Four Roads retain SHC crown in style

Kepak SHC Final: Four Roads 0-26 Athleague 2-12

The Four Roads panel and management (and young supporters) pictured after winning the Roscommon SHC final last Sunday. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

A blistering opening quarter, which saw them lead by a whopping 0-10 to no score, helped Four Roads to sweep to their 36th Roscommon senior hurling title in Athleague last Sunday. Full credit to Athleague for running up a very decent total, but in truth they were never in with a chance of winning the Mickey Cunniffe Cup once Four Roads had established that big early lead.

To add to Athleague’s woes in that first half, midfielder Darragh Heavey was shown a straight red card by referee Matthew Farrell in the 13th minute after he clashed with Jack Donnelly. At that stage the score was 0-9 to 0-0 and it was always going to be a massive struggle from then on for Gary Fallon’s team.

On a perfect day for hurling, Four Roads, who went into this decider as the hot favourites, hit the ground running with a devastating first-quarter performance. In particular, Jack Donnelly, Padraig Kelly, Conor Coyle and Cathal Dolan were rampant as the scores piled up.

Four Roads’ Brendan Mulry in action during the Roscommon SHC final against Athleague last Sunday. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

By the 12th minute the favourites had nine unanswered points on the board, with Jack Donnelly scoring three, Padraig Kelly and Cathal Dolan claiming two apiece, and Darren Fallon and Johnny Moran with the others.

Athleague were struggling to get their hands on the sliotar and were further weakened by the loss of midfielder Heavey to that 13th minute red card. Ben McGahon knocked over a 16th minute free for their first score of the game, before Robbie Fallon got in for a fine goal in the 20th minute, reducing the margin to seven, 0-11 to 1-1. However, aided by having an extra man, Four Roads stepped on the gas again, and by half-time they led by 0-18 to 1-5.

The second half was very low-key, with a sense of inevitability about the outcome and the destination of the title. In reality, Four Roads were in cruise control. By the end of the third quarter Shane Curley’s men were ahead by 0-21 to 1-6. They had the luxury of being able to ease up in the final quarter.

Robbie Fallon drove a 25-metre free to the Four Roads net in the 47th minute, but there was never any sense that a significant comeback would materialise. Athleague were far too dependent on Ben McGahon’s free-taking for scores, and despite amassing 2-12 on the day, they were well beaten in this final. Tadhg Lyons was by far their best player, while Robbie Fallon’s two goals and Ben McGahon’s accurate free-taking kept the scoreline respectable.

Four Roads will now be eyeing up the Connacht Championship campaign. In their way will be Toureen, All-Ireland finalists from last year, and the Galway intermediate champions too. That’s for another day; there will be deserved celebrations in Roscommon hurling heartland first. Under the inspirational leadership of manager Shane Curley, Four Roads have been by far the best team in the Roscommon championship this year and they thoroughly deserve to be welcoming the Mickey Cunniffe Cup back to the parish for another winter.