Festive cheer for Roscommon in first game of new era

McStay & O’Donnell debut with a comfortable win
Senior Football Challenge
Roscommon 4-13 Laois 1-8

Roscommon’s first game in the public eye since Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell took the reins as joint team managers ended in a comprehensive win at Kiltoom on Saturday night against a weak Laois side in a match that doubled up as a fund-raiser for the Shalom Third World charity.

  It would be very foolish of any Roscommon fans to be getting any notions of grandeur after this win, as Laois fielded a poor side on the night. They arrived with only 16 players, and when three of their number had to go off injured, they ended the game with just 13 men.

  Roscommon took two players (John McManus and Seanie Purcell) off at that stage – to even up the numbers – and referee Niall Ward called a halt to proceedings five minutes early, which was the correct course of action to take.

  However there were a number of positives from a Roscommon point of view. Back on the team were Conor Devaney (who was excellent), Fintan Cregg, Niall Kilroy and Geoffrey Claffey. Thomas Fetherstone was tried at full-back and John McManus at midfield, and both of them played well. There were also debuts for the Michael Glavey’s pair, Gary Patterson and Shane O’Malley, who both came on as subs.

  What was very noticeable was Roscommon’s pace of play. The ball was moved from defence to attack at high speed, and the handling and fitness of the players was top drawer, with the Rossies getting some great scores throughout.

  It’s very early days yet, but the players on the panel will have another chance to show what they can do when they take on Meath in another pre-season challenge, also in Kiltoom, on Tuesday 29th December (throw-in at 6.30 pm).

  In a match which was played in almost perfect weather conditions, and before a crowd of about 500 people, Laois held their own fairly well for the first quarter, but once Roscommon opened up, it was one-way traffic.

  Roscommon’s first goal arrived in the 6th minute and was finished by Conor Devaney after seven accurate passes had smoothly opened up the Laois defence. Donie Kingston was prominent for Laois and he was always a threat, but the visitors were limited in attack and the Roscommon defence, in which Ronan Stack and Niall McInerney did well, was seldom in trouble.

  Roscommon’s second goal came in the 18th minute. It was created by Cian Connolly, who showed great skill to turn his man and bear down on goal. His shot was partly-blocked and Cathal Cregg was there to toe-poke the ball home. Donie Kingston bundled home a Laois goal in the 25th minute but Roscommon were still well ahead by half-time, 2-8 to 1-4.

  Roscommon continued to dominate on the restart and the impressive Cian Connolly scored a fine individual goal in the 45th minute. Then when Enda Smith powered home to score Roscommon’s fourth goal, in the 49th minute, the game was over as a contest and proceedings petered out after that.

  It was a good start for Roscommon under their new management team but no one will be reading too much into this result as preparations for the New Year gather momentum.

Roscommon: Geoffrey Claffey; Seanie McDermott, Thomas Fetherstone, David Murray; Ronan Stack, Seanie Purcell, Niall McInerney; John McManus, Enda Smith (1-1); Fintan Cregg (0-1), Niall Kilroy (0-2), Conor Devaney (1-0); Cian Connolly (1-3, 2 frees), Cathal Cregg (1-1), Ciaran Murtagh (0-5, 3 frees). Subs: Brian Murtagh for Murray, Gary Patterson for Stack, Shane O’Malley for McDermott.

Laois: Graham Brody; Shane Murphy, Darren Strong, Tony Connolly (0-2); Alan Farrell, Robbie Kehoe, Nigel Murphy; Jamie Farrell (0-1), Paul Kingston; Colm Murphy, Donie Kingston (1-1), Damien O’Connor; Evan Costello (0-2, frees), Gary Walsh, Rory O’Connor (0-2). Sub: Conor Delaney for C Murphy.

Referee: Niall Ward (Westmeath).