No Royal pardon for Roscommon

National Football League Division 2 Final Meath               2-12 Roscommon     0-10 Roscommon’s inconsistent form which plagued them throughout the league campaign, came back to haunt them in the final of the Allianz National Football League Division 2 at Kingspan Breffni Park on Sunday last when they never got going againt a moderate Meath side who took full advantage of a couple of terrible Roscommon defensive blunders to win the final rather easily in the finish.   Excellent displays against Cavan and Offaly in recent weeks led Roscommon supporters to think that they would have a great chance of upsetting the Royals in this final but it was not to be in what was a very poor quality game that never got the big 10,800 crowd excited at any stage.   Roscommon had the perfect setting. The hurlers had just won an entertaining Division 3 final and the big Roscommon crowd were in great voice as the team took to the field but despite a reasonably good first quarter the Rossies faded away after that and they were never in a position to mount a serious challenge subsequently.   Roscommon could only manage two points from play throughout the seventy minutes and Meath could afford the luxury of kicking twelve wides and they also had a man sent off with 10 minutes to go and they still won by eight points. But it was those two disastrous mistakes early in the second half that sealed Roscommon’s fate.   This was a game that never really got going and although Meath were the easy winners I am still not convinced that they will be serious contenders in Leinster this summer and they will face a far sterner test in the first round of the championship in two weeks time against Kildare. However that argument is for another day.   Roscommon lined out with Karol Mannion at midfield and John Tiernan in the forward-line and when Tiernan was fouled in the first minute Ger Heneghan pointed the resultant free. However the danger signs were there for Roscommon early on as Meath enjoyed a decided pull at midfield where Mark Ward and Nigel Crawford were dominant.   Brian Farrell kicked two great points (one free) in the 3rd and 7th minutes and Farrell was to break Roscommon hearts throughout with a sensational display at full-forward for the Meathmen. John Tiernan did level matters in the 8th minute with a good point on the run and two minutes later Roscommon actually took the lead when Gary Cox was on target with a pointed free after he was fouled himself.   However that was as good as it got for Roscommon as they faded away in several sectors and Meath took over. Joe Sheridan (2) and Farrell (4) saw the Royals stretch into a 0-8 to 0-3 lead by the 35th minute. Ger Heneghan pointed an injury-time free after Gary Cox was fouled to leave the half-time score Meath 0-8 Roscommon 0-4.   Roscommon did attempt to plug the gaps at midfield by bringing on Seamus O’Neill three minutes before half-time but it didn’t work and O Neill was clearly not moving as fluently as normal due to his recent injury. Enda Kenny was taken off and Karol Mannion was moved to full-forward.   Ger Heneghan reduced the gap on the re-start before the first major calamity struck the Roscommon defence in the 2nd minute of that second half. Peader Byrne lofted the ball high towards the Roscommon posts. Goalkeeper Geoffrey Claffey came to punch clear over the heads of Brian Farrell and Anthony McDermott. However he misjudged the flight of the ball and it fell to Brian Farrell who gleefully fisted it to the empty net.   Roscommon, to their credit, replied with two points from Gary Cox and Heneghan (both frees) but Meath were always in control. Joe Sheridan kicked a ’45 and then Farrell kicked another free over before the second calamity for the Roscommon team came in the 17th minute.   Geoffrey Claffey collected the ball and soloed out from his goal-line. His attempted pass to a colleague went straight to Peadar  Byrne who spotted Brian Farrell all alone at the edge of the small square. One accurate pass later and the ball was nestling in the Roscommon net and that was that.   The rest of the game meandered towards its  inevitable conclusion with both sides going through the motions. Meath’s Niall McKeague was sent off by referee Padraig Hughes of Armagh in the 29th minute for his second yellow card offence and that was not a surprise as the referee had handed out no less than 14 yellow cards throughout the game – the majority for the flimsiest of reasons – and the performance of the referee was a definite factor in the stop-start nature of this very disappointing game.   Indeed the biggest cheer in the last 15 minutes came when Meath introduced their most celebrated modern-day footballer and would-be TD Graham Geraghty as a sub for midfielder Mark Ward.   Roscommon never got out of the starting gates in this game and they will be disappointed with that. Seanie McDermott was the pick of a full-back line that was under severe pressure throughout. Stuart Daly battled away well again but the half-back line were nowhere near as effective as they were against Offaly and Cavan.   Michael Finneran tried hard in a midfield that was well beaten throughout while up front only Ger Heneghan and Gary Cox made any in-roads on what was a bad day for the Roscommon attack.   Meath will be happy to have won but they will have to improve if they want to have any say in the destination of  the Leinster or All-Ireland trophies. Darren Fay had a very good game at full-back and his strength and experience are a vital asset to this Meath team. Anthony Moyles was also very good at centre-back while in front of him both Nigel Crawford and Mark Ward did well. Up front Kevin Reilly, Stephen Bray and Joe Sheridan looked sharp but head and shoulders above the rest stood Brian Farrell who was the Roscommon tormentor-in-chief, scoring a massive 2-8 on the day. A player to watch out for in the championship this summer.   It was an extremely disappointing day out for Roscommon — however they can still be happy with the overall outcome of the league campaign which will see them play Division 2 football next season. However none of the players or those involved with team management will need me to tell them that a tough game lies ahead against Sligo in the first  round  of the Connacht Championship on June 17th.   The players wil have to forget about this game and look ahead to the game against Sligo which still represents a great chance for Roscommon to qualify for a Connacht final this summer. There is a bit of breathing space for everyone now and that will be welcomed. Meath: Brendan Murphy; Eoghan Harrington, Darren Fay, Niall McKeague; Seamus Kenny (0-1), Anthony Moyles (capt.), Caoimhin King; Mark Ward, Nigel Crawford; Niall McLaughlin, Kevin Reilly, Peader Byrne; Stephen Bray, Brian Farrell (2-8, 6 frees), Joe Sheridan (0-3, 1 ’45). Subs: Graham Geraghty for Ward; Stephen McGowan for Harrington; Padraig Howard for McLoughlin. Roscommon: Geoffrey Claffey; Seanie McDermott, Anthony McDermott, Robbie Kelly; Stuart Daly, Rory O’Connor, Richard Dooner; Michael Finneran, Karol Mannion; David Hoey, Gary Cox (0-2 frees), Cathal Cregg; John Tiernan (0-1), Enda Kenny, Ger Heneghan (0-7, 6 frees). Subs: Seamus O’Neill for Kenny (32 mins); Paddy O’Connor for Kelly (41 mins); Sean Purcell for Dooner (45 mins); David O’Gara for Hoey (50 mins) Derek Connellan for Cregg (60 mins). Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh).  Match at a glance Man of the match: Only one serious contender here. Meath full-forward Brian Farrell helped himself to 2-8 on the day and not only was he the game’s top scorer, he ended up as the top scorer in the country in the NFL as a result. A brilliant performance. Weather: Overcast but okayt for football. A light shower or two did not really affect the conditions which were perfect for football. An excellent venue too. Crowd: A good crowd, 10,800, which included plenty of Rossie support however they never got going during the football match because it was so one-sided for most of the duration. Entertainment value: Poor. This was a very mediocre game that never really got going and most of the scores came from frees or mistakes. Referee: One of the poorest refereeing displays that I have seen in ages. Padraig Hughes (who refereed last year’s All-Ireland minor football final replay) waved yellow cards around like confetti at a wedding and there were no need for half of them. The black book spent more time in the air than in his pocket. He nearly drove the crowd to distraction with some of his baffling decisions – affecting both sides. Roscommon team manager John Maughan said afterwards that he was disappointed. ‘We never got going at all and we made a few mistakes that you simply cannot afford to against a team like Meath.    ‘We never played the kind of fluent football that we did against Offaly and Cavan and  the injuries that we have had to carry did not help.    ‘However it was not a bad league for us overall and now we have time to prepare for the championship games and that’s what we will concentrate on now’ he said.    Meath stand-in manager Dudley Farrell (Colm Coyle is still suspended) and father of full forward Brian was happy to win but his eyes are firmly fixed on a big game (in the Leinster championship)in two weeks time.   ‘We were delighted to win this game but all eyes are now on Kildare. The lads have worked hard and we are going to focus on that big game now but we are very happy with the way we played today. We took our chances well and I’m delighted, particularly for the supporters’ he said.