Allianz NFL Division Two Final: Roscommon 4-16 Cavan 4-12
Seamus Duke at Croke Park
If Carlsberg did endings to the league it would look something like this! This was a quite incredible Division 2 final played at bitterly cold Croke Park last Sunday. As we have seen in this league campaign, Roscommon played some exhilarating and breath-taking attacking football and they mixed that with some alarming defensive lapses here again. But it was still good enough to maintain the great record that the Primrose and Blue have against Cavan in recent years. Regardless of what Cavan threw at Roscommon they were able to respond, and it made for an enthralling spectacle.
On a day that would have made Siberians feel at home, there was no sign of a defensive blanket anywhere around Croke Park as the two teams went at each other hammer and tongs from the first whistle. It was like a hurling score as the sides produced 8 goals and 28 points and enough thrills and spills that would do justice to an Indiana Jones movie.
It was hard to make sense of it all. Roscommon had conceded two goals by the 8th minute. They then proceeded to kick eight super points without reply to wrest the initiative from Cavan. They were rocked back on their heels in the 25th minute with another Cavan goal but undaunted, they went on to lead at half-time. In fact Cavan scored only one point from play in that first half and that came from their full-back Pádraig Faulkner!
Roscommon had played some marvellous attacking football in that first period yet when they went in for the cup of tea at the break they were only a solitary point ahead. It was that kind of game.
Two fine goals within a two and a half minute spell early in the second half from Niall Kilroy and David Murray looked to have seen the Rossies pull away, but not a bit of it! Needless to say Cavan were back in the game after Enda Flanagan poked home a half-volley with almost 20 minutes left for their fourth goal.
But Roscommon’s strength off the bench was a match-winner once again. Cathal Cregg struck two opportunist goals in the final ten minutes to finally put the game to bed. It was a match to warm the heart on such a cold day.
Before anyone gets carried away with the championship around the corner, Roscommon were once again under pressure when Cavan ran straight at the defence, and in the championship against strong teams Roscommon will be punished if that trait continues. Ultan Harney and David Murray were the pick of a rearguard that was under pressure all the way through. Cavan captain Dara McVeety gave the Roscommon defence endless problems with his direct running until he went off injured.
Cathal Compton did well at midfield and he continues to improve but we need a settled combination in that sector for the big tests ahead. Up front there were some marvellous performances. Conor Devaney was tremendous once again. He is the human equivalent of the Duracell Bunny. He is here, there and everywhere. An inspirational captain for sure.
Donie Smith and Ciarán Lennon were superb in the first half and while both men faded out of it a little in the second period, they played a huge part in this victory. Niall Kilroy was also very effective again and we saw flashes of brilliance from Diarmuid Murtagh.
The impact that the replacements made off the bench was tremendous once again. The subs scored a total of 2-5 and that speaks for itself. It was good to see Niall McInerney back, and Cathal Cregg and Enda Smith were superb. It will be hard team to pick when the championship comes around. It’s a nice problem to have.
After a slow start this was a fantastic way to end the league campaign. It is always good to win a trophy in Croke Park and the memory of that 22-point drubbing at the hands of Mayo last August is now well and truly banished.
I will pick out two pieces of play from the game last Sunday that would thrill even the most cynical of fans and will live long in the memory. The first was a 60-metre pass from Donie Smith to Brian Stack, which led directly to Roscommon’s second goal. The second was Diarmuid Murtagh’s pass into the path of Cathal Cregg for Roscommon’s third goal. Cregg never had to break stride and the pass took the defender completely out of the play. It was football of the highest order and Roscommon are capable of that now.
Kevin McStray and his selectors have a lot of work to do with regard to the defence but if they can find a way to shut the back door, a very interesting summer lies ahead. For the moment though let’s enjoy this one. Well done lads!
Roscommon: James Featherston; Fergal Lennon, Peter Domican, David Murray (1-0); Conor Daly, Ultan Harney, Brian Stack; Tadhg O’Rourke, Cathal Compton; Ciaráin Murtagh (0-1, free), Niall Kilroy (1-1), Conor Devaney (0-3); Diarmuid Murtagh (0-4, 2 frees), Ciarán Lennon, Donie Smith (0-3). Subs: Niall McInerney (0-1) for Daly (half-time), Enda Smith (0-1) for O’Rourke (47 mins), Cathal Cregg (2-1) for C Lennon (52), Tadhg O’Rourke for Compton (54 b/c), Niall Daly for Stack (61), Ian Kilbride (0-1) for F Lennon (61).
Cavan: Raymond Galligan (0-1,’45); Jason McLoughlin, Pádraig Faulkner (0-1), Enda Flanagan (1-0); Martin Reilly (1-0, 1 pen), Killian Clarke, Oisin Kiernan; Gearoid McKiernan (0-1, free), Bryan Magee; Dara McVeety (1-3), Conor Bradley (1-0), Ciaran Brady (0-1); Cian Mackey, Adrian Cole, Caoimhin O’Reilly (0-01 free). Subs: Niall Murray for Magee (29 mins), Niall Clerkin for McLoughlin (half-time), Sean Johnston (0-4, 2 frees) for O’Reilly (half-time), Conor Madden for Flanagan (52), Stephen Murray for Bradley (52), Conor Moynagh for McVeety (62).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).