CON-quered at Croker

O’Callaghan & Co too strong for Rossies

Allianz NFL Division One: Dublin 1-19 Roscommon 1-12

Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan (man of the match) in action against Brian Stack of Roscommon during the Allianz NFL Division One match between Dublin and Roscommon at Croke Park last Saturday evening. Pic: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Roscommon are now very much in the middle of a Division One relegation dogfight following a seven-point defeat at Croke Park last Saturday night. It was a much-improved performance from Davy Burke’s men, but a very strong second-half display from All-Ireland champions Dublin saw them over the line comfortably in the end.

Roscommon could point to a number of key incidents that went against them during the game. In the 18th minute Daire Cregg’s handpassed effort brushed off the hand of Dublin defender Sean MacMahon on its way into the Dublin net. A goal should have been given, but the umpires decided otherwise and a free out was awarded.

Two minutes earlier Roscommon had claims for a penalty turned down when James Fitzpatrick seemed to be pushed to the ground in the large square. In the 58th minute, sub Conor Cox was clean through one on one, but his shot came off David O’Hanlon’s legs and went over the bar. A goal then would have put Roscommon back in the game, but it was not to be.

As manager Davy Burke said afterwards, Roscommon are having no luck in terms of such key decisions. However, it has to be said that Dublin were the better side overall. They dominated the second half and they themselves missed at least two clear goal chances in the final quarter. They also kicked 12 wides, many from very scorable positions.

On a perfect evening for football, Dublin began as if they were going to steamroll their way to an easy victory. After only ten minutes they led by 0-4 to 0-1, with Con O’Callaghan showing his class at full-forward.

When Roscommon got going, Enda Smith, Daire Cregg and Eoin McCormack were excellent as the visitors got a foothold. James Fitzpatrick and Cregg kicked two great points to narrow the gap to one by the 16th minute.

Scores from Cregg, Diarmuid Murtagh and Enda Smith (2) kept Roscommon ticking over and they were level with the Dubs on the stroke of half-time.  Then a mighty effort from Brian Fenton in injury-time from 50 metres out saw the home side go in leading at the break by 0-8 to 0-7.

The Dubs were very wasteful in attack in that first half as they kicked no less than eight wides. Roscommon were far more economical, kicking just two.

Dublin were much more clinical after the break. Fenton was having another brilliant game at midfield, while Con O’Callaghan was a constant thorn in the Roscommon rearguard as the Dubs adopted a more direct approach.

By the 50th minute they led by 0-12 to 0-8. The goal they had been threatening came in the 55th minute. Sean Bugler made the initial run. He found Brian Fenton and he in turn passed to sub Niall Scully who fisted home, the Dubs now ahead by 1-13 to 0-9.

In fairness to them, Roscommon never gave up the ghost, but they were well beaten in the middle of the field, ensuring that the Dublin attack saw plenty of the ball. Enda Smith was superb all through and when the All-Star bundled the ball into the net in the 64th minute there was a glimmer of hope for the Rossies. But Dublin went straight down the field and points from O’Callaghan and Fenton closed the door once again.

It was a much better performance from Roscommon than we saw against Tyrone and Galway, but it didn’t yield any league points. Eoin McCormack, Enda Smith, Daire Cregg and James Fitzpatrick did well for Davy Burke’s men on the day. Now Roscommon must quickly turn their attentions to facing Monaghan this Sunday at Hyde Park. It is a game that Roscommon simply have to win if they are to have any chance of avoiding relegation to Division Two.

Everyone connected to the team will be hoping that there is some respite on the horizon with regard to injuries. Roscommon can ill-afford to be without the likes of Ben O’Carroll, Keith Doyle, Ultan Harney, Ronan Daly and Tadhg O’Rourke. When you add in the fact that Ciaráin Murtagh, Conor Daly and Cian McKeon are not on the panel at present, it represents a huge turnover of players in a short space of time.