Doyle’s Day

All-Ireland SFC qualifier Kildare 2-13 Roscommon 1-13 The statistics will show that Roscommon’s senior footballers are out of the All-Ireland SFC at the earliest stage possible for the third  year in a row – but although the side was beaten twice this year the manner of those two  defeats couldn’t be more different as the Roscommon players battled for all they were worth in this very entertaining tie played at Hyde Park on Saturday evening. In the end they were unlucky not to have got something out of a game played in front of an attendance of about 5,000 people.   With one or two exceptions, the Roscommon players redeemed themselves well after the disappointment against Sligo and they fought to the bitter end, which was great to see. However they came up against a Kildare side that had in their armoury one of the best footballers in the country in John Doyle, who was literally the difference between the teams on the day. Put simply, if Doyle was playing for Roscommon then John Maughan’s men would have won easily, such was his brilliance on the day.   Roscommon can also feel aggrieved at some of the decisions of referee John Bannon – one at the end of the game in particular which saw a Kildare defender pick the ball clean off the ground in the small square. The referee waved play on despite legitimate Roscommon claims for a penalty.    However it must be said that Kildare were slightly the better team overall and with Doyle at his brilliant best they just about deserved to win this most entertaining game of championship football which was played on a beautiful evening.   In the aftermatch of the game Roscommon team manager John Maughan did not appear to be in the mood for talking so his future plans with regard to the management situation remains uncertain. However he will be happier  in the aftermath of this game in that many Roscommon players did well in their respective positions.   Kildare broke quickly from the blocks and after nine minutes they led by 0-4 to 0-1 with Cathal Cregg the Roscommon scorer in the 7th minute. Padraig O’Neill and John Doyle (3  frees) saw the Lilywhites into a commanding position.   However Roscommon got a grip at midfield from then onwards and we subsequently had a real contest on our hands. Derek Connellan kicked a great point on the run in the 14th minute and that score was followed by points from Ger Heneghan, Seamus O’Neill and Karol Mannion (a fisted effort) to leave the home side ahead after 20 minutes.   Points from Doyle and O’Neill and one from  Roscommon’s Gary Cox (free) left it 6 points each after 28 minutes. Doyle and full-forward Jason Phillips with Kildare points saw the visitors lead by two after 31 minutes but a Heneghan free a minute later kept the Rossies in touch. Then came a vital goal for Kildare two minutes before the break.   Centre half-back Mark Hogarty fielded on his own 45 metre line. He soloed unchallenged for over 75 metres before drawing the Roscommon cover and slipping the ball to John Doyle whereupon the Allenwood man crashed it past Geoffrey Claffey for an excellent Kildare three-pointer. Derek Connellan kicked a Roscommon point in the 38th minute to leave a scoreline of Kildare 1-8 Roscommon 0-8 at half-time.   The second half was very well contested with the outcome in doubt right up to the final whistle. Roscommon began that period well and points from Gary Cox and John Tiernan reduced the margin to the bare minimum. Then in the 13th minute came the score that Roscommon had been threatening. Gary Cox made excellent headway down the new stand side of Hyde Park before his pass found sub David Keenan. The young St. Barrys star found Karol Mannion with a brilliant ball and the team captain finished with aplomb after a neat sidestep.   Keenan was having a brilliant game and his introduction coincided with Roscommon’s best period. Seanie McDermott was having his usual stormer in the corner and with Anthony McDermott, Stuart Daly, Gary Cox and Seamus O’Neill revitalised Roscommon were now on a roll. It was just a pity that Cathal Cregg had to retire injured at half-time but his deputy Enda Kenny also did well.   However Kildare and Doyle just would not capitulate. Doyle kicked a magnificent point on the run in the 16th minute. Gary Cox restored Roscommon’s two-point lead in the 20th minute after a great run from Stuart Daly.    There were ten minutes left now and Roscommon led by 1-11 to 1-9. Kildare kept running hard though and wing half-back Emmet Bolton scored a vital long-range point in the 25th minute before Doyle levelled the scores in the 27th minute with another excellent point.   Gary Cox edged Roscommon ahead with a free in the 28th minute but with six minutes to go Kildare got the goal that decided the outcome.   Doyle won possession in the middle of the field and his high delivery was knocked down by Padraig O’Neill who promptly gathered the ball himself and drove it low past Geoffrey Claffey for a vital score.   Kildare were coasting now but Roscommon were given a lift when it was announced that there would be eight minutes of injury-time. However it was Kildare who got the next score, a point from Ken Donnelly, after 38 minutes and when Ger Heneghan’s close-in free reduced the margin to two in the 49th minute Roscommon had renewed hope. However Doyle pointed a free for Kildare in the 7th minute of injury-time.    Roscommon laid siege to the Kildare goal  and might have been awarded a penalty when  a Kildare defender appeared to pick the ball off the ground in the small square. However it was not to be for Roscommon and it was significant that the player to emerge from that ruck of players in the Kildare square in those dying minutes was the game’s best player, John Doyle, who was back helping his defence!   Ultimately it was defeat for Roscommon – and for the third year in a row at this stage of the championship – but this was a much better showing from the Roscommon players. Geoffrey Claffey had a great game in goals. He was tested several times with high balls -and passed with flying colours. His kick-outs were also excellent. Seanie McDermott was again Roscommon’s best player. He has been our most consistent performer over recent years and he was brilliant again on Saturday last. Anthony McDermott also did very well and he has performed well in the problem position of full-back in recent games.    Stuart Daly was also excellent in the Roscommon defence but the half-back line struggled to keep tabs on the brilliant Doyle throughout.    At midfield Seamus O’Neill and Michael Finneran did very well until they faded slightly towards the end.    Up front Gary Cox led the line well and Cathal Cregg was also doing well until he had to go off. Derek Connellan was much improved on the Sligo game too. However two Roscommon substitutes made a big impact on the game. David Keenan was marvellous when he came in for Richard Dooner. He was involved in almost every significant Roscommon move and his appetite for hard work was awesome. Definitely a star of the future.   Enda Kenny also looked the part when he came on. Even though he has done little training because of injury in recent weeks he looked assured in his role in the full-forward line.   Ultimately, as previously stated, the difference between the teams was the brilliant Kildare centre half-forward John Doyle. He scored a total of 1-8 and oozed class in everything he did.    Others to do well for Kildare were Emmet Bolton, the experienced Anthony Rainbow, Kevin O’Neill, Ronan Sweeney, Ken Donnelly and Padraig O’Neill.   So it’s another case of ‘what might have been’ for Roscommon footballers as they exit the championship for another year. What the future has in store is anyone’s guess. Will John Maughan remain in the job as manager? Will all the players who were there this season remain on for another year under the present management or under a new management regime? Questions to be answered on another day but despite the loss it was a day when  Roscommon went down – but went down fighting at least. Kildare: Enda Murphy; Eamonn Callaghan, Kevin O’Neill, Andrew McLoughlin; Anthony Rainbow, Mark Hogarty, Emmet Bolton (0-1); Ronan Sweeney, David Lyons; James Kavanagh, John Doyle (1-8, 5 frees), Ken Donnelly (0-1); Michael Conway, Jason Phillips (0-1), Padraig O’Neill (1-2). Subs: Terry Rossiter for Kavanagh, Mick Foley for Lyons, Tommy Archibald for Rossiter. Roscommon: Geoffrey Claffey; Seanie  McDermott, Anthony McDermott, Paddy O’Connor; Stuart Daly, John Nolan, Richard Dooner; Seamus O’Neill (0-1), Michael Finneran; John Tiernan (0-1), Gary Cox (0-4, 2 frees), Cathal Cregg (0-1); Derek Connellan (0-2), Karol Mannion (1-1), Ger Heneghan (0-2, 1 free). Subs: Sean Purcell for O’Connor (9 mins., injured), David Keenan for Dooner (27 mins.), Enda Kenny for Cregg (half-time, injured), David Hoey for Tiernan (68 mins.).  Referee: John Bannon (Longford).  Man of the Match: Sean McDermott and sub David Keenan were Roscommon heroes on a day of good performances on both sides. But there could only be one winner of this accolade. John Doyle has been the Kildare talisman for many years past and he did the business for his county again last Saturday. His total of 1-8 (1-3 from play) and his general display says it all about this class player. Weather: It was a perfect evening for football – a warm, dry evening after all the bad weather we have had in recent weeks. A treat to be out on such a nice day. There was a gentle breeze helping Roscommon in the first half.  Crowd: In the region of 5000 people. A disappointing turnout from Roscommon supporters because Kildare outnumbered the home crowd on the day. Good atmosphere though during an exciting second half. Entertainment value: Although it was a disapointing day for Roscommon this was an excellent game