SOS for Seamus as Carlow trip no stroll in the Park

National Football League Div. 2A Roscommon 2-9 Carlow         1-10 Roscommon senior footballers remain on course for a top-two position in the National Football League Division 2A following this two-point win over lowly Carlow at Dr. Cullen Park. However lest any Roscommon fans who were not there begin to get excited, it must be recorded that this was a sub-standard Roscommon performance and they can count themselves lucky to have emerged with the two points after this very poor quality game of league football.   For the Irish rugby team in Murrayfield on Saturday read the Roscommon Senior Football team in Dr. Cullen Park on Sunday last.   The circumstances were remarkably similar. Both teams were playing away against opposition that they were expected to beat easily but both made very hard work of winning their respective games and emerged winners by a whisker in the end.   Without Seamus O’Neill Roscommon struggled for long periods against a very limited Carlow side who remain pointless at the bottom of the league table and a massive improvement will be needed if John Maughan’s men are to have any chance of overturning Longford in the next crucial league game on Sunday week in Hyde Park.   Roscommon were in a winning position early on when two goals helped them to a 2-3 to 0-4 lead by the 23rd minute of the first half but it went downhill from there and the unrated Carlow men more than matched Roscommon for the remainder of the game.   Played before a crowd of about 900 people (approximately 600 of them Roscommon supporters) on a reasonable day weather-wise Roscommon began fairly well and after Gary Cox and Mark Carpenter exchanged points early on Roscommon struck for their first goal in the 9th minute when Ger Heneghan placed Karol Mannion who drilled the ball past James Clarke.   Carlow did recover somewhat from that bodyblow when their very accurate freetaker Brian Kelly was on target with two close-in frees but Roscommon grabbed their second goal in the 21st minute when good work by Gary Cox and John Tiernan was finished off by David Hoey from close range and when Gary Cox scored a very good point three minutes later it looked like Roscommon would pull away to win easily.   However that was as good as it got for The Rossies and the rest of the game was a major struggle as Carlow got a foothold and grew in confidence. In the 25th minute JJ Smith ran through the Roscommon defence unchecked and drilled a low shot past Geoffrey Claffey for a very well-taken goal and from there to the finish Carlow were back in with a chance of a major upset.   Gary Cox and Cathal Cregg with a point each and Brian Kelly (another free) for Carlow left the half-time score Roscommon 2-4 Carlow 1-5.   The second half was littered with mistakes and fumbled possesssion as the sides tried to secure an upperhand. Luckily for Roscommon they could just about keep their noses in front. Roscommon were struggling all over the field and they were fortunate that Carlow were not able to take advantage. However, points from Ger Heneghan (2), John Tiernan and Gary Cox saw Roscommon lead by 2-8 to 1-7 after 24 minutes of the second half.   However Carlow were not ready to roll over. Impressive sub Brian Farrell brought a brilliant save out of Geoffrey Claffey at the expense of a 45′ with 10 minutes to go and then another Carlow sub Brian Carberry slotted over a 40-metre point to narrow the gap to three and while David Hoey lifted the siege with a good Roscommon point in the 35th minute there were still four minutes of injury-time to be played.   In betweeen Carlow were reduced to 14 men when midfielder Ronan McGrath was sent off for a second yellow card offence but it didn’t seem to lessen the Carlow effort in those final 10 minutes.   Paul Reid narrowed the gap again with a point in the 36th minute and in the 38th minute the gap was down to two when Brian Kelly kicked over another free. However the final whistle came just in time for Roscommon and the big travelling support could breathe easily again.   The players and team management will be hoping to erase this poor performance from the memory banks as soon as possible and it is only right to state that this WAS a win and two more league points on the table. However it is also fair comment to say that a repeat of this poor Roscommon performance will not be good enough to unhinge Longford in what is now almost a championship game in Hyde Park on Sunday week.   The availability of Seamus O’Neill for that vital clash will be crucial now and supporters and management alike will be hoping that the big Kilbride man is able to take his place on Sunday week as his influence and leadership was needed badly on Sunday.   The defence will also have to tighten up considerably because againt Longford they will face players who are infinitely better than those they were up against on Sunday last. Players like Brian Kavanagh, the Barden brothers, Padraig Davis and even the returning Niall Sheridan will pose a major threat. But that’s for another day. In the meantime I suppose all one can say about last Sunday is probably the oldest cliché in the book