Hurlers hang on to head up!

Allianz National Hurling League Relegation/Promotion Play-Off: Roscommon 3-13 Donegal 4-9

A point from Ronan O’Meara in the 4th minute of injury-time gave Roscommon senior hurlers a dramatic victory against Donegal in Ballina last Saturday evening, meaning Justin Campbell’s men have been promoted to Division 2B for next season, which is a great achievement. But it was a victory that Roscommon almost threw away as they led by a whopping ten points five minutes into the second half only to see Donegal reel them in – and in fact Donegal actually led the game with six minutes of normal time left. But Roscommon rallied to eke out the narrowest of victories.

  Roscommon manager Justin Campbell was a relieved man.

  “It took us a long time to settle and in fairness to Donegal they worked hard and even though we were scoring well we were not playing that well. We were four points up at half-time and we probably didn’t deserve it.

  “But we came out and got a couple of early goals in the second half but we conceded a few very soft goals and we were nearly punished for that.

  “Having said all that I am absolutely delighted and it is a great day for Roscommon hurling. It would be very difficult to have had to stay in that league division again for next year.

  “All the momentum was with Donegal coming up to the end there but in fairness to our lads they dug deep and they came out with a great win in the end.”

  Adrian Murphy was the Roscommon scoring hero with three fine goals and Roscommon had other solid displays from Ian Delaney, Micheal Kelly, Ronan O’Meara and Cillian Egan (second half). But they will be worried about that second-half collapse ahead of their Christy Ring Cup opening game against Derry in a few weeks time.

  The first half was a low-key affair and the decisive score came in the 20th minute when Ronan O’Meara supplied the pass and Adrian Murphy fired home from close-range. That score helped Roscommon into a 1-6 to 0-5 half-time lead.

  Indeed Roscommon’s lead had stretched to ten points by the 5th minute of the second half after two goals within a minute, both from Adrian Murphy. First a long free from goalkeeper Noel Fallon was flicked to the Donegal net from close-range and less than a minute later Ronan O’Meara was again the supplier and Murphy made no mistake and now the scoreboard read Roscommon 3-6 Donegal 0-5.

  However instead of Roscommon cruising to victory, Donegal set about reducing the Roscommon lead. Paddy Hannigan flicked a Ciaran Matthewson free to the Roscommon net and the comeback had begun. In the 51st minute Hannigan scored an almost identical goal as he flicked a long-range free from Danny Cullen past Noel Fallon. Then in the 61st minute Danny Cullen’s goal reduced the margin to four and Roscommon were on the ropes. When Ciaran Matthewson goaled in the 64th minute the Donegal revival was complete and the sides were level, Roscommon 3-10 Donegal 4-7.

  Christopher McDermott put Donegal into the lead with a well-taken point in the 67th minute and an incredible victory was now on the cards for the Tir Conaill men. But Roscommon steadied the ship in the final few minutes. Cillian Egan levelled the scores in the 68th minute and, to increase the drama even further, the sides exchanged points within a minute through Ronan O’Meara and Bernard Lafferty, to leave the teams level going into injury-time. Now extra-time looked odds-on. But then Cillian Egan did the spadework to set up Ronan O’Meara in the 74th minute for a fine point and Roscommon had survived after a rollercoaster second half.

Roscommon: Noel Fallon; Ian Delaney, Peter Kellehan, Ciaran Shaw; Shane Curley, Micheal Kelly (0-1), Warren Boyle; Cathal Dolan, Alan Moore; Tomas Seale (0-2), Eamon Flanagan (0-2), Jerry Fallon (0-3, frees); Cillian Egan (0-2), Ronan O’Meara (0-3, 2 frees), Adrian Murphy (3-0). Subs: Jason Kilkenny for Moore (25), Naos Connaughton for Flanagan (49), Kevin Crehan for Flanagan (61), Liam Kilcline for Murphy (66).

Donegal: Paul Byrne; Padraig Doherty, Justin McGhee, Mark Callaghan; Jack O’Loughlin, Jamesie Donnell, Niall Cleary; Paul Sheridan, Christopher McDermott (0-1); Lee Henderson (0-4, frees), Danny Cullen (1-0), Bernard Lafferty (0-1); Ciaran Matthewson (1-2, 1 free), Paddy Hannigan (2-0), Sean McVeigh (0-1). Subs: Paul Nelson for Henderson (47), Shane Gallen for Sheridan (65).

Referee: John Keane (Galway).