Rossies return to the top table!




Allianz NFL Division 2: Roscommon 0-17 Cork 1-11


Back with the elite! Roscommon footballers will once again dine at the top table of the Allianz National Football League in 2019 after this hard-fought but deserved three point win against a spirited Cork side at Dr Hyde Park on Sunday. It’s a tremendous achievement and one that didn’t look likely after a draw against Meath in the opening game and defeat to Down in round three. But a serious improvement over the past month has paved the way for a deserved and quick return to the top division.

  The last four games have seen the team improve with every outing and once again there were many positives to report on Sunday. The panel is getting stronger all the time with the performance of the returning Ultan Harney a huge plus on this occasion. Ciarán Lennon was also outstanding, especially in the first half, and Diarmuid Murtagh is performing close to his best once again. Niall Daly, Enda Smith and Cathal Cregg were also very effective when introduced in the second half.

  With a league final against Cavan to come this Sunday in Croke Park, it is the perfect preparation for the forthcoming Connacht championship. It is also a considerable achievement for Kevin McStay and his management team who have steered the team to a Connacht title and promotion to Division One in the past 18 months.

  In the opening quarter Roscommon looked as if they would swat Cork aside, they led by 0-7 to 0-2 after 16 minutes and played some great football. A Roscommon goal was all that was needed for the game to be put to bed but it didn’t arrive. In fact, it was Cork who scored it when Peter Kelleher got the better of Fergal Lennon, and by half-time Kevin McStay must have been pulling his hair out, as it was level at 0-10 to 1-7 after such a promising opening period.

  Indeed the third quarter was nip and tuck and Cork actually took the lead with 15 minutes to go, but Roscommon’s strength off the bench told again and the subs made a huge impact as Roscommon struck late to win it by three. The fact that Cork missed a couple of scoreable frees also helped.

  I was really impressed by Ultan Harney at centre half-back. He was a powerhouse all through and will only improve. Roscommon fans will be praying that he stays fit, as he will be vital later in the year. It’s great to have him back. Ciarán Lennon is also improving with every game and had a sensational first half on Sunday – a great man to win his own ball.

  Niall Kilroy got through a mountain of work, especially in the last 20 minutes when the result hung in the balance. Cathal Compton made some very good catches and continues to improve and Diarmuid and Ciaráin Murtagh continue to score well. Roscommon now have a bench to be reckoned with and that strength in reserve was a deciding factor.

  Now the year ahead looks really exciting. Cavan in Croke Park next Sunday will give the team a chance to banish the ghosts of the Mayo replay from last summer and also to win silverware at headquarters, which is always welcome. Then we have the championship, and Roscommon will go into the Connacht campaign as the defending champions. Even at this early stage it’s fair to say that they have a good chance of retaining that title on current form.

  Then in the spring of 2019 there is Division One football and the prospect of big games against Mayo and Galway, not to mention Dublin and Kerry – exciting times indeed for Roscommon football! Last Sunday was a great day for the Rossies, well done to all concerned.

Teams and scorers

Roscommon: Colm Lavin; David Murray, Fergal Lennon, Peter Domican; Conor Daly (0-1), Ultan Harney, Brian Stack; Tadhg O’Rourke, Cathal Compton; Ciaráin Murtagh (0-3, 2 frees), Niall Kilroy, Conor Devaney; Donie Smith (0-3), Ciaran Lennon (0-3), Diarmuid Murtagh (0-5, 3 frees). Subs: Niall Daly (0-1) for Murray (43), Enda Smith for D Smith (47), Cathal Cregg (0-1) for O’Rourke (53), Seanie McDermott for Devaney (66), Fintan Cregg for C Lennon (68).

Cork: Ryan Price; Kevin Crowley, Jamie O’Sullivan, Kevin Flahive; Matthew Taylor (0-1), Sean Wilson, Tom Clancy; Ian Maguire, Cillian O’Hanlon; Ronan O’Toole, Mark Collins (0-3), John O’Rourke (0-1); Colm O’Neill (0-5, 3 frees, ‘45), Peter Kelleher (1-0), Stephen Sherlock Subs: Michael Hurley (0-1) for Sherlock (48), Dylan Quinn for Clancy (51), Padraig Clancy for Taylor (58), Donncha O’Connor for Kelleher (59), Cathal Vaughan for Maguire (61), Danny O’Callaghan for O’Toole (64).

Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)