Roscommon breathe life into campaign with spirited draw Allianz National Football League Division 2A Roscommon ……………………. 1-12 Meath ……………………………. 0-15 Seamus Duke  Roscommon produced by far their best display since beating Cavan in the league semi-final in Croke Park last April when they drew with Meath in this cracking second round league game played at Kiltoom last Sunday.   In fact John Maughan’s team were extremely unlucky not to have taken both points as they deserved to win the game on the balance of play throughout.   ‘That’s more like it’ was the common cry of Roscommon supporters as they left the grounds last Sunday evening after watching their team banish from their minds the hammering that they got against Monaghan in the first round with a determined, wholehearted and skillful display against a very strong Meath team.   This was a fantastic game of football. The pitch was like a billiards table, the weather was balmy, the crowd was big and vocal and breathing down on the pitch. The atmosphere was electric. All the ingredients for a good game – and the players did not disappoint.   Roscommon had to settle for a draw in the end and they will point to Karol Mannion’s missed penalty in the 31st minute of the second half as having been vital in failing to deliver a win – but there were other factors too. Donegal referee Jimmy White did not endear himself to Roscommon players or supporters with a string of baffling decisions, most of which went the way of the Royals.   However John Maughan and his selectors can approach the rest of this league campaign with hope in their hearts because this was an excellent team performance from Roscommon.   Geoffrey Claffey did very well on his return. He was assured under the high ball and his kick-outs were good too. Elphin’s Paddy O’Connor had a top class game at corner-back and he repeatedly beat his man for the ball and delivered long accurate clearances throughout. Anthony McDermott was solid at full-back and the Meath full-forward Jamie Queeny was taken off in the second half, not having registered a score.   The  jury is out on the experiment of playing Enda Kenny at centre half-back. He did well at times but his natural instincts were to go forward and he was given a hard time by Meath’s best forward, Cian Ward. However I would like to see him tried there again before passing any final judgement.   David O’Gara had a sensational second half. His non-stop tireless running gave Meath untold problems and he looks like a star of the future. However I am still convinced that he would be better used in the attack.  Karol Mannion and Mark O’Carroll did well at midfield. O’Carroll worked so hard and he scored two excellent points. Karol Mannion played well too. He did miss that penalty but he showed that he had the bottle to go for (and score) that equalising point in the final minute.   Frankie Dolan was almost unseen in the first half but that changed on the resumption. He was at the heart of almost everything good that Roscommon did and he was top class in that final 35 minutes. Johnny Dunning made a great return to action too and he took his goal with great confidence and certainly ensured that he will get another number 14 jersey for the next game.   However Roscommon’s best player (again) was Cathal Cregg. The Western Gaels lad is improving with every game. I thought that it was not possible for him to improve on the standard that he has already reached. There is a determination, pace and class to his play that makes him a really special player indeed. I know that he is only 21-years-old but he has the potential to be one of the greats of Roscommon football if he keeps up the standard of his displays of recent weeks, months, and years. On Sunday last he was simply sensational and almost unmarkable. Rattled   With the ground almost packed to capacity, the action crackled from the first minute and it was Roscommon who were first to strike. Ger Heneghan rattled over a 30-metre point after a great pass from Cregg in the 3rd minute and two minutes later Roscommon hit the Meath net. Cregg was again involved and Dunning himself handled the ball twice in a movement that also involved Senan Kilbride and when Dunning got free he planted the ball in the Meath net with great confidence. Two minutes later a Senan Kilbride point (after another pass from Cregg) saw Roscommon five points up and there was only seven minutes gone!   Meath dusted themselves down and rolled their sleeves up and they began to play. Cian Ward up front and Mark Ward at midfield led the charge and within nine minutes they were level. Peadar Byrne, Cian Ward and Graham Reilly all scored points to leave only two in it by the 13th minute. Then Roscommon missed a great goal chance.   Needless to say Cregg was involved again and he showed blistering pace to speed past three Meath defenders but his piledriver of a shot cannoned back off a Meath post and away to safety.   Meath seized upon their good fortune and were level within ninety seconds with points from Cian Ward and the excellent Stephen Bray. It was nip-and-tuck after that – and for the rest of the game. Ger Heneghan scored a 25-metre free for Roscommon in the 23rd minute and then Cregg set up Jonathan Dunning for another well-taken point in the 25th minute. But Meath were well in this game now and Ward (Cian) and Reilly levelled the scores by the 29th.   In the 30th minute Dunning was on target with another well-worked point but Meath ended the half with two points, from Bray and Ward (a free), to leave Colm Coyle’s men ahead by one point at half-time. Meath 0-9 Roscommon 1-5.   The second half was thrill-a-minute as the initiative swung one way then the other. Frankie Dolan levelled the scores in the 3rd minute after Darren Fay gave away the ball in front of his own posts. Then Roscommon went ahead after Cathal Cregg played a fantastic 50-yard pass into the hands of Karol Mannion, who pointed from 30 metres. A minute later the Rossies scored another excellent point when Mark O’Carroll was on target from close range. The home side went three points ahead when Heneghan converted a close-range free in the 8th minute. Now it was Roscommon 1-9 Meath 0-9.   But Meath would not go quietly and even though they were not playing well, they found scores easier to come by than Roscommon. Ward kicked a ’45  and Bray and sub Alan Nestor added points to level matters again by the 16th minute.    The crowd were roaring their sides on now as the intensity level was raised even further. O’Carroll edged Roscommon ahead with a very good score but Reilly replied within a minute.   Senan Kilbride punched over a point after another great pass from Cregg in the 25th minute but within a minute Ward had levelled again with a long-range free from 42 metres. Then the drama intensified even further. In the 31st minute Senan Kilbride was upended in the Meath large square and referee Jimmy White pointed to the penalty spot. Surely a goal would win it for Roscommon. Karol Mannion stepped up to take it but his shot shaved the post and went wide.   It looked as if Roscommon were going to pay dearly for that miss when young Meath sub Alan Nestor scored a 13-metre free from almost out on the sideline with the match into injury-time – but fair play to Karol Mannion. He had the bottle to take on a long-range free in the 37th minute and the ground erupted when the ball sailed over the bar for the equalising point. Soon afterwards it was all over and the game had ended in a draw.   I know that one swallow does not make a summer and one good performance from this Roscommon team will not be much good if they don’t repeat it in the next few games, but I have to say that I think that this young Roscommon team may have turned the corner.   We will know the next day (when Roscommon play Cork) but I would appeal again to Roscommon supporters: be patient with this young team. They will come good. Last Sunday may well have been the start of that process.  Roscommon: Geoffrey Claffey; Paddy O’Connor, Anthony McDermott, Adrian Murtagh; David O’Gara, Enda Kenny, Stuart Daly; Karol Mannion (0-2), Mark O’Carroll (0-2); Conor Devanney, Frankie Dolan (0-1), Cathal Cregg; Ger Heneghan (0-3, 2f), Johnny Dunning (1-2), Senan Kilbride (0-2). Subs: Michael Finneran for Devanney, Peter Domican for Daly. Meath: Brendan Murphy; Kevin Reilly, Darren Fay, Seamus Kenny; Eoin Reilly, Anthony Moyles, Caoimhin King; Nigel Crawford, Mark Ward; Peader Byrne (0-1), Shane O’Rourke, Graham Reilly (0-3); Stephen Bray (0-3), Jamie Queeney, Cian Ward (0-6, 3f). Sub: Cormac McGuinness for Reilly, Alan Nestor (0-2) for O’Rourke, Niall Mooney for Queeney, Niall McLoughlin for Byrne. Referee: Jimmy White (Donegal).