Dome shoot-out sees Rossies advance

Connacht FBD League semi-final

Roscommon 3-23 Sligo 0-21

A unique start to the year for Roscommon senior footballers saw them defeat Sligo by 11 points in the magnificent NUIG Connacht GAA Air Dome last Saturday night. The facility is a credit to all involved and the 300 spectators who were there on the night saw at first-hand one of the finest pieces of sports infrastructure in the country. The ability to stage a senior inter-county competitive match indoors – and in such comfort – gives an idea of the scale of the facility.

  However, the conditions are about as far removed as one could see at this time of the year outdoors. The fast underfoot conditions and the absence of any wind or rain leads to a high-scoring shoot-out, and that’s what we witnessed here. There was very little in the way of serious physical contact as the players were able to move the ball quickly through the lines on both sides.

  Nevertheless, while short several players for various reasons, Anthony Cunningham and his selectors used no less than 25 players on the night and there were some impressive performances from a number of new faces.

  Conor Carroll had a very good game between the posts and looks one for the future. St Dominic’s’ Eoin McCormack got on a lot of ball at centre half-back and did well overall, while Shane Cunnane had a good first half in the middle of the field.

  It was good to see Cathal Heneghan back in the team again and hopefully he will stay injury-free this year. Further upfield, Conor Cox was outstanding at corner-forward throughout, and Donie Smith played well in the number 14 jersey. Of the subs who came on, Enda Smith scored a brilliant goal, Keith Doyle also caught the eye at midfield, and Ben O’Carroll capped an impressive display from the Rossies with a well-taken goal in injury-time.

  Roscommon led by four points to no score within three and a half minutes, but by the 11th minute it was 0-5 to 0-4. Sligo’s Niall Murphy and Pat Hughes were giving the Roscommon full-back line plenty to think about, and Murphy in particular was rampant on the evening.

  Roscommon were always able to conjure up a couple of scores and in first-half injury-time Eddie Nolan, Cathal Heneghan and Ciaran Sugrue set up Diarmuid McGann who found the net from close range. From the kick-out, Sligo attacked at pace and when Pat Hughes was fouled by Fergal Lennon, referee Liam Devenney pointed to the spot. Niall Murphy’s effort was brilliantly saved by Conor Carroll. Half-time score: Roscommon 1-13 Sligo 0-9.

  With Murphy again to the fore, Sligo narrowed the gap to three within six minutes of the restart, but Roscommon recovered their mojo and they led by six again by the second water break.

  Both sides emptied their benches as the game went on, and the action was very stop-start for the final quarter. In the 68th minute Enda Smith scored a superb goal after a blistering 60-metre solo run, and in the 5th minute of injury-time Ben O’Carroll finished well to cap a good scoring performance from Roscommon on the night.

  Now it’s on to another FBD League final against Galway which is tomorrow night (Friday) at the same venue (6 pm). That will be another stern test ahead of the big league starting date against Cork in Dr Hyde Park on Sunday 30th of January.

Roscommon: Conor Carroll; Fergal Lennon, Colin Walsh, Niall Higgins; Richard Hughes, Eoin McCormack, Dylan Ruane; Eddie Nolan, Shane Cunnane (0-2); Cathal Heneghan (0-2), Ultan Harney, Diarmuid McGann (1-0); Ciaran Sugrue (0-1), Donie Smith (0-4, frees), Conor Cox (0-11, 3 frees). Subs: Cian McKeon (0-1) for Harney and Enda Smith (1-0) for Nolan (h/t). Ciaran Lawless for Higgins (39), Ben O’Carroll (1-0) for Sugrue (42), Aengus Lyons for Lennon (45), Brian Derwin (0-1) for Heneghan (49), Keith Doyle (0-1) for Cunnane (50), Thomas O’Rourke for McGann (66), Ronan Dowd for Ruane (69), Adam McDermott for D Smith (69).

Sligo: Eamonn Kilgallon; Eddie McGuinness, Evan Lyons, Mark Walsh; Keelan Cawley, Paul Kilcoyne, Nathan Mullen; Peter Laffey, Conan Marren; Karl McKenna, Alan Reilly (0-4), Mikey Gordon; Brian Egan (0-2, 1 free ’45), Pat Hughes (0-2, 1 M), Niall Murphy (0-13, 4 frees,’45, 1 M). Subs: Kenny Gavigan for McKenna, David Phillips for Walsh and Paul McNamara for Gordon (all h/t), Nathan Rooney for Egan (49), Oisin Kennedy for Laffey (55), Sean Taylor for Kilgannon (60), Ray Connolly for Reilly (69).

Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo).

Man of the Match: Niall Murphy (Sligo)