What’s seldom is wonderful! It may have come too late, but Roscommon’s footballers have not come away from a very disappointing league campaign empty handed as they deservedly beat a very poor Cavan side in this entertaining final league game of the season at sunny Dr. Hyde Park last Sunday.
While one win will certainly not wash away the problems facing the side as they prepare for the championship, it will serve as a big boost to the team management and the players who really put in a big shift last Sunday and some of the negativity that surrounded the camp in recent weeks has been silenced. That is a positive going into a long break before the Connacht semi-final against London or Leitrim on June 18th.
It would be very wise not to get carried away by this victory against a very disjointed Cavan side but there were plenty of positives that Roscommon can take away from the game. The tackling and defending for the home side was way better than in any game in the league campaign so far and the defence restricted the Cavan attack to very few clear-cut chances. In fact, in the last 15 minutes Cavan resorted to booting in long and aimless balls which either went wide of were gobbled up by the Roscommon rear-guard. I thought that Cavan, who had everything to play for, were very limited indeed. How they went to Castlebar and won a few weeks ago is a total mystery to me having seen them last Sunday.
The Roscommon midfield area also did well with Tadgh O’Rourke performing well in that sector, and the attack looked very sharp at times. But I don’t think that readers will mind if I single out one Roscommon player who contributed more than any other to this victory, and that was Niall Kilroy. The much criticised Fuerty man was a late starter for Fintan Cregg but he put in his best ever display in a Roscommon senior jersey last Sunday. Not alone did he kick three super points from play but he was a vital link between defence and attack and he was everywhere on the field throughout, in what was a tremendous display.
Others to shine were Conor Devaney (possibly Roscommon’s best player in the whole league campaign) Niall McInerney, Enda Smith, Donie Smith and Cian Connolly until he had to go off injured. There were also a few flashes from sub Tom Corcoran. All in all, it was a very good win but there is a mountain of work to be done before Roscommon can claim that they can be competitive against the likes of Mayo and Galway, never mind the likes of Kerry and Dublin.
It was also strange to see Donie Smith being taken off when he was playing well and it was also strange that both Donie Smith and Seanie McDermott were taken off and put back on again when Paddy Brogan, Thomas Fetherston and Brian Murtagh were all on the sideline.
The reality is that Roscommon are going to be playing their football in Division Two of the league in 2018 and everyone knows just how hard it is to get out of that group. It is also worth remembering that both Galway and Mayo will be in Division One next spring which will be a big boost to them.
After the controversies and needless off-field publicity that we have seen in recent weeks it is great to report on a good win and I am thrilled for the players on the panel and those involved with the team. But now attention will turn to the championship and unless Roscommon can compete with Galway or Mayo, or indeed some of the teams that we have played against since the first week in February, the year will not have been a success.
Kevin McStay has said that training will really ramp up in the next few weeks and a lot of work needs to be done. The team manager says that the panel is open-ended and it would be great to see a few faces back because we need them all. But for the moment, well done to all concerned with that win last Sunday. It may have been a few games too late in terms of league points, but it was important not to end the league with no wins at all. Hopefully this will be the boost that is so badly needed.