Kildare’s White leaves Roscommo feeling blue

Allianz National Hurling League Division 2A Kildare ………………………………………………………………. 2-12 Roscommon ……………………………………………………….. 0-11 Seamus Duke  Several missed goal chances, the concession of a very soft first-half goal, and the loss of several players from last year’s successful team combined to ensure that Roscommon’s opening National Hurling League Division 2A game in Athleague last Sunday was a losing one. It is a disappointing start to what will now be a very difficult league division for David McConn’s team.   Despite all the setbacks for Roscommon, this is a game they could easily have won. Those missed chances, plus the fact that Roscommon were out of the game at midfield and the lack of a little experience in vital areas were also contributory factors.    Mervyn Connaughton — so often the saviour of Roscommon in the recent past – was clearly readjusting after the Athleague club holiday to the USA (he had only arrived back the evening before) and it was only when he got his second wind at full-forward in the second half that we saw the real Mervyn last Sunday.   It is also worrying to report that there are a number of prominent Roscommon players who have not yet returned to training or who have not given the signal to David McConn that they are prepared to put in the commitment required to survive in this very competitive division or compete in the Ring Cup later in the summer.   With Westmeath in Mullingar the next fixture facing Roscommon this coming weekend, David McConn and his selectors need every experienced player they have to mount a serious challenge in this higher class of hurling that they find themselves playing in 2008.   I am not taking away from Kildare, who were obviously well prepared under team manager, former Kilkenny star Andy Comerford. They laid the foundation for their win at midfield where Ciaran Divilly and Billy White were both excellent throughout, inspiring the Lillywhites to two valuable league points.   Owen Lynch and Divilly grabbed two points for Kildare within two minutes but Roscommon started well too and Keith McDermott and Cathal Kelly had the scores level after nine minutes. In fact Mervyn Connaughton put Roscommon ahead with a very clever point in the 11th minute after a great pass from John Moran but disaster struck for Roscommon in the 16th minute.   Roscommon goalkeeper David Connell came for a long ball delivered into the Roscommon defence but he failed to claim the ball which seemed to be in his grasp. The ball squirted free and Tony Murphy was there to flick it to the empty Roscommon net for a very soft goal. Kildare were ahead and they were never to lose the lead.   Liam Casey and Billy White exchanged points in the 21st and 25th minutes before Divilly and Paudie Reidy saw the visitors four points clear by the 31st minute. However Roscommon were playing well and Gerry Fallon converted a 65-metre free and John Moran scored an excellent point after great work from Shane Sweeney to leave the score Kildare 1-5 Roscommon 0-6 at half-time.   In truth Roscommon could have been at least five points ahead at the break. At least two goal chances were spurned and two easy frees were missed, one from the twenty-metre line in the first half. It was to prove very costly in the end for the home side.   The lively John Moran and Oisin Lynch exchanged points within two minutes of the restart but then Kildare turned on the power over the next 16 minutes to build up a winning lead. Billy White converted a 65′ after five minutes and then nine minutes later Tony Murphy extended the lead with another fine Kildare point. Then in the 16th minute Kildare sealed the points with a brilliant goal. Billy White gained possession and he had to flick the ball over two Roscommon defenders before racing clear and planting the ball in the Roscommon net for a top class Kildare goal which left his side 2-8 to 0-7 ahead.   Mervyn Connaughton was now moved to full-forward and the lion-hearted Athleague man began to show his class. He scored a brilliant point from 40 metres in the 17th minute but Kildare hit back with an Alan Burke point a minute later.   In the 20th minute Connaughton landed another fine point after good work from Shane Sweeney. But Roscommon needed a goal – and it just would not come.   Sub Matty Dowd and Tony Murphy re-asserted the Kildare dominance on the scoreboard with points from play but in fairness to Roscommon they never gave up the ghost. Liam Murray, who was Roscommon’s best performer on the day, scored a mighty point in the 29th minute and the  equally inspirational Connaughton scored another fine point in the 32nd minute. However Alan Burke completed the scoring with a point for Kildare two minutes from time.   It was a disappointing opening league game for Roscommon who will now face an uphill struggle to survive in this division. It was also disappointing to note the very small crowd who turned up to see this very attractive league game featuring a Roscommon team who brought so much joy to so many people in the county in 2007. Where were all the thousands of people who were in Croke Park last August at the Nicky Rackard Cup Final?   Let’s hope that the players who have not given their full commitment to rejoin the Roscommon hurling panel will do so in the next few weeks. In this opening game, despite all the setbacks, Roscommon were unlucky not to win and there is no doubt that there is plenty of young talent in this  Roscommon team and with leaders like Liam Murray and Mervyn Connaughton in the side the season could still be a good one.  Roscommon: David Connell; Enda Morris, Mark McLoughlin, Michael Keaveney; Noel Cunniffe, Kenny Doolin, Liam Murray (capt., 0-1); Mervyn Connaughton (0-4), Gerry  Fallon (0-1); John Moran (0-2), Keith McDermott (0-1), Shane Sweeney; Cathal Kelly (0-1), David Loughnane, Liam Casey (0-1). Subs: Shane Curley for  Loughnane, David Loughnane for Morris, Leo Flynn for Cunniffe, David Delaney for Casey. Kildare: P Dermody; K Chan, D Ryan, D Shinnors; F O’Muinneachan, R Hoban, C Buggy; C Divilly (0-1), B White (1-3); T Murphy (1-2), P Divilly, M Moloney; A Burke (0-2), O Lynch (0-2), P Reidy (0-1). Subs: D Harney for Moloney, M Dowd (0-1) for Lynch, A McAndrew for Reidy, D Moloney for Divilly. Referee: Eoin Shaughnessy (Galway).  At a glance