Smith finally ends Cavan resistance

All-Ireland SFC Round Robin (Group 2)
Roscommon 3-20 Cavan 1-20

Roscommon’s Enda Smith en route to scoring a vital goal in last Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC group two match at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park in Longford. Pic: Bernie O’Farrell

Roscommon and Cavan footballers threw off the shackles at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park in Longford on Saturday last, producing a thrilling shootout for the 3,962 spectators in attendance on a mostly sunny summer’s evening.

At the end of it all Roscommon’s superior attacking threat and their ability to get goals at crucial stages of the game was the difference between the teams, and it puts them through to the final 12 in the race for the Sam Maguire Cup.

Roscommon’s marquee players stood up to the plate on the evening as well, and that was also a key element in their success. Diarmuid Murtagh, Enda Smith, Daire Cregg and Brian Stack were magnificent, driving their team on throughout this very entertaining scorefest.

It was evident from early on in the contest that a focus on defence and conservative football was not part of the game plan of either side. Roscommon led 0-4 to 0-2 after 10 minutes, with Donie Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh, Conor Cox and Enda Smith all on target.

Cavan were enterprising too, and in Gerard Smith and Cormac O’Reilly they had attackers capable of causing mayhem for the Roscommon defence, which they did so repeatedly.

That said, points on the spin for Roscommon from Murtagh, Cregg and Shane Cunnane opened a three-point gap by the 18th minute, and then a stroke of good fortune arrived for Davy Burke’s men in the 21st minute.

Diarmuid Murtagh’s shot for a point from out on the left looped over Cavan goalkeeper Gary O’Rourke, landing in the far corner of the net. It put the Rossies five points ahead. By half-time they led 1-11 to 0-10.

It certainly wasn’t all plain sailing for Roscommon as Cavan were always a threat. Indeed they missed two clear goal chances in that first half. In the 23rd minute Ryan Donohoe’s shot was brilliantly blocked on the line by Robbie Dolan, and two minutes later Donohoe tried his luck again, only for Conor Carroll to make a fine save.

Points from Oisin Brady and Cormac O’Reilly on the restart reduced the margin to two, but in the 41st minute Roscommon struck for another crucial goal. This one was all about Enda Smith. The All-Star made a trademark barnstorming run through the middle of the Cavan defence before off-loading to Brian Stack, who fisted to the net.

In the nature of this game Cavan were far from finished. Sub Darragh Lovett was having a major impact and by the 53rd minute the gap was still just four (2-15 to 0-17).

In the 56th minute Luke Fortune’s crossfield pass was fisted to the net by another Cavan sub, Dara McVeety, and it was game on once more.

Two minutes later Enda Smith again came to Roscommon’s rescue. This time the Boyle star burst down the right, and although his shot was initially blocked, he followed up to put the rebound across the line. It was the score that finally broke Cavan’s resistance.

In fairness to the Breffni men they never gave up and tacked on three fine points after that, but Roscommon matched them all the way with subs Ciaran Lennon and Andy Glennon making contributions on the scoreboard too.

Having criticised Roscommon for being conservative and tentative in their style of play this year, it is only fair to praise their change of approach this time around. It emphasised once again the talent that is there in attack if our forward players get enough ball (something that we have said consistently).

However, it has to be pointed out that defending is also part of the game, and the concession of 1-20 will surely be a worry for the team management as they prepare for another big knockout match this weekend.

But for the moment, let’s enjoy what was a refreshing and very welcome positive attacking display from the Roscommon team. Onwards and upwards from here – hopefully.