Allianz National Football League Division 2 Monaghan 1-18 Roscommon 1-8 Seamus Duke A young and inexperienced Roscommon team were totally overwhelmed by a strong, skillful, determined and extremely well organised Monaghan in this opening round game of the 2008 National Football League played at freezing cold St. Tiernach’s Park in Clones last Sunday. As league beatings go this is about as bad as it can get as Roscommon were taught a footballing lesson by a very strong Monaghan team who look like a side that will feature strongly in both league and championship later this spring and summer. Roscommon were no match for the strength, skill and fierce determination shown by Monaghan. I wrote here last week that this game would (along with the away trip to Dublin) be the hardest league game for Roscommon. I will now revise that to say that Roscommon have now played (by far) their hardest game in this division because Monaghan were much better that I thought they were and on Monday of this week I backed them to win the Ulster title this summer because I was so impressed with their play. The big Roscommon following were given little to shout about as their young and experimental team were totally overpowered and it is clear that this Division will be a very tough one for John Maughan’s team. However there were some things that would give hope for the rest of the league. Mark Miley dealt well with any shots that came his way and could do nothing about the freakish nature of the goal that beat him late on, although he will have to vary his kickouts. Paddy O’Connor and Anthony McDermott did fairly well in the full-back line considering the ocean of ball that was raining in on top of them all through the game. Further out the field David O’Gara did ok at wing half-back but his best position would appear to be in attack as David Keenan was effective there when he was introduced. David Flynn was well beaten over the course of the game by Paul Finlay but I would definitely stick with Flynn at centre half-back. I will wager that he will not be meeting as good a player again for the rest of the league in that position and Flynn will mature – but he must be given the chance. Roscommon struggled at midfield where only Mark O’Carroll showed well and he ran himself into the ground in Roscommon’s cause – but with Monaghan rampant in that sector it was of little effect. The sending off of Seamus O’Neill early in the second half was not a help in that regard either. Up front Roscommon struggled. Ger Heneghan and Enda Kenny were off-colour and only Karol Mannion and Conor Devanney made any inroads throughout. In fact the ball coming into the Roscommon forward-line was extremely poor and it was a miracle that Devanney and Mannion made any progress at all. Cathal Cregg tried ever so hard but he found the going tough against a resolute Monaghan defence. David Keenan was bright and busy when introduced as was Jonathan Dunning and both will have to come into the reckoning for the game on Sunday week at home against Meath in Hyde Park. This was a chastening experience for Roscommon and a strong message to all concerned that this Division will be an almighty struggle. Monaghan made light of the conditions to go on the rampage from the opening whistle. Inspirational midfielder Eoin Lennon (who was an injury doubt right up to the start of the game) took his place and he led from the front. The home side kicked two great points in the 1st and 4th minutes through Paul Finlay before Roscommon missed a goal chance with their first attack. Confusion in the Monaghan defence led to Senan Kilbride finding himself clear in front of goal but his soccer-style flick was blocked by Padraig McBennett and cleared to safety. Two minutes later Monaghan were three points ahead after Lennon set up Tommy Freeman to score from 20 metres. Roscommon were finding it tough but they struck for an unexpected goal in the 9th minute. Cathal Cregg dispossessed Colm Flanagan 30 metres from the Monaghan goal and after making about 20 metres he passed to Conor Devanney who expertly side-stepped his man before crashing home a splendid goal. However it was a false dawn for Roscommon as Monaghan resumed their excellent play. Lennon, Finlay, Woods and Freeman tore the Roscommon defence to shreds as they put on an exhibition of free-flowing, attacking football. In the 12th minute, a five-man move involving nine passes ended with Paul Finlay scoring a brilliant point and Freeman clipped over another mighty point from the left wing in the 13th minute to the delight of the Farney supporters. Gary McQuaid and Senan Kilbride exchanged scores but it was all Monaghan and they extended their lead further with points from Freeman and Paul McGlynn. Roscommon were surviving on scraps and there was some respite in the 26th minute when Karol Mannion flicked Cathal Cregg’s free over the bar, but it was only a token score. Dessie Mone ran 70 metres with the ball before setting up Conor McManus for a great point in the 29th minute and Ronaghan and Freeman tacked on two more points in the 32nd and 35th minute before Maurice Deegan brought the first half to an end with the score of Monaghan 0-11 Roscommon 1-2. There was controversy at the start of the second half when referee Deegan showed yellow cards to Seamus O’Neill and Dick Clerkin for a tussle that they had in the dying seconds of the first half and it was to cost the Kilbride man dearly early in that second period. Cathal Cregg scored a good Roscomon point within 30 seconds but it was brief respite. Within two minutes Freeman had two more points scored as the All-Star corner-forward showed his undoubted class. Then there were two incidents that angered Roscommon fans at St. Tiernach’s Park. Dessie Mone should have received a straight red card for a full-frontal charge on Cathal Cregg in the 5th minute but the card colour was only yellow and then two minutes later it was red for Seamus O’Neill after he ankle-tapped a Monaghan player in full view of referee Deegan. McManus and Freeman tacked on further Monaghan points to leave it 0-15 to 1-3 after 11 minutes of the second half. Roscommon never stopped trying. Karol Mannion kicked two fine points to narrow the gap by the 23rd minute but it was easy for Monaghan as their manager Seamus McEneaney emptied his bench to give his squad players a run. Finlay and McManus had further points before Conor Devanney converted a close-in free after 31 minutes and then to compound matters for Roscommon, Monaghan sub Daniel McNally shot for a point from the left wing in the 32nd minute but the ball dipped into the far corner of the Roscommon net for a fortuitous goal. Conor Devanney’s 13-metre free in the first minute of injury-time was of consolation value only as the Monaghan fans cheered their team to the final whistle. It was an experience that Roscommon will want to forget and hopefully the challenges that lie ahead will all be easier than the one faced last Sunday. I am of the firm view that Roscommon have got to use the talented young players at their disposal and the fans will have to be patient as these young men grow into life in the hard world of senior football. With Cork seemingly out of the fray it looks like there will only be one team relegated from the divison this year. Survival has to be the aim now. Monaghan: P McBennett; D Mone, JP Mone, C Flanagan; D McArdle, G McQuaid (0-1), P McGuigan (0-1); D Clerkin, E Lennon; C McManus (0-3), P Flnlay (0-4), R Ronaghan (0-1); R Woods, V Corey, T Freeman (0-8). Subs: O Duffy for Clerkin, S Smyth for Woods, D Freeman for McArdle, D McNally (0-1) for Freeman, B McKenna for Lennon. Roscommon: Mark Miley; Paddy O’Connor, Anthony McDermott, Richard Dooner; David O’Gara, David Flynn, Stuary Daly; Seamus O’Neill, Mark O’Carroll; Karol Mannion (0-3), Ger Heneghan, Cathal Cregg (0-2); Conor Devanney (1-2), Enda Kenny, Senan Kilbride (0-1). Subs: David Keenan for Stuart Daly (half-time), Jonathan Dunning for Heneghan (half-time), John Tiernan for Kenny (50 mins.). Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).