Friday, 27 March 2015

Murtagh magic casts deadly spell on Mayo


titles for Rossies 

– Kerry are next 

Electric Ireland Connacht Minor Football Championship Final

Roscommon 0-10 Mayo 0-8

Roscommon’s minor ‘crop’ of 2012 became the first team from the county to retain their provincial title at that level when they ground out a hard-fought win against Mayo in a decider that never reached any great heights in terms of quality football at Dr Hyde Park last Sunday. However the closeness of the scoring meant that the outcome was in doubt right up to the final whistle and that created its own excitement.

  A brilliant catch at a vital stage towards the end of the game from Enda Smith, and a superb point from Diarmuid Murtagh in injury-time saw Roscommon over the line to set up an All-Ireland quarter-final against Kerry in a couple of weeks time.

  The fact that this wasn’t a great game will not bother Garreth Carroll and his players too much as it was a deserved win against a well-drilled Mayo side. It continues Roscommon’s great record at minor level over the past decade and it is a superb achievement to win a Connacht title beating Leitrim and Galway away, and Mayo in the final.

  Roscommon started like a train and were 0-4 to 0-0 up after only 13 minutes. However Mayo came back into the game and gave Roscommon many anxious moments, particularly in the second half, and their tally of 12 wides tells its own story.

  Roscommon always kept their noses in front but one disappointing aspect of the game was that Roscommon seemed to retreat into a defensive shell in the second half. That tactic was almost very costly as Mayo were invited on to attack Roscommon – and they nearly caught the home side. However some great defensive work and a couple of excellent saves from Shane Mannion saved the day for the defending champions.   

  The game wasn’t helped by a very poor refereeing performance from Galway official Shane O’hEithir who blew the whistle almost every time there was physical contact of any kind, frustrating players on both sides and the spectators alike with a very erratic display.

  The game was played in excellent conditions and before a huge crowd, with the atmosphere superb. Roscommon played into the breeze in the first half and it looked as if they were going to hand out a footballing lesson to Mayo in the first quarter.

  In the 1st minute Ruardhri McManus kicked a great point after good work from Kevin Finn and Diarmuid Murtagh and a minute later Murtagh fisted over from close-range after a great run. Roscommon were on top and they went three points ahead in the 10th minute when the very impressive Murtagh made an excellent run though the Mayo defence, was fouled, and McManus converted the resultant 13-metre free. Two minutes later Roscommon were four ahead when Enda Smith kicked a lovely point from 25 metres. Roscommon could have scored a goal in the 13th minute when Enda Smith set up Diarmuid Murtagh, but his low shot was saved by Mayo goalkeeper Conor O’Malley.

  Mayo were struggling up to that point but they started to get a foothold in the game at midfield in the second quarter and improved considerably. Corner-back Kevin Lynch ran through to score an excellent point in the 15th minute and now Mayo were off the mark. Two minutes later Mayo captain Adam Gallagher kicked a mighty free over from 50 metres after the referee had brought the ball forward for dissent.

  In the 19th minute Enda Smith kicked another super point for Roscommon from 30 metres and less than 40 seconds later Kevin Finn was through and his rasping shot clipped the crossbar on its way over to leave Roscommon four ahead again. The final score of the half came from Mayo as Gallagher was on target with another free from 30 metres and although Roscommon only led by 0-6 to 0-3 at the break they would have been confident that they would be able to pull away in the second half, with the aid of the breeze.

  But Mayo were a far more potent outfit on the resumption and they had far more possession than had been the case in the opening period. In the 32nd minute, Adam Gallagher, who was having an increasing influence on the game, pointed another free after a foul on Brian Mullen, and the Mayo captain was on target again a minute later (from play) after he latched on to a rebound when Conor Byrne’s attempt at a goal was well saved by Shane Mannion.

  There was only one point in it now and it was clear that this was going to be a fierce battle to the end. In the 38th minute the lively Diarmuid Murtagh raced in to fist over another Roscommon point but less than a minute later Mayo replied when Gallagher converted a free from 30 metres. No-one sitting around me could work out what that free was given for, but Mayo were back to within a point once again. Roscommon 0-7 Mayo 0-6.

  Roscommon were under pressure but any time they got the ball into Diarmuid Murtagh he delivered. The St Faithleachs man kicked a mighty point on the run from 30 metres in the 42nd minute to open a two-point gap.

  Then there were 12 minutes without a score as Mayo laid siege to the Roscommon posts. But the Roscommon defence, with Cathal Kenny, Niall McInerney and Dennis Barron outstanding, held firm, and Mayo didn’t help their cause by kicking a number of easy chances wide.

  In the 54th minute Murtagh extended Roscommon’s lead to three with a 20-metre free but Mayo had the bit between their teeth and they duly attacked in search of the scores they needed. In the 56th minute Gallagher kicked another free for Mayo following another bewildering refereeing decision.

 Then a minute later a combination of great work from Patrick Durcan and Adam Gallagher set up Shane Hennelly, but his goal-bound effort was blocked on the line by a combination of Cathal Kenny and Shane Mannion.

The margin was down to one in the 58th minute when Mayo sub James Quinn kicked a good point from 25 metres. The momentum was now with Mayo as they searched for the equaliser. Then Enda Smith won a vital ball high in the air to calm Roscommon nerves and set up an attack, and then, as we entered injury-time, it was fitting that the game’s most skilful player Diarmuid Murtagh, kicked a wonderful point from a difficult angle to set seal on Roscommon’s historic title win.

  Plenty of hard work needs to be done yet, but this Connacht final victory will have given the team and the management great confidence and now they prepare for the All-Ireland series and a match against Kerry in a couple of weeks time.

 It is indeed heady days for Roscommon underage football and there is now a steady stream of talented players being produced every year by our minor and U-21 teams. The big challenge now is to produce it at senior level. But that argument is for another forum and the county’s football followers can celebrate another excellent Connacht minor title win and look forward to even better days ahead.

Roscommon: Shane Mannion; Philip Neilan, Dennis Barron, Cathal Kenny; Niall McInerney, Conor Hussey, Ronan Daly; Ultan Harney, Thomas Corcoran; Cathal Compton, Ruardhri McManus (0-2, 1 free), Enda Smith (0-2); Diarmuid Murtagh (0-5, 2 frees), Kevin Finn (0-1), Michael Gunning. Subs: Paul Kenny for Gunning (8), Kieran Kilcline for Compton (36), Brian Fannon for McManus (40), Ciaran Casserly for Paul Kenny (52).

Mayo: Conor O’Malley; David McHale, Sean Moran, Kevin Lynch (0-1); Patrick Durcan, Cian Burke, Michael Plunkett; Brian Mullen, Adam Gallagher (0-6, 5 frees); Eoghan Lavin, Stephen Coen, Diarmuid O’Connor; Conor Byrne, Shane Hennelly, Sean Regan. Subs: Darren Duffy for Lavin (h/t), Joe Geraghty for McHale (38), James Quinn (0-1) for Regan (52), Ryan Coleman for Mullen (60).

Referee: Shane O’hEithir (Galway). 

 Issue dated: 20 JULY 2012
© Roscommon People