Grand Slam win followed by tasty Tralee encounter

PAUL HEALY: View from the sitting room

‘As so often in this campaign, Roscommon resembled an impressive vehicle that chugs unconvincingly when started, only to finally run smoothly’

As I wasn’t travelling to Kerry last weekend, I was grateful for the excellent TG4 option, not to mention The World According to Willie. (Many people opt for a combination of the two: pictures via TG4 (GAA Beo), and passion via Willie on Shannonside).

Once 5 o’clock came on Saturday, it was Operation Live Sport. The fun began with the massive Ireland-England game in The Aviva, the Grand Slam at stake. I was hoping for a spectacular treble – Ireland, Leeds, Roscommon (relegation-threatened Leeds were away to Wolves).

It was entirely predictable that we would be faced with a fired-up England, smarting from the previous weekend’s hammering by France. The prospect of spoiling the Irish party-in-waiting must have been a great incentive for England. To their credit, they really threw everything at Ireland, the men in green just 10-9 ahead well into the second half. But this Irish team has incredible reserves of mental strength, as well as great talent and phenomenal squad depth. Almost inevitably, our heroes powered to victory, claiming a fabulous Grand Slam.

Down in Tralee, the Rossies were arriving for their Allianz Football League clash with All-Ireland champions Kerry. At Molineux, Leeds were keeping the wolves from the door, eventually prevailing in an incident-packed game.

In Austin Stack Park, the early one-way traffic threatened to darken the day’s sporting mood. Roscommon went 1-3 to 0-0 behind. The goal came from David Clifford, who was more or less unmarked, two Roscommon defenders the wrong side of the lethal marksman.

The fear was that Roscommon might be outclassed,  and well beaten. However, Davy Burke’s team are made of sterner stuff. A few seasons ago, Roscommon suffered some heavy defeats in Division One, and later in the Super 8s. It was all part of their development. This season, we’ve been competitive in every single game against elite opposition, which is very encouraging.

As so often in this campaign, Roscommon resembled an impressive vehicle that chugs unconvincingly when started, only to finally run smoothly. In the second half, they more than matched Kerry, albeit with most  Roscommon scores coming from frees.

More than once, Roscommon closed the gap to two, and an unlikely win or draw seemed possible. Kerry were under pressure, Roscommon having moved up a gear or two. Then the home team came with a late burst, moving five clear. Entering time added on, that seemed to be that. Then a small plot twist, Roscommon winning lots of possession and driving forward, Kerry resorting to fouling. Two Roscommon points left a goal in it. In a final attack, Cian McKeon wriggled into a crowded goalmouth. Amidst a mass of flailing legs, the Boyle man fell. I strained my gaze on TG4 replays and thought it was a ‘Kerry leg’ that had been surreptitiously diverted backways by a player who was facing the opposite way to McKeon. I couldn’t be sure. ‘No penalty’ was the referee’s call. Kerry players celebrated with a fervour which was a compliment to Roscommon.

Kerry won by 1-12 to 0-12. Roscommon appear to have ‘won’ another season in Division One, which is a grand GAA slam for Davy Burke and his players.

The fate of Leeds? It’s in the lap of the Gods (and Jeff Stelling).