Ruby Oil senior championship relegation play-off Western Gaels 2-11 Kilbride 1-9 The Play: The GAA enthusiasts of the largest parish in Roscommon were devastated last Saturday evening in Tulsk where Western Gaels consigned their football team to the second tier of championship football for at least 12 months. County champions in 2000, home of Seamus O’Neill, producer of the most audaciously talented member of Roscommon’s 2006 All-Ireland minor-winning team, led by the famous Lohans, and tipped last spring as likely challengers for the Fahy Cup, Kilbride must now prepare for intermediate-grade football following this ignominious relegation. They deserved to be defeated too. Trailing by just one point at half-time, Stephen Banahan’s team allowed Western Gaels to score an unanswered 1-6 during one spell in the second half. A team that contains some of the best-known footballers in Roscommon was utterly rudderless for most of the second period; and the failure of some of these players to take responsibility was illustrated by the leadership that youngsters Cathal Cregg and Kevin Higgins showed for Western Gaels in the second half. Conor Devaney alone kept battling to the end for Kilbride but, isolated in the corner, his efforts were insufficient unto the day. In the years ahead biographers of John Donnellan won’t attempt to portray him as one of the silent Mickey Harte-type GAA bainsteoirí. The fulminating Dunmore man’s opinions were surely audible in Breedogue on Saturday evening; and referee Haulie Beirne won’t forget Donnellan’s deafening stridence for some time. This victory was nevertheless vindication for Donnellan the tactician: Western Gaels’ victory developed from the deployment of Cregg in the ‘third-midfielder’ berth and the rigid positioning of Seánie McDermott at corner-back. McDermott was clearly briefed to devote all his energies to marking Devaney; and the Roscommon defender crossed into Kilbride territory just three times during the hour. Cregg was a revelation: he took control at the beginning of the second half and put the match beyond Kilbride with a goal, two points, and several assists during the third quarter. The first half yielded six points for Kilbride and 1-4 for the Gaels. Seamus O’Gara raised the solitary green flag after seven minutes, with Eddie Lohan, Devaney, the impressive Martin McDermott, and Thomas O’Grady scoring points for the losers. A point from Gerry Lohan at the beginning of the second half put the teams on level terms, but Cregg took over then and inspired an unanswered 1-6. The accurate Seamus O’Gara (three points), Higgins, and Cregg (1-2) were the scorers. Points from Devaney, Eddie Lohan, and a goal from Gerry Lohan in the final minutes changed the complexion of the scoreboard, but the result was never in doubt in the final 10 minutes, and Western Gaels now look forward with great confidence to next year’s championship. Players who did well: Kevin Higgins was the most impressive player in the first half and Cregg dazzled the patrons in the second period. Seamus O’Gara and Adrian Dockery played consistently well throughout the game for the Gaels. David O’Rourke, Conor Devaney, and Stuart Feeley were best for Kilbride. Man of the match: Seamus O’Gara and Kevin Higgins both excelled for Western Gaels. Cathal Cregg was undoubtedly the architect of this victory though: his contribution when the game was in the balance secured the result and senior championship status for his club. Western Gaels: Padraig Cummins; Adrian Freyne, Eamon Ryan, Seánie McDermott; Thomas Mahon, John Nolan, Dermot McGarry; Adrian Dockery, Kevin Higgins (0-3); David Jordan, Niall Murray, Mark Drury (0-1); Seamus O’Gara (1-4, 0-2 frees), Ultan Mulleady, Cathal Cregg (1-3, (0-2 f). Kilbride: Jonathan Farrell; James Farrell, Anthony McDermott, Paul Foxe; Stuart Feeley, David O’Rourke, John Shally; Seamus O’Neill, Tom O’Grady (0-1); Eddie Lohan (0-3, 0-2 f), Martin McDermott (0-2), Paul O’Grady; Conor Devaney (0-2), Gerry Lohan (1-1), John Donnelly. Referee: Haulie Beirne (Tulsk).