Liam on the line: Water and wisdom

View from the Terrace – Paul Healy

I didn’t take any notes; I took the kids.

  So this isn’t a ‘press box working journalist’ informed view of what happened in Carrick.

  I stood on the terraces with our two youngest, a very cheerful and affable Liam McHale only a few metres away from us, drifting up and down the sideline, offering water and wisdom to the Roscommon forwards.

  Leitrim fans may have felt rueful that their team finished with just twelve players.

  It can’t have helped that Roscommon had two or three Seanie McDermotts of their own.

  Well, it felt that way…I know Fintan Cregg was the official man of the match (he played great) but Seanie McDermott can’t have been far behind.

  It really did seem as if there was more than one Seanie on the field because he was everywhere…intercepting in defence, setting up attacks, charging into midfield, occasionally joining the forwards, covering a huge amount of grass and playing at a heroic tempo almost of his own.

  He was inspirational, defiant, a human roadblock and a human tornado.

  It was interesting watching McHale. The game is gone so professional these days, you expect the men on the sideline to be dour, unsmiling, so focused they wouldn’t flinch if a spaceship landed in the middle of the pitch.

  McHale has an extremely important and valued role in the Roscommon set-up – remember how pivotal he was to the St. Brigid’s All-Ireland Club success – but that didn’t prevent him from being courteous, cheerful and downright good-humoured. He had a big handshake and lots of time for the Newstalk sideline reporter at half-time. And he joked with the linesman, wisecracked with a fan and applauded the Kiltubrid Pipe Band.

  Just thought it was worth a mention (it was nice to see)!

  I was slightly perturbed when Roscommon misfired for ten minutes. Then we scored five points in five minutes and I relaxed.

  So did Liam McHale.

  By half-time we were in complete control. The highlight had been our goal. We cut through Leitrim’s centre, funelling the ball through quick hands until Conor Devaney applied the goal-den touch.

  The second half never really took off. Leitrim cut Roscommon’s lead to seven. Roscommon had some bad wides. Worrying wides, in truth. Leitrim lost two men (sent off) late in the game but Roscommon were home and dry long before then. McHale was long gone to the other side of the pitch and we had a Leitrim mentor now, but he was no fun.

  It dawned on spectators around us with about four minutes to go that Leitrim were actually down to twelve men now because the ref had been handing out black business cards.

  Isn’t there a classic movie called ‘Twelve Angry Men’?

  In fairness to Leitrim, it was one of those bad days that can come along (Roscommon know about such days too), and hopefully they will regroup for the qualifiers. 

  I was impressed with Roscommon. I thought we played some really good stuff, took 22 scoring chances and created several more. Of course the game didn’t have the type of intensity and physicality that will feature later in the Connacht Championship. But I don’t think this was a particularly bad Leitrim team. I thought Roscommon did a very clinical job (some bad misses aside) and that it was a very encouraging performance. It is very, very seldom that we cross this Leitrim hurdle with such assured aplomb. It was great to see so many subs make such a good impact too.

  It ended in a kind of anti-climax. The twelve Leitrim men trooped off, along with the two or three Seanie McDermotts and the rest of the Roscommon players, a job well done.

  I hear the criticism of Leitrim, but I can tell you one thing: something is going right when we beat Leitrim by thirteen points on a sunny championship Sunday in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.

  I trust that Liam McHale agrees.