Cadbury’s Connacht U-21 Championship Final
Sometimes, just sometimes, things go exactly according to the script. Roscommon secured their seventh U-21 Connacht football title when they comprehensively defeated a disappointing Sligo outfit by an eight-point margin in front of a healthy crowd at Dr. Hyde Park on Saturday evening last.
The pre-match favourites produced an efficient performance without ever having to exert themselves on their way to victory and while they have booked their place in the All-Ireland semi-final, manager Nigel Dineen will acknowledge that much sterner tests lie ahead.
The foundations for their win were laid in the first half when, while playing with a strong breeze, they engineered a seven point lead without breaking as much as a sweat.
Sligo did offer brief resistance shortly after half-time when they cut their deficit to five points but a Donie Smith penalty in the 44th minute ended any glimmering hope the visitors had of mounting a successful comeback and it was plain sailing for the Rossies thereafter.
There was very much an air of inevitability about the game throughout as the home side lived up to their pre-match billing with relative ease and in truth, they were in cruise control for the majority of the game.
One would have to question the value of last weekend’s game, bearing in mind the Roscommon’s resolve was rarely tested.
Realistically this Connacht title was won through their memorable performance against Mayo in the semi-final and with an All-Ireland semi-final to look forward to, one would have hoped that Sligo would have conjoured up a greater challenge.
Having said that the way in which the Roscommon players dealt with the heavy weight of expectation was impressive as they negotiated this potential banana skin with ease and composure and for that alone, Nigel Dineen and his team deserve credit.
It didn’t take the home side too long to stamp their authority on proceedings and they carved out a five-point lead during the first quarter courtesy of Finbar Cregg, Cian Connolly, Conor Daly and three points from Donie Smith, which included two frees. Sligo’s only response during this time came in the form of a free from full-forward Brian Egan in the 8th minute.
Scottie Oates and two further frees from Smith put a dominant Roscommon team eight points to the good with little under five minutes remaining the first half and while Pat Hughes registered the visitors second point of the contest on the stroke of half-time, the signs looked very ominous for the underdogs – 0-9 to 0-2.
Full-forward Colin Compton pushed Roscommon further ahead with a fine solo effort moments after the resumption before Sligo enjoyed a brief spell of dominance which yielded three points from substitute Denis Coffey and Brian Egan, with a brace.
Smith responded for Roscommon with a free in the 40th minute and any hopes Sligo had of hauling themselves back into contention were emphatically dashed when the Boyle star converted penalty three minutes later after Compton was fouled en route to goal.
The writing was very much on the wall for the visitors at this point and although they kept battling away, Roscommon were in full control of proceedings and were content to exchange points for the remainder of the contest.
Substitute Joe Rodgers and full-forward Niall Murphy, with two points, registered Sligo’s remaining points while Compton and Oates replied for Roscommon during a finale which played out in comfortable fashion for victors.
They now march onto the All-Ireland semi-final where they will face Ulster champions Tyrone or Cavan. Although Saturday evening’s win further enhances Roscommon’s recent rise in underage fortunes greater efforts will be required if they are to qualify for the first All-Ireland final at this level since 1982.
Roscommon: T. Lowe; C. Cafferkey, C. Duignan, D. Murray; C. Daly (0-1), P. Brogan, R. Stack; F. Kelly, N. Daly; S. Oates (0-2), N. Kilroy, F. Cregg (0-1, a free); C. Connolly (0-1), C. Compton (0-2), D. Smith (1-6, five frees, one penalty). Subs: C. Shine for Cregg (49 mins), J. McManus for Kelly (53 mins), C. Murtagh for Connolly (58 mins), A. Feehily for Oates (60 mins).
Sligo: V. Cadden; J. Kelly, D. Carobine, P. Laffey; C. Moloney, M. O’Hehir, L. O’Connell; D. Maye (0-1), J. Clarke; C. Brennan, P. Hughes (0-1), E. Kivlehan; B. Egan (0-3, two frees, one ’45), C. Brennan. Subs: D. Coffey for Carobine (17 mins), C. O’Dowd for Moloney (36 mins), J. Rodgers (0-1) for KIvlehan (48 mins), C. Killoran for Brennan (54 mins).
Referee: R. McBrien (Leitrim).
Issue dated: 13 April 2012
© Roscommon People