Sligo showdown after draw with Leitrim

Connacht Minor Football Championship Roscommon 0-13 Leitrim 2-7 From the jubilation of Ennis last September to the subdued and quiet Dr. Hyde Park in late April as the new crop of Roscommon minors began their defence of Connacht and All-Ireland titles with a scrappy, sluggish and error-ridden display which in the end saw 14-man Leitrim come from four points down with twenty minutes to play to snatch a deserved share of the spoils.    Corner-forward Adrian Croal fired over a last-ditch free in the fourth minute of stoppage time to really set up this round-robin series and ensure Roscommon have to defeat Sligo on Saturday evening to remain in the Connacht Championship race.    Even though Roscommon were never behind and twice led well, by 3 and 4 points respectively, they never looked in control as their play was stop-start and littered with too many mistakes which will have to be rectified before the Sligo encounter. If not rectified, the championship run in 2007 will be short.    Roscommon lined out with only two of the team that won the replay in Ennis, James McKeague and captain Paul Garvey. Two other panel members, Kevin Higgins and Alan O’Hara, started. The loss of Donie Shine who only arrived on with a minute to go and Niall Carty was felt as Roscommon were leaderless for long periods with only wing-back Eamon Bannon showing strong character when the need arose.  Last year Fergal O’Donnell’s crew went the whole season without conceding a goal, but the 2007 campaign lasted only 17 minutes before Leitrim wing-forward Shane Murphy slotted home a penalty to tie the game 0-5 to 1-2.      Roscommon were three clear again, 0-11 to 1-5, when big full-forward Niall O’Connor flicked home goal number two to drag the visitors off the floor and give them the confidence to produce a late rally. This was despite Leitrim being a man down when midfielder Tomas Beirne was sent of for two yellow cards after 39 minutes of play.      Roscommon were three up at the break, 0-8 to 1-2, after playing with the strong breeze with wing-forward Darren McDermott on song up front hitting 0-4 and hitting bull’s eye with three frees.  The Eire Og man’s free-taking was one of the positives the home side can take from this encounter, while fellow forwards Paul Garvey, Alan Duffy and Alan O’Hara also hit the target to edge the Primrose and Blue in front at the interval.    Roscommon struggled in midfield from start to finish with Kevin Higgins failing to stamp his authority on proceedings. O’Donnell will want huge improvement in two days’ time. Workrate was slack as Leitrim were given too much space when on the ball and they troubled the home defence with the high ball.    On several occasions Roscommon gave the ball away cheaply and were second in around the breaks when the crumbs fell from the table.  Roscommon showed flashes of what they are capable of when they ran at the Leitrim defence with speed and slick interchange of passes. Points by Paul O’Grady, Darren McDermott and Paul Garvey illustrated this in the third quarter as the home side led by 0-11 to 1-5 with 14 minutes to play.    With a man up the killer instinct was missing and the drive to go on and win the game never materialised and as a result they were made to pay when Niall O’Connor threw Leitrim a lifeline when he finished  a long delivery by Emmet Mahon to the net.    Twice Roscommon led entering into the closing furlong with scores by corner-back Niall Brogan  and Darren McDermott which looked like they might squeeze them through. However Leitrim never throw in the towel and they were rewarded with points by David Tiernan and the cool head of Adrian Croal who slotted over the equaliser with the last kick of the game to set Roscommon up for a tricky tie with Sligo which now takes on a championship knock-out encounter.    When supporters arrived for this one they probably pictured the team that won the All-Ireland would be back again to defend their crown. However this is a new team finding their feet and they deserve another chance to get it right. Once again a Roscommon team found out how difficult a Leitrim side is to beat. The Green and Gold just relish playing Roscommon and raise their game to new heights.     Another question from last Saturday evening was, where were all the supporters? There were 17, 282 in Ennis, but just about 800 in Hyde Park on a perfect evening for football. Roscommon: Darren O’Malley; Neil Collins, Jack Sharkey, Niall Brogan (0-1); Eamon Bannon, Kevin Brady, James McKeague; Eugene Stritch, Kevin Higgins (0-1); Alan O’Hara (0-1), Paul O’ Grady (0-1), Darren McDermott (0-6); Paul Garvey (0-2), Kevin Cummins, Alan Duffy (0-1).  Subs: Sean Walshe for Sharkey (inj); Jack Conlon for Duffy; Donie Shine for Cummins.  Leitrim: Barry McPadden; Eamon Reynolds, Conor McCawley, Declan Tiernan; Aidan Dolan, Damien Gilheaney, Christopher Higgins (0-1); Tomas Beirne, Emmet Mahon; Shane Murphy (1-0, pen), Mark Beirne (0-1), Diarmuid Clancy (0-1);  Adrian Croal (0-2), Niall O’Connor (1-0), Alan Wynn (0-1).  Subs used: David Tiernan for Clancy, Rodger Baker-Kenny for Tiernan. Referee Pat McGovern (Galway).