Slick win over Galway clinches promotion and place in league final 

Allianz National Football League Division Two
Roscommon 1-20 Galway 1-15

“Division One is where we want to be!”

  That was the verdict of a delighted Anthony Cunningham after his team finished unbeaten in their Division Two campaign and secured promotion back to the top flight.

  Cunningham says his team will be going all out to win this Sunday’s league final against Galway at Croke Park after last weekend’s victory over the same opposition secured promotion back to Division One.

  He told People Sport: “We have not discussed how we will approach the league final next Sunday (but) we will be going there to win. It is a really big game in terms of the preparations for the championship and it fits in nicely to our schedule”.

  Cunningham was thrilled with his team’s display in Sunday’s promotion-sealing win in Dr Hyde Park.

  “It was probably easier for us to get up for today’s game than Galway as they were already through. We played well in this league and we wanted a good display today. Galway have beaten us a few times in recent years and we wanted to put that right today”.

  Cunningham hailed the players. “The players we brought into the panel this year have really blossomed. The fact we were missing players at the start of the league meant that others got a chance. It’s all about developing a panel. Division One is where we want to be…it is great for the development of players to be playing the top teams. I’m thrilled that we will get a chance to do that now”.

  Another scintillating first-half performance ensured that Roscommon will play Division One football in 2023 after this final round league match played before a big crowd in glorious sunshine at Dr Hyde Park last Sunday.

  Leading by 1-14 to 0-6 at half-time, it was probably inevitable that the home side would ease up in the second period, which is what transpired. However, Roscommon were always able to keep their neighbours at arm’s length, at least until a well-taken Johnny Heaney goal in the 65th minute raised some concerns. But Anthony Cunningham’s men saw it out in the end and coasted to a comfortable win.

  With Roscommon 0-5 to 0-4 in front, Galway were competing well. However after Donie Smith pointed a free in the 17th minute and Galway’s Conor Sweeney was black-carded in the 20th minute, Roscommon took over and played some delightful football.

  Conor Cox pointed brilliantly from play and then Ciarain Murtagh landed three super points within three minutes. When Cox pointed another free in the 30th minute, it was 0-12 to 0-4.

  Even better was to come in the 32nd minute when Cian McKeon, playing his best ever game in a Roscommon jersey, scored a brilliant individual goal. The Boyle man powered past three Galway defenders before playing a one-two with Donie Smith and fisting to the Galway net. It was one of the best scores of the entire league campaign and helped Roscommon into that 11-point lead at the break.

  While not as impressive in the second half, Roscommon stayed well ahead and by the end of the third quarter led by 1-17 to 0-10. In the 65th minute Johnny Heaney rifled the ball into the top corner after a Roscommon defensive lapse, and when Tony Gill, Owen Gallagher and Dessie Conneely pointed deep into injury-time, the gap was down to four. Roscommon had the final say. Sub Niall Kilroy brought the crowd to their feet again with a point with the last kick of the game. Sean Kelly (red) and Conor Cox (black) were sent to the line deep into injury-time after an off the ball clash.

   Promotion is a marvellous outcome for Anthony Cunningham and the squad. Several new players have put their heads up this year and some others have really blossomed. Next up is a league final at Croke Park with silverware on the line, and the Connacht Championship is just around the corner. With the U-20 team from last year beginning to filter through as well, these are exciting times for Roscommon football.

Referee: Derek O’Mahony (Tipperary).