Kelly recalls memorable All-Ireland B triumph

After the heady days of 1989 to 1991 inclusive Roscommon football fortunes took a nosedive. After losing the Connacht final to Mayo in 1992, things went downhill. Tony McManus retired after 16 years of service to the county senior team and the Marty McDermott era was over. However the Roscommon hurling team were very strong in the 1990’s. Players like Adrian Tully, the Kelly brothers, the brilliant Mickey Cunniffe, Liam Murray, Joe Mannion and many others were all skillfull, determined and ambitious hurlers and under the guidance of people like Michael Kelly and others Roscommon hurling was as strong as it had been since the great days of a decade earlier and the exploits in the Centenary Cup in 1984. In 1975 the GAA set up an All-Ireland B hurling competition and by 1994 there had never been a Connacht winner of the competition. Roscommon set about putting that straight in 1994 and they achieved their goal in thrilling fashion with an excellent ‘home’ final win against Kildare in Tullamore and then a nail-biting success against London in the final proper. 1994 All-Ireland Senior Hurling B Final Roscommon ………………………………………………………….. 2-16 Kildare ……………………………………………………………………. 1-12 Roscommon beat Mayo by 4-18 to 1-6 in the semi-final and that set up a final clash against Kildare in O’Connor Park, Tullamore on 18th June, 1994. Although Roscommon won by seven points at the finish it was a superb game of hurling and it was not until the final ten minutes that Roscommon pulled away to win the title.   The game started tamely enough and the scores were level at two points each after 11 minutes, both Roscommon points coming from ‘man of the match’ Joe Mannion. Then Liam Murray and Mickey Cunniffe both scored long-range points to give Roscommon a two-point lead and by the 21st minute it was 0-5 to 0-2 after a Declan Coyle point. Then in the 30th minute Joe Mannion scored a brilliant Roscommon goal. He took a pass from Mickey Cunniffe and buried the ball in the Kildare net and at that stage Roscommon led by 1-5 to 0-3.   However Kildare were getting plenty of possession and they scored three points in a row to narrow the gap to two points. At half-time the score was Roscommon 1-5 Kildare 0-6.   The third quarter saw both sides play some brilliant hurling and it was essentially score for score. Decie Coyle and Joe Mannion points kept Roscommon ahead but by the 9th minute there was only one point in it, with Roscommon hanging on to a narrow lead. Then Roscommon struck for a crucial goal half-way through the second half.    Adrian Kelly drove a long ball into the Kildare full-back line and sub Dave Keyes pulled on the ball with an overhead stroke and the ball sailed into the Kildare net for a top class goal.   But Kildare would not lie down and they replied with two great points to narrow the gap once again. However this time Rosommon were on a roll and were not to be denied. Mannion and Coyle struck for two points to keep Roscommon ahead and then with 15 minutes to go Adrian Tully pulled off a fantastic point-blank save to deny the Kildare men a certain goal and that was the turning point in the game as that save seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Kildare team.   Roscommon then went on a scoring rampage and they notched a succession of points from Liam Murray, Decie Coyle, Mickey Cunniffe, Joe Mannion (2) and Dave Keyes to pull away from the Lillywhites, for whom John Devanney’s late goal was only a consolation. It had been a massive struggle and Roscommon had won the title