Minors are back on track

Connacht MFC   Roscommon 1-13 Sligo 0-8   by Willie Hegarty     It was a case of mission accomplished after a very competent, assured and positive display by Roscommon Minor team secured a semi-final place in the Connacht Minor Football championship against Galway or Mayo in seven weeks time after a solid victory over a limited Sligo who were reduced to tatters long before the final whistle in Markievicz Park last Saturday evening.    A sluggish display against Leitrim was pushed to one side as Roscommon moved up another level and had the game won by half-time as they led by 0-9 to 0-1. They say a week can be a long time in politics or a day as things stand right now – well, in football terms Roscommon were a transformed side from seven days earlier. There was huge hunger and appetite inside their bellies, a ferocious will to win, they moved the ball with rapid speed and displayed passages of football which reminded one of the class of ’06 at times in the opening half. Fergal O’Donnell made two changes and a number of positional switches to the starting team, Colm O’Neill got his opportunity at midfield while Darragh Lennon lined out a wing-back. Both grasped the mettle with good showings. The knock-out element of this game brought out the best in the side as they chased every ball with intent and desire and reduced the home side’s chances of success with their power play and attacking drive.    Overall Roscommon looked a good few rungs up the ladder compared to Sligo and all this without Donie Shine and Niall Carty. The bonus territory for this team now is that they won a championship game without their prominent duo which can only be good for confidence and morale within the team.    The cherry on top of the cake came when team captain Paul Garvey rounded off a quick and decisive move with a late goal which rubberstamped their overall superiority on the game against a Sligo outfit who went 37 minutes without a score and played the last thirty-six minutes with only 14 players as corner-back Patrick Farrell was dismissed for two yellow cards offence within four minutes of each other close to half-time to rub more vinegar in to the gaping wounds. From the off Roscommon were stronger, sharper and more polished in all facets of play and did so at a faster speed compared to their opponents who were taken back by Roscommon’s gungho start with their defence more resolute and compact and had a solid look about it. Midfield won a lot more ball than the Leitrim game and as a result Roscommon were quickly into their stride with full-forward Kevin Cummins proving to be the ideal target man on the edge of the square with Darren McDermott and Paul Garvey ready to pounce as they kicked over some crucial scores as the deadly duo hit 1-9 between them. Some of Roscommon’s early scores were a joy to behold with McDermott, Garvey and Cummins all on target to edge Roscommon 3-1 clear inside the opening five. Sligo solitary first half score came from Brian Harris four minutes in, after that they went downhill quicker than an Olympic skiing champion. Roscommon took over and by half-time were 0-9 to 0-1 in front with Kevin Higgins and Kevin Brady getting on the scoresheet to cement further scores by McDermott and Garvey who were potting balls as if they were at the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield with Cummins also getting his hands dirty in winning the hard ball for his fellow forwards.    The second half was a non-event as the game was already done and dusted by the time the scoring twins from Kilmore and Eire Og had posted two early second-half points to increase the advantage to 0-11 to 0-1.    Sligo outscored Roscommon by 0-6 to 0-1 over the next twenty minutes as the tempo dropped to almost pedestrian pace. The home side who now have defeat Leitrim to stay in the championship had points by Alan Dunne, Brian Harris, Cathal Burns and David Clarke to bring some respectability to the scoreboard at 0-13 to 0-7.    The final turn in this game fell to Paul Garvey as he finished off a Paul O’Grady, Darren McDermott and Alan O’Hara move with  a cool finish to clinch a splendid victory. The wheels are back on the wagon as Roscommon march on to the last four and they will know a completely different game awaits them their. The Roscommon management have yet to lose  a championship  game at this level, they will see this team as a work in progress and one that has potential to have  a productive summer. The possible return of Shine and Carty along with Conor Boylan will really up the ante for places on the team. Six of the team that started last Saturday evening are young enough again next season.  Next outing on the weekend of 23rd or 24th of June. Roscommon: Darren O’Malley; Neil Collins, Jack Sharkey, Niall Brogan; Darren Lennon, James McKeague, Eamon Bannon; Colm O’Neill, Kevin Higgins (0-2); Paul O’Grady, Paul Garvey (1-4), Kevin Brady (0-1); Alan O’ Hara, Kevin Cummins (0-1) Darren McDermott (0-5).  Subs used: Alan Duffy for Lennon, Nathan Blighe for O’Hara, Eugene Stritch for O’Neill.  Sligo: Conor O’Mahony; Noel Gaughan, Conor Mullen, Patrick Farrell; Patrick Greene, David Clarke (0-1), Keelan Cawley; Cathal Burns (0-1), Darren Gilsenan; James Hynes, Conor Brady, Gary Cawley; Brian Harris (0-2), Patrick Clarke (0-1), Alan Dunne (0-3).   Subs used: Conor Maye for Gilsenan, Daniel Maye for Hynes, James Keaney for Mullen, Conor Mullen for Clarke (inj).   Referee: Declan Corcoran (Mayo).   Match at a glance   Man of the match: All the aces were in the Roscommon pack with great displays from Niall Brogan, Kevin Higgins, Alan O’Hara, Darragh Lennon and Darren McDermott. The jewel in the crown was team captain Paul Garvey who led by example from pillar to post and in the process hit 1-4 and the Kilmore man gets the nod.   Weather: Overcast, dull and cloudy, with the game played on a perfect sod.   Crowd: Poor. A very small crowd with approx. 600 inside the ground.   Entertainment value: Roscommon supporters got good value with the Primrose and Blue first half showing, the second period was poor as Sligo were  a beaten docket from a long way out.   Referee: Declan Corcoran had a good game and worked well with his team of officials. Maybe he could be accused of giving out one or  two soft yellow cards.