PAUL HEALY: View from the Stand
‘The early play was frustrating, both sides askew with their shooting, the umpires constantly waving at us, reminiscent of a protective mother seeing a loved one off at the train station’
The Hyde was a happy place last Sunday. The weather Gods were smiling. Supporters – the Roscommon ones already buoyed by the previous weekend’s draw with Dublin – were all smiles too.
The game went according to script, if one can say that matches have a script. Sligo matched Roscommon early on, but the home team always seemed to have an extra gear they could engage. Midway into the second half, Roscommon’s fitness, conditioning, quality and squad depth began to tell. In the end, the home side sauntered to a handsome win against dogged but limited opposition.
Mind you – credit to Sligo here – the game had to be won a couple of times. When Roscommon went five in front in the second half, it felt like a decisive turning point. Then Sligo pounced for a fine goal. Suitably chastened, Roscommon noted that the foundations of victory had been unceremoniously dislodged, then immediately set about calmly rebuilding. Cue another gear shift. Still, the goal was welcome when it came. Dylan Ruane availed of more great endeavour by Enda Smith, and asked no questions as a gap opened in the heart of the opposition defence. An opponent tried to halt his gallop, but Like A Rolling Stone, Dylan continued his run, keeping his balance and directing a shot that seemed to travel in slow motion to the Sligo net.
We had arrived 15 minutes before throw-in, revelling in the scorching weather, confident enough of victory, yet still wary of the underdogs’ potential bite.
The Hyde pitch looked magnificent. “Put that umbrella down” a man in the stand quipped just before throw-in, addressing everyone and no one. He revealed no more of his routine.
The early play was frustrating, both sides askew with their shooting, the umpires constantly waving at us, reminiscent of a protective mother seeing a loved one off at the train station.
Every time Roscommon looked set to move well clear, Sligo responded. Roscommon led by two at half-time. The second half was much better than the first. Again, when Roscommon looked set to pull away, Sligo hung in. But Roscommon were comfortable enough, slowly building their lead until they went five clear. Enda Smith was at times poetry in motion against the Yeats County. One of his finest games in a long, long time.
The Sligo goal was a bolt from the black (and white). Roscommon remained calm, Smith leading the march to victory. Donie Smith came off the bench and contributed two points. All over the pitch, men in primrose and blue were now in full flow. Cian McKeon was excellent all afternoon, again. Ben O’Carroll won a huge amount of ball, jinking, turning, off-loading, giving his marker some of the ‘twisted blood’ George Best famously imposed on Chelsea full-back Ken Shellito (older readers may be with me on this one).
Dylan Ruane had a fine game, so too the warrior that is Niall Daly. The Murtaghs treated us to some of their distinctive brilliance, magic in their boots. The entire team excelled in those closing stages, the ten-point winning margin even tiptoeing them to the top of group 3 on scoring difference.
It wasn’t flawless, but it was good… reassuringly in harmony with the rhythm of Roscommon’s season. No team will fancy facing Davy’s men.