Allianz National Football League Division One (Round 2)
This was one of the most memorable league wins for Roscommon for many a long day. Two years ago there were three away wins in Division One but it’s some time since the Dr. Hyde Park crowd saw Roscommon pull a win like this one out of the hat. It was thrilling, dramatic stuff.
GAA people love it when the pundits get it wrong and I was one of those who will have to hold my hand up this week because I thought that Monaghan would be too strong for the home side with the panel of experienced and talented players they have. But I reckoned without this newfound self-belief, incredible work ethic and fierce determination that is now coursing through the veins of the Roscommon players since Anthony Cunningham and his management team have taken over.
It was so heart-warming to see a Roscommon team overcome so many setbacks in a big game and still come out winners in the end. In the first half, eight wides and a missed goal chance looked like they would cost them the league points. Monaghan brought on Conor McManus at half-time and within eleven minutes they were two ahead.
But the Roscommon players refused to accept defeat. Even when Conor Cox and Tadgh O’Rourke were black-carded within a minute, the Primrose and Blue army refused to bend the knee. In fact, it was when Roscommon were down to 13 players that they were awarded the match-winning penalty. Enda Smith smashed it beyond Rory Beggan to send his side back into the lead.
McManus pointed from way out in the country to tie up the scores, but Roscommon smelt blood. The ‘sinners’ were back on for injury-time. Conor Cox kicked a magnificent free from the sideline with the outside of his right boot before Ronan Daly put in a lung-bursting run to fist over to give Roscommon a two point win.
What a performance this was from Roscommon. Once again Niall Daly was immense in defence, leading by example. He charged around Hyde Park like it was his land. Evan McGrath wasn’t far behind him. Some of his covering, tackling and hard running was simply magnificent. Conor Daly and Davy Murray were outstanding too.
Enda Smith and Tadgh O’Rourke did well at midfield and up front Conor Cox can be well pleased with his debut. Two of the frees he struck were out of the top drawer. He is a huge asset to the team. Ultan Harney was also superb; he was in the engine room all day and he worked incredibly hard.
But there was not one Roscommon player or sub who didn’t contribute to this magnificent win. Now suddenly the Division One picture is so different. Tyrone come to Hyde Park on Sunday next without any points and desperate for a win. If Roscommon can re-produce the kind of display that we saw last Sunday then I wouldn’t rule out another win.
But that’s for Sunday. For many decades past Roscommon were always known as a tough, hard team that were very difficult to beat. Roscommon are back there again now. As one man said to me after the game on Sunday: “Roscommon have their mojo back after so many years and thank God for that’’. It might be a little bit early to be getting too excited but last Sunday will live long in the memory. I’m so glad I got it wrong!
Roscommon: Darren O’Malley (0-1, a ’45); David Murray, Conor Daly, Evan McGrath; Conor Hussey, Niall Daly (0-1), Ronan Daly (0-1); Tadgh O’Rourke, Enda Smith (1-1, 1-0 pen); Shane Killoran, Ultan Harney (0-1), Niall Kilroy (0-2); Conor Cox (0-5, 5 frees), Colin Compton, Cathal Cregg.
Subs used: Ciarán Lennon for Compton (34); Conor Devaney for Cregg (53), Hubert Darcy for Kilroy (61), Caoileann Fitzmaurice for Harney (69), Gary Patterson for Lennon (72).
Monaghan: Rory Beggan (0-2, 2 frees); Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie; Dessie Ward (0-2), Barry Kerr, Colin Walshe; Darren Hughes, Fintan Kelly (0-1); Shane Carey, Jack McCarron (0-2, 1 free), Gavin Doogan; Conor McCarthy (0-1, a mark), Dermot Malone (0-1), Michael Bannigan.
Subs used: Drew Wylie for Boyle (17); Conor McManus (0-04, 3 frees) for Bannigan (h/t); Ryan McAnespie for Doogan (43); Karl O’Connell for Carey (53); Stephen O’Hanlon for McCarthy (66 mins).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)