All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 2

Roscommon 3-17 Cavan 1-16

John Evans has pleaded with fans to be patient with his “wonderful” players after Roscommon footballers recovered from their much-criticised display against Sligo to defeat Cavan in their round 2 qualifier in Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday.

The Roscommon manager, thrilled with the players and the way they responded to the defeat against Sligo, rounded on the critics of the team.

“The amount of s**te that we have had to listen to in the past two weeks has been totally unfair. These lads have been working so hard and they are a wonderful bunch to work with. For God’s sake would people please ever be patient with them. Please be patient and give them breathing space. They are young and are still learning.

“There were a lot of young players out there. We went out today without our regular full-back, our centre half-back, our number one midfielder, our number one full-forward and Mark Healy too, and you still saw that Roscommon footballers have backbone and we really showed it out there today.” After that disastrous loss to Sligo in the Connacht semi-final, Roscommon got their championship campaign back on track with this well-deserved seven-point win at sunny Kingspan Breffni Park last Saturday evening.

Short several key players, Roscommon put up a big total and there were some outstanding performances on the day. It was all about getting into the next round and now Roscommon will have to travel again as they face Fermanagh in Brewster Park on Saturday next in round three.

There were many positives for John Evans out of this game. The team showed a really positive attitude and that was one thing that was missing against Sligo. Neil Collins, Seanie McDermott, David Keenan, Conor Daly, Enda Smith, Donie Shine, Cathal Cregg and Ultan Harney were all outstanding.

When you consider that Roscommon were without Mark Healy, Cathal Shine, Niall Carty and Senan Kilbride, and that Diarmuid Murtagh only came on as a sub, it is an impressive win for sure.

But before anyone gets carried away, there were flaws in this Roscommon display too. The ball was given away far too often and Roscommon struggled at midfield. Despite having numerical advantage for the entire second half it was only in the last five minutes that Roscommon pulled away.

Cavan were a poor side on the day and Roscommon will have to improve significantly if they are to trouble any of the big guns later in the championship. But with several players to return from injury and an eminently winnable game against Fermanagh on the horizon, Roscommon can regain the momentum which was lost during the poor display against Sligo.

The Roscommon defence played well and Neil Collins looked very assured at full-back against Michael Argue, while David Keenan at centre half-back had one of his best games in many a long day. Conor Daly was very effective on his return to the side and Donie Shine scored some great points. Cathal Cregg worked very hard all through and Enda Smith was on fire and he scored two great goals. Ciaran Murtagh continues to impress up front and Ultan Harney announced his arrival on to the senior stage in style in this game. He was my man of the match.

He worked like a trojan from the time the ball was thrown in. I was thrilled for the players and for the management that they went out and erased what was a very poor display against Sligo. A lot of work needs to be done but if Roscommon can get all their injured players back I see no reason why they can’t make the last 12 and maybe even the quarter-finals.