Cunningham relishing fight for starting places

Young players show bottle as Rossies sink Cork

Allianz National Football League Division Two: Roscommon 1-13   Cork 0-10

Anthony Cunningham didn’t quite spell it out, but all the signs are that the Padraig Pearses and St. Faithleach’s players who are still recovering from rollercoaster Connacht/All-Ireland campaigns are unlikely to figure in this Sunday’s Royal showdown in Meath.

  Given that Roscommon were short so many players with the Pádraig Pearses and St. Faithleach’s contingent absent, added to the loss of Conor Cox – who was ruled out through injury – last Sunday’s win against Cork was a super result and a performance that bodes well for the rest of the year.

  Speaking to People Sport after the game, Anthony Cunningham said: “There’s a great bunch of young players coming through in Roscommon. They supplement the Smiths (Enda and Donie) and the guys that are there for a number of years, so there’s good balance there.

  The manager hinted that key absentees will be given a bit more time off.

  “We will be welcoming back the players from Faithleach’s and Pearses over the next week or two. We want everyone pushing on in the next few weeks”.

  Cunningham, who was delighted with the display against Cork, suggested that if one or more of the established players not involved last Sunday are back this weekend, they may not be certain of starting!

  “Away to Meath is going to be a big ask for us. We might have a couple of players back pushing for places but they will probably have to fight to get on (the team) now – and that’s good for us!”

  Roscommon were never really in any difficulty as they made an excellent start to their league campaign in Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday.

  On a day of strong winds and driving rain, and while playing with the elements at their backs, Roscommon did most of the damage in an excellent first-half display when they scored 1-7 without reply in an 18-minute period. It meant they enjoyed a handsome seven-point lead at half-time.

  In the second half, the Rossies proved more than capable to dealing with any Cork threat, with some excellent defending, and what looked like a tricky assignment beforehand saw a valuable two points secured, and very deservedly too.

  Cork did threaten somewhat in the opening period and led by 0-3 to 0-2 after eleven minutes, but after Donie Smith’s converted free in the 13th minute, Roscommon took over and played some great football.

  In the 14th minute, Enda Smith’s shot for a goal should have been saved by the Cork goalkeeper Micheal Martin, but he parried the ball over the line. The Rebels were in trouble. Points from Niall Kilroy, Donie Smith (4, 2 frees), and Cian McKeon saw the home side lead by 1-9 to 0-3 after 29 minutes.

  Three Cork points from Brian Hurley (2) and John O’Rourke suggested that there might be a Rebel resurgence coming in the second half, but Roscommon finished with a super point from McKeon to lead 1-10 to 0-6 at the break.

  The home side were easily able to deal with any Cork threat on the resumption. Brian Stack was outstanding at full-back and Richard Hughes was having his best game in a Roscommon jersey. Further up the field, Enda and Donie Smith were always a threat.

  Cork didn’t help their cause with some atrocious shooting in the second half. Although they cut the deficit to five with points from Mark Cronin and Brian Hurley, a superb point on the run from Enda Smith in injury-time was a fair barometer on how the game had gone.

  Brian Stack, Richard Hughes, Fergal Lennon, Enda Smith, Donie Smith and Cian McKeon were particularly prominent for Roscommon, who now prepare for a visit to Navan this weekend. It won’t be an easy assignment, but with two points safely in the bag, there is growing optimism about the campaign ahead, especially with several regulars to return over the coming weeks.