Monaghan scored a goal and two points in injury-time in Kiltoom last Sunday to snatch the two league points on offer and thus break the hearts of a Roscommon team playing their first match back in the top division in 13 years. Despite a brave, battling, and hard-working display, the Rossies were left with nothing out of a game which they could have won and definitely could have taken at least a point from.

  Now the task facing Roscommon footballers in Division One of the National Football League has become even harder after this heartbreaking loss to an impressive Monaghan side in what, despite the terrible conditions, was a very entertaining game.

  The gale-force wind and squally showers blew directly down towards the Shannon and Roscommon had the advantage of the elements in the first half. Scores were hard to come by in the first quarter but by the 16th minute Roscommon led by 0-4 to 0-0, with Fintan Cregg and Ciaran Murtagh (2) with frees and a lovely Enda Smith point from 40 metres.

  Monaghan managed only two points in the entire first half and they were both from placed balls. Conor McManus converted a 42-metre free into the wind in the 20th minute to open their account and in the 29th minute goalkeeper Rory Beggan converted a ’45.

  In the meantime Roscommon were playing well but probably not working the scoreboard operator as much as their dominance would have justified. Then, in the 27th minute, Roscommon strung together a great move, featuring a peach of a pass from Conor Devaney to Ciaran Murtagh. The St. Faithleach’s man was upended by Ryan Wylie (who received a black card) and referee Conor Lane pointed to the penalty spot and Ciaran Murtagh himself drilled the ball low and hard to the Monaghan net. Then in the 31st minute, Fintan Cregg, who was having a fantastic game, burst through for a great point from close range and at half-time Roscommon led by 1-5 to 0-2. However, Roscommon were hit by a needless black card given to Ciaran Murtagh in the 34th minute and the home side were to miss their top scorer, who was playing well.

  Would six points be enough of a lead against the howling gale and rain in the second half? That was the big question at half-time. The second half started brilliantly for Roscommon when Senan Kilbride kicked a super point in the first minute, but the expected Monaghan onslaught followed almost immediately after that and from there to the finish it was a compelling contest as Monaghan pressed forward and Roscommon battled heroically to keep them out.

  In the 38th minute Neil McAdam found Dermot Malone with a fine pass and the centre half-forward found the bottom corner of the net – and Monaghan were back in business. In the 41st minute Fintan Cregg burst through and his rocket of a shot clipped the crossbar and went over for a point. A goal at that stage would have put Roscommon in a very strong position.

  Roscommon were defending for their lives and Seanie McDermott and Niall McInerney were outstanding, with Fintan Cregg putting in a massive shift further out the field, but Monaghan were starting to turn the screw. Thomas Kerr kicked two lovely points within a minute to further narrow the gap and by the 52nd minute the scores were level at 1-8 each. Fintan Cregg scored another fine point for Roscommon and Monaghan were on target through Conor McManus (free), sub Daniel McKenna, Rory Beggan (a ’45) and Neil McAdam.

  It was incredibly tense now as the winning post came into view. In the 68th minute Fintan Cregg swung over a magnificent free from the right wing to edge Roscommon ahead, but then as the clock went over the 70-minute mark Daniel Malone levelled again with a point from 30 metres.

  Then disaster struck in the 71st minute. Darren O’Malley’s quick kick-out struck Neil Collins and spun into the hands of Ciaran McManus and the two-time All-Star made no mistake, blasting the ball high into the Roscommon net. Then in the 73rd minute Daniel McKenna sealed the smash and grab raid with a fine point from 25 metres. The cruelty of life in Division One was suddenly evident at the final whistle as Monaghan celebrated and Roscommon experienced  devastation.

  Best for Roscommon were Seanie McDermott, Niall Collins and Niall McInerney in the full-back line, Davy Murray (first half), Ian Kilbride and Ciaran Murtagh, until he got his black card just before half-time. Niall Kilroy had a good first half before he faded in the second period. Roscommon’s man of the match was Fintan Cregg who turned in a massive display from the first minute to the 75th, scoring five points from play and frees.

  Best for a very impressive Monaghan outfit were Colin Walshe, Drew Wylie, Dessie Mone, Neil McAdam, Dermot Malone and sub Daniel McKenna.

Monaghan: Rory Beggan (0-2, 45s); Colin Walsh, Drew Wylie, Ryan Wylie; Dessie Mone, Fintan Kelly, Karl O’Connell; Neil McAdam (0-1), Darren Hughes; Kieran Duffy, Dermot Malone (1-1), Owen Duffy; Shane Carey, Thomas Kerr (0-2), Conor McManus (1-2, 2 frees). Subs: Conor Boyle for R Wylie (black card 27), Daniel McKenna (0-2) for Carey, Barry McGinn for Duffy.

Roscommon: Darren O’Malley; Seanie McDermott, Neil Collins, Niall McInerney; Davy Murray, Niall Daly, Ronan Stack; Enda Smith (0-1), Ian Kilbride; Conor Devaney, Niall Kilroy, Ciaran Murtagh (1-2, pen, 2 frees); Fintan Cregg (0-5, 2 frees), Senan Kilbride (0-1), Cathal Cregg. Subs: Cian Connolly for C Murtagh (34, black card), Ultan Harney for S Kilbride (52), Ronan Daly for Kilroy (63), Cathal Shine for Devaney (66), John McManus for C Cregg (68).

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).

Baptism of fire as merciless Monaghan deny Roscommon