Round Robin fails to stop minors’ flight

ESB Connacht Minor Football Championship Roscommon …………. 0-11  Sligo ……………………… 1-6 Paul Hickey  Roscommon secured a berth in the semi-finals of the Connacht minor football championship with a two-point ’round robin’ win over Sligo last Saturday evening. The game, which was played at Dr. Hyde Park, was a good exhibition of gaelic football that featured several exciting phases of play and a number of excellent scores. Dara Lennon, Eamonn Bannon, Paddy Brogan, Neil  Collins, Niall Daly, Cathal Shine and Darren McDermott all performed maturely for a confident Roscommon team that trailed from James Clarke’s point in the first minute till St. Brigid’s Eoin Sheedy kicked  a tremendous equalising point in the 52nd minute. Slack defending by the Roscommon full-back line allowed Sligo to score two early points and after Conor Davey coolly slotted a penalty home in the 12th minute Gary Wynne’s players battled uphill for 40 minutes. It wasn’t until Sligo’s talismanic centre half-forward David Maye was substituted because of injury in the 42nd minute that Roscommon began to dominate, and the lead was only seized for the first time five minutes from the end when Darren McDermott pointed. This was not the most exciting game of football that Roscommon patrons have been treated to by representative teams this year but it was nevertheless a good and an important win for a promising minor team.  It may be both premature and illusory to invoke the old precept that ‘a good team wins matches when it plays well, and a great team wins matches when its plays badly’ but the record shows that Roscommon have beaten both Leitrim and Sligo in this year’s Connacht Championship. Roscommon played modestly when defeating Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon in the opening championship game. Last Saturday the performance level was raised considerably, but Roscommon supporters left Dr. Hyde Park last Saturday with the impression that Wynne’s team has a lot more left in the fuel tank. If Lennon, Bannon, Brogan, Collins, Daly, Shine and McDermott played well on Saturday evening, a number of other players did not exhibit their strengths to the same extent, and certainly this team is capable of increasing its productivity in the coming weeks. Brian Murtagh and Niall Kilroy both showed glimpses of what they can do for their county in the first half, but these two players will have a much bigger impact in the semi-final. Eamonn Kenny is another player who is capable of great feats, but he withdrew through injury in this game before he had a chance to get into rhythm. It was encouraging to see Colm O’Neill play reasonably well in midfield, and he is also a player who has the ability to play better than he did in this match. Sligo led by four points by the 12th minute when full-back Conor Davey calmy put his penalty kick between Darren O’Malley and his left post. This lead was maintained till the end of the third quarter as Roscommon struggled to pressurise the away team’s full-back line. Niall Kilroy, Cathal Shine (2), and Dara Lennon (2) were Roscommon’s first half scorers, with Maye (a free) and Stephen Maher scoring points for Sligo in the second quarter. A free by David Maye at the beginning of the second half put three points between the teams as Sligo began to impose themselves. The irrepressible Eamonn Bannon scored a lovely curling point in the 36th minute to reduce the deficit to two. Maye’s fourth point – a tremendous sideline kick from 30 metres – came in the 40th minute. Then came the game’s decisive phase. The Sligo centre-forward, through whom most of Sligo’s game went, was withdrawn through injury, and thereafter Roscommon were in control. It must be pointed out, though, that Mark Keaveney played well for Roscommon, and Maye only scored once from play. Lennon kicked two massive frees from off the ground outside the 45-metre line in the 42nd and 43rd minutes, and dominant Roscommon were within a point. The invigorating play of half-back Bannon drove the home team on, and Eoin Sheedy kicked the equaliser in the 52nd minute after good work by Bannon and Brian Murtagh.  Sligo missed an easy 21-metre free in the 53rd minute, and then Bannon again was the architect of the score that gave Roscommon the lead in the 55th minute, when he made a superb run before off-loading to Darren McDermott, who fisted over.  There was some controversial refereeing in the final moments, and Lennon kicked Roscommon’s 11th point in the fifth minute of injury-time. Roscommon: Darren O’Malley; Paddy Brogan, Neil Collins, Niall Daly; Eamonn Bannon (0-1), Mark Keaveney, Michael Higgins; Eugene Stritch, Colm O’Neill; Bernard Carthy, Dara Lennon (0-5, 0-4 frees), Brian Murtagh; Niall Kilroy (0-1), Cathal Shine (0-2), Eamonn Kenny. Subs used: Darren McDermott (0-2) for Kenny (29 mins, inj); Eoin Sheedy (0-1) for Carthy (41 mins); Thomas Hanley for Murtagh (55 mins); Michael Sweeney for Kilroy (59 mins, inj); Shane Regan for Daly (60 mins). Sligo: Brian McGovern; Johnny Kelly,  Conor Davey (1-0, penalty), Darren McManus; Jason Matthews, Darren Gilsenan, Enda Kivehan; James Clarke (0-1), Niall McDonagh; Barry O’Boyle, David Maye (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 sl), Stephen Maher (0-1); Luke McDonagh, Padraic Clarke, Brian Harris. Subs used: Conor Griffith for Clarke (26 mins); Pat Hughes for Griffith (inj., 36 mins). Match at a glance Players who did well:  Sligo’s David Maye was the best player on the pitch for the first 40 minutes. Dara Lennon, Eamonn Bannon, Paddy Brogan, Neil  Collins, Niall Daly, Cathal Shine and Darren McDermott were Roscommon’s best performers. Man of the match: Dara Lennon (Roscommon): Dara Lennon’s two massive frees in the 42nd and 43rd minutes were the crucial scores. Lennon contributed excellently to the play every time he was in possession, and his five-point haul is a reflection of his involvement in the fare. Crowd Watch: A large crowd of circa 500 people attended this match. A very small number of Roscommon fans regrettably did a disservice to the county and to the Gaelic Athletic Association by persistently booing the referee throughout the match. Referee Watch: Padraic McGovern from Galway made a number of questionable decisions at Dr. Hyde Park last  Saturday, most notably his curious failure to send off Sligo’s Jason Matthews for striking a Roscommon player in the face five minutes from time.