Roscommon ease into final – but Cunningham demands more intensity

Connacht SFC semi-final : Roscommon 0-23 Sligo 0-11

With his team within 70 minutes of possible Connacht final glory, Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham is demanding more from his players.

  Roscommon had 12 points to spare over Sligo in Saturday’s Connacht SFC semi-final in Markievicz Park, but Cunningham says there’s lots to work on in the coming weeks as the Rossies prepare to face Galway or Leitrim on May 29th. Specifically, he wants his players to show greater intensity, with Cunningham telling the Roscommon People: “Having looked at the intensity of the Mayo-Galway match…we’d want to improve a lot to get to that level”.

  The manager was happy with his team’s performance but pointed to a sluggish first-half display, by the end of which Roscommon led by just four, this despite Sligo having a player sent off early in the game.

  The result was never in doubt on a wet and miserable evening as Roscommon’s superior attack threat manifested itself, especially in the second half. The fact that all five Roscommon subs scored was evidence of the scoring prowess within the squad.

  Cunningham was a relaxed figure when he spoke to the media after the game. “I’m happy enough, but there’s loads to work on for the next four weeks. It was always going to be difficult to come here…you have to respect Sligo on their home patch. The last time Roscommon and Sligo played down here, it was a win for Sligo. I’m happy with the performance and the result, and it’s onwards now for the next four weeks”.

  The Roscommon manager agreed that the early red card for Sligo didn’t help their cause. “It dampened the game. It was hard luck really, the game wasn’t nasty or anything like that. There was nothing cynical. It was probably something that Sligo could have done without. For us, we just had to concentrate and at times and I thought we lost our concentration a little bit and we have to be on our guard about that”.

  After a so-so first half, Cunningham made it clear at half-time that he wanted a more clinical third quarter display.

  “We spoke about it at half-time…we just wanted a bit of a reaction. We were sluggish in spots in the first half, so we do have to cut that out of our play and put a bit more pace in our attacks…and we did that”.

  On a damp, overcast evening, the opening ten minutes were evenly fought. A tentative Roscommon led by 0-3 to 0-2, with Conor Cox having scored all three points, one from play. Then in the 13th minute Sligo corner-back David Phillips was shown a straight red card by referee Noel Mooney after apparently striking Cox. Mooney consulted with his linesman and with two umpires before making his decision. It left Sligo with an even bigger mountain to climb.

  Roscommon now seized the initiative. Cox (two frees), Ciarain Murtagh (two from play), Enda Smith and an Eddie Nolan ’45 saw the visitors extend the lead to six (0-9 to 0-3) by the 33rd minute.

  Sligo, for whom Niall Murphy was always a threat, did get the final two scores of the half (fine efforts from Mark Walsh and Sean Carabine) meaning Roscommon led 0-9 to 0-5 at the break.

  Roscommon played their best football in the third quarter and by the 47th minute they led by 0-14 to 0-5, the game now over as a contest. Enda Smith was superb from the restart, kicking three points in a six-minute period, and Ciarain Murtagh, Donie Smith (free) and even full-back Brian Stack also got in on the scoring.

  All five Roscommon subs got on the scoreboard. Niall Kilroy scored two fine points and Diarmuid Murtagh scored a spectacular one in injury-time, from out near the sideline. Sligo were a beaten docket long before the final whistle and the game petered out in the final fifteen minutes.

  After this comprehensive win – 23 points scored, 18 of them from play, 11 different scorers and no injuries – Anthony Cunningham and his management team can sit back and watch Leitrim and Galway battle it out next Sunday in the other semi-final.

  Roscommon have been putting up big scores recently, but the manager says that standard will be needed for the big games ahead.

  “I think you’ll need that type of form going in to play Galway or Leitrim. Any of the top teams in Division One have that sort of return. We have talented, skilful forwards, and we have attacking wing-backs – and we’d look for a couple of scores as well from them, and from the midfielders too. Keith Doyle came in there as well as a midfielder, and he very good to be able to pop a point. We’d always be pushing for players to bring that to their game, and (then) improve on it. So we have work to do…but it’s great to be in the final”.

  The final is another story. This one ended as expected, with no surprises. On an easy day for Roscommon, Eoin McCormack, Niall Daly, Eddie Nolan, Enda Smith, Ciarain Murtagh and Conor Cox stood out.