THE SCARYTALE OF NEW YORK

Connacht Senior Football Championship: Roscommon 1-15 New York 0-17

On a cold, wet, miserable day at Gaelic Park, New York, Roscommon footballers came within a whisker of being the victims of the biggest shock in the history of the All-Ireland SFC when they emerged victorious by just a single point after a thrilling, intense and sometimes chaotic Connacht Championship game played in front of a sodden crowd of about 2,500 people, most of whom had made the journey across the Atlantic from Roscommon.

  Yes, the statistics will show that Roscommon have qualified for the Connacht quarter-final against Leitrim in two and a half weeks’ time, but the display produced by Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell’s men was disjointed and rudderless and they will be the first to admit that Roscommon were as lucky as cut cats to emerge victorious from this match.

  In the final 15 minutes New York pinned Roscommon back and outscored them by 0-6 to 0-1. They drove at an overworked Roscommon defence time after time. They had a super goal chance in the final minute when Kevin Connolly blasted over when clean through, and if that had gone in, the resulting victory would have been no more than the home side deserved.

  To put into perspective what happened here, consider the following: Roscommon, who survived comfortably in Division One of the league, were facing a team that would scarcely be able to compete in Division Four. New York have no league or challenge games in which to prepare –and limited training opportunities as well. That they were within a whisker of knocking Roscommon out of the Connacht Championship is an astounding achievement on their part, and it raises several question marks about this Roscommon team, who were very poor on the day.

   What usually happens in these games is that the visiting team from Ireland generally pulls away in the final 20 minutes, when superior fitness and preparation kicks in. Last Sunday it was the polar opposite. As the game went on, Roscommon’s challenge wilted, and New York became stronger and stronger. There will be a lot of soul-searching in Roscommon this week to try to come up with answers to how things went so badly wrong. This should have been no more than an easy run-out and – at the very least – a 10 to 12 point victory. Instead, it turned into a massive battle that Roscommon were lucky to survive.

  Having said all the above, Roscommon created at least five clear goal chances, and, in Vinny Cadden, they came up against a goalkeeper who simply refused to be beaten (the penalty apart). For Roscommon, Sean Mullooly, John McManus and Seanie McDermott were defiant, Ciaran Murtagh and Conor Devaney kicked some vital scores and Senan Kilbride’s brilliant point as the clock ticked over the 70-minute mark was a worthy winning score. But apart from that there was little for the huge Roscommon crowd to be positive about. Major problems remain at midfield and at centre-back and Roscommon seem to have huge difficulty playing against any team who set up defensively against them. Indeed when the pressure came on in those final 15 minutes Roscommon coughed up possession time after time and were unlucky not to have conceded at least two goals in that frantic final period.

  One thing is for certain…a repeat of the performance we saw in Gaelic Park last Sunday will ensure another short summer for Roscommon footballers and their supporters. However, they must now get back to work and put this display behind them. A Connacht final appearance is still a legitimate aim this week. But only just!