Rossies move one step closer!




Allianz NFL Division 2 (Round 6): Roscommon 0-15 Cavan 0-13

Almost there! A late surge from Roscommon led by Ciaráin Murtagh saw Kevin McStay’s men whisk away the two vital league points on offer at a freezing Dr Hyde Park on Sunday and now it will take a most unlikely set of circumstances to deny them a quick return to the top division. As it stands, a win against Cork in the final game will see Roscommon promoted or even if there is a winner in the game between Tipperary and Cavan, Roscommon will also go up.

  But back to last Sunday, and given the Siberian type weather, it was a thrilling game and all credit to the players on both sides for that. I would wager that Kevin McStay and his selectors learned more about their team in this encounter than in any of the other games this season. The resolve and character of the squad was tested to the limit by a determined and skilful Cavan outfit that arrived hell-bent on breaking the hoodoo that Roscommon have held over them in recent years. But once again they left empty-handed and they must now wonder if they will ever beat Roscommon in a competitive match.

  There were a number of very satisfying aspects to this win from a Roscommon point of view. They recovered from a disastrous start to put themselves in a good position at half-time but they had to dig in and fight so hard in that second half. The subs that were introduced all made a big contribution. When you have men like Conor Daly, Enda Smith, Cathal Cregg and Ultan Harney in reserve, it is a sign of a very strong squad. That will please the manager and his selectors as much as anything.

  But there was great leadership shown on the field from the starters too. Ciaráin Murtagh was sensational and this was his best game in a Roscommon jersey in many a long day. His final three points under pressure won the game for the home side. Peter Domican was outstanding at full-back and is proving a huge asset to the side since his return. Brian Stack grew into the game and was excellent in the last 20 minutes in particular in his unfamiliar role at centre half-back.

  Conor Devaney worked hard again after an ‘iffy’ start and Donie Smith always looked dangerous in attack. Cathal Cregg and Enda Smith added much needed punch to the forward division when they came on and both men got on the scoresheet. But it was the resolve and will to win that was most pleasing to behold last Sunday. The argument that Roscommon might have been better off to stay in Division Two for another year is now redundant. The Rossies will be supping at the top table in 2019, it’s as simple as that.

  One incident summed up the work ethos of the team in this game. In the 53rd minute, Enda Smith gave the ball away needlessly. Dara McVeety was through and a Cavan goal looked certain, but Smith was back to make a brilliant tackle and the danger was cleared. It was that kind of day.

  No one is getting carried away but this is a hugely important win in terms of Roscommon’s season. There are definite signs of improvement over the past month and the squad is taking shape at just the right time. I am still not convinced that we have found the right midfield partnership but our defence looks more settled and we have excellent attacking options. This was a day that tested the character and fighting qualities of the team. They passed that test with flying colours. More big days on the way in the spring of 2019!