Promotion hopes downgraded – as the sleet hits the fan(s)


This is the nature of the GAA, of sport. One day you get something special, the next you can get something subdued.

  Roscommon scored a miserable 0-7 in a flat performance against Down; next time out, they could score 3-12 or 2-15.

  The league is a funny old entity; a competition that insists on keeping us guessing. It’s about as predictable as Boris Johnson’s behaviour, the league formbook about as reliable as the Liverpool defence.

  I’d no more over-react to Sunday’s disappointing loss than I would to an eight-point turnaround in just over eight minutes in Thurles.

  The league tends to write its own erratic but intriguing script.

  It was a cold morning and the afternoon was fairly merciless too. Arriving at Hyde Park, I got an immediate sense that the weather would take its toll; the crowd seemed small, the atmosphere fairly muted. Some snowed-off fans were obviously voting with their cold feet; it was no reflection on the Roscommon team (which achieved a momentum-building win in Tipperary), simply a reflection on the  caustic weather.

  Me? I want to embrace this league, these days. My son’s hand in mine, we bounded up the steps with hope and confidence, into the old stand on the Athlone Road side.

  Soon enough we sensed that the league had dealt us a dud hand today. It was very ordinary fare, a party that never got started. Down were more economical, more direct. In the first 27 minutes, Down alone had the umpires reaching for their flags. Roscommon finally opened their scoring in that 27th minute. It was grim stuff in grim conditions. Down led 0-9 to 0-3 at half-time. My son and I retreated into the bosom of the old stand as a sleet-storm sliced through the cold air. Behind us, two young Roscommon men talked of Saturday night, another language. The half-time break passes slowly on a cold day, especially when you’re six points behind.

  Thankfully, the third quarter was much better, the home crowd around us now roused. Roscommon (down to fourteen after losing Ian Kilbride to two yellow cards) had a lot more possession, the play now fairly relentlessly swaying towards the Down goal. But it wasn’t a particularly convincing storming of the Down defensive walls; many long to medium range scoring attempts by Roscommon drifted wide on this frustrating day. Painstakingly, the home team edged closer with a few hard-earned scores. When they won a penalty, another great escape looked a real possibility, but Ciaráin Murtagh’s well-struck penalty was brilliantly saved by Marc Reid.

  Around me, the crowd was more resigned than restless. But the fans and the team battled on. In keeping with the fans’ unwritten contract, the ref got the odd roasting from the stand. Roscommon were struggling in midfield and Down reasserted control. Worryingly, a couple of large gaps appeared in the Roscommon defence, but Down seemed happy enough to kick points as they formally ended the misery.

  It was a very poor Roscommon performance, riddled with problems, but hey, it’s February – the awakening new season has barely stretched its arms. There will be more twists and turns in the league. Expect a positive response from Roscommon, with some team (or teams) to feel the brunt of the players’ hurt! That said, Roscommon are fortunate enough to have any league points at all, following late escapes against Meath and Tipperary. There is clearly an awful lot of work to be done ahead of the league’s finale and the Holy Grail that is the championship.

  Sunday was a let-down; no points, no sign of the desired and expected performance. We will hope for much better days. The fans in the old stand opted for disappointment rather than anger. There were a few barbed comments, but also a realisation that the league frequently squeezes the hope out of you with days like this. That’s the league for you. It will tilt the other way too.

  Matthew and I left, underwhelmed, but with another ‘son and dad at the match’ experience banked. We’ll try our best to forget the game but we won’t ever forget that we went to it.