was a fine game of football and that Roscommon fought like tigers, particularly in the second half. In the end, a lack of experience and composure was a major factor in this defeat. But there was still much to admire about this Roscommon performance. It’s a steep learning curve for this young team but with several very tough games to come, a relegation dogfight now looks inevitable.

  Defensively, Roscommon coped fairly well with the Donegal threat but once again, turnovers were costly. Up front, Roscommon created plenty of chances but a little more composure will reap dividends in the games to come. Afterwards, Kevin McStay said that he was absolutely convinced that his team were well capable of playing at the highest level and if the team are to stay in Division One they will have to show the fight that we saw in the second half on Sunday last.

  Playing with the icy cold wind blowing towards the town goal in the opening half, a lead of three points at half-time looked as if it would not be enough. But the players dug in during the second half and were desperately unlucky not to have got at least a draw.

   Seanie McDermott and Niall McInerney were excellent in the full-back line while John McManus turned in his best display in a Roscommon jersey in the half-back line. At midfield, Tadgh O’Rourke and Kevin Higgins had their moments but Donegal generally held sway in that sector where the inspirational Michael Murphy dominated.

  Up front, Enda Smith, Conor Devaney and Fintan Cregg played well and it was a strange decision of take off Cregg who was giving the Donegal defence plenty of problems while he was on the field.

  Roscommon missed a number of goal chances throughout the game and while it is encouraging to see those chances being made, a little more composure is required. But it is only right that we mention the 66th minute goal from Conor Devaney. The new Dr Hyde Park pitch may have just re-opened last Sunday but it is doubtful that there will be a better goal seen at the famous old ground for a long time to come.  It was a truly magnificent effort. I know that it is scant consolation given the narrow defeat, but it was a goal fit to grace any game. It is a pity that it was not a forerunner to a famous win.

  Michael Murphy was a colossus for Donegal (as usual), he patrolled the area from the half-back line to the full-forward line and he seldom took the wrong option. Ciaran Thompson (first half), Martin O’Reilly, Eoin McHugh and Ryan McHugh were also prominent for Rory Gallagher’s men. This was a vital win for them.

  Roscommon now face a very difficult trip to Castlebar to face a rejuvenated Mayo on Saturday week. There are two ways of looking at this clash: Mayo will be under less pressure now that they have gone to The Kingdom and come back with the two points. However, they will be anxious to put down a marker for later in the summer and they will definitely be targeting this clash with Roscommon for another two points.

  Meanwhile, Roscommon have plenty of positives to take out of this defeat but the reality is that it is another two points gone and now we are going to have to win at least one game on our travels in addition to our two remaining home games now to stay up in Division One. It certainly won’t be easy.

  The new pitch is a magnificent facility and was praised by all and sundry. It was great to see a big crowd too and despite the Siberian type temperatures, there was an excellent atmosphere and it was a very enjoyable game to watch.