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Red Hand holds off improved Rossies


 

 

 

All-Ireland SFC Super 8s: Tyrone 0-17 Roscommon 0-13

In the rarefied atmosphere of the Super 8s competition, teams like Roscommon need to have all their ducks in a row to win big games. They need a good game plan, heart, determination, courage, and will to win. But they also need to have a little bit of luck and a fair dollop of street smarts.

  Roscommon had most of the above qualities in Dr. Hyde Park last Saturday evening except for the last two and that’s what cost them after a hugely competitive encounter against a top class Tyrone outfit.

  In terms of luck, Roscommon needed to take one (or both) of the two clear goal chances that fell their way in the first half. In the 14th minute Cathal Cregg’s effort was beaten away by Niall Morgan and with a minute to go to half-time Enda Smith made a lung-bursting run along the town goal end line before letting fly, but again Morgan was equal to the shot. Add those missed chances to the two frees Conor Cox missed, which he would normally put over with his eyes closed, and the fact that the ball came back off the post three times, and you begin to get the picture. Against a team like Tyrone, you simply have to convert those chances.

  In terms of street smarts, Roscommon gave away too many frees with needless tackles in the scoring zone, especially in the first half, and that kept Mickey Harte’s men in the contest and crucially kept the scoreboard ticking over for them. Down the other end of the field the Tyrone defence gave away very few scoreable frees and their tackling was predictably fierce and effective.

  There was also a problem down the centre of the Roscommon defence in the first half and that was ruthlessly exposed by Niall Sludden and Mattie Donnelly, both of whom repeatedly punched holes in the Roscommon rearguard with very direct running.

  But there were so many positives to take away from this performance from a Roscommon point of view. In the space of a year massive progress has been made. Last year Tyrone handed out an 18-point hammering to Roscommon in Croke Park. The gap is now down to four and is narrowing all the time.

  Last year Roscommon looked out of their depth in the Super 8s, but this year they look like a side that is well able to compete at this level. Anthony Cunningham’s men have not yet conceded a goal in this championship, which is a remarkable statistic.

  Despite having to deal with Conor McShane, I thought Sean Mullooly had a fine game at full-back. David Murray did a great job with the Tyrone danger man Darren McCurry, restricting him to just one point from play. Niall Daly again led from the front in defence and had another fine outing. He is having his best year in a Roscommon jersey.

  Meanwhile, Shane Killoran had a fantastic game and worked tirelessly in the intense heat. Niall Kilroy was probably Roscommon’s best player. He popped up everywhere and ran himself into the ground. Enda Smith had a mighty first half and looked a threat every time he got the ball but that massive effort took its toll and he tired as the game went on.

  Diarmuid Murtagh and Conor Cox just didn’t fire on the day. Tyrone ensured that no quality ball was getting into Conor Cox and they deployed Colm Cavanagh as a sweeper in front of the Roscommon full-forward line. Cox has been a revelation for Roscommon all year. He has won many a game for the Rossies but this was not his day. He will be back bigger and better than ever though.

  With 47 minutes on the clock Roscommon were just a point behind (0-11 to 0-10) and the huge primrose and blue following were roaring them on in the sweltering heat. But Tyrone reacted in the manner of a really top class side. They rattled off five points in a row and by the 57th minute it was 0-16 to 0-10 and game over. Tyrone were never going to allow Roscommon back into it. They are simply too experienced, too streetwise and too skilful.

  Ronan McNamee was imperious at full-back while Frank Burns continues to enhance his reputation at centre half-back. Colm Cavanagh did a lot of the heavy lifting as a very effective sweeper in front of his full-back line. Niall Sludden had a great first half and Roscommon will have to work out how he was given so much freedom. Cathal McShane is an impressive target man and his free-taking was flawless. But my man of the match and the best player on the field was Mattie Donnelly. He got on the ball throughout and never wasted possession. He always plays the game with his head up and is the hesartbeat of this Tyrone team. He is a class act.

  All is not lost yet for Roscommon though. They are still in this competition despite the fact that they have to travel to Croke Park next Saturday to play Dublin. Cork showed last weekend that if you go out and attack Dublin with intensity, you can score against them. However, it’s further back the field that may well be the problem with the Dubs.

  It was a marvellous occasion last Saturday. A big crowd, a lovely evening for a game, and a mighty atmosphere. Hyde Park is a great venue for a big game. There was a huge crowd of Rossies there and they gave the team great support. Regardless of what happens this Saturday in Croke Park, Roscommon are going in the right direction. With the likes of Conor Devaney, Ultan Harney, Niall McInerney, Ciaráin Murtagh and Cathal Compton to come back into the fold, the future is looking bright. Hopefully the Rossies go to Croker this Saturday and give it a right rattle!

 

Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Hugh Pat McGeary, Ronan McNamee, Rory Brennan; Michael Cassidy, Frank Burns (0-1), Michael McKernan; Colm Cavanagh, Brian Kennedy (0-1); Matthew Donnelly (0-2), Peter Harte (0-1), Conor Meyler; Niall Sludden (0-3), Cathal McShane (0-8, 5 frees), Darren McCurry (0-1). Subs: Ben McDonnell for Kennedy (28), Kieran McGeary for HP McGeary (30), Richie Donnelly for McDonnell (51), Padraig Hampsey for Cassidy (51), Connor McAliskey for Sludden (63), Aidan McCrory for Meyler (70+2).

Roscommon: Darren O’Malley (0-1, free); David Murray, Seán Mullooly, Conor Daly; Niall Daly (0-1), Conor Hussey, Ronan Daly; Tadhg O’Rourke, Shane Killoran (0-1); Hubert Darcy, Cathal Cregg (0-1), Niall Kilroy; Diarmuid Murtagh (0-4, 3 frees), Conor Cox (0-2, 1 free), Enda Smith (0-1). Subs: Brian Stack (0-1) for Darcy (25), Colin Compton for Hussey (49), Donie Smith for Cregg (51), Fintan Cregg for Killoran (63), Andrew Glennon (0-1) for Cox (64).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).

 

 

Leitrim brushed aside as Ladies march on

 

 

 

 

TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Intermediate Championship

Roscommon 4-22

Leitrim 3-7

 

Roscommon Ladies footballers began their All-Ireland campaign with a resounding 18-point win against Leitrim at Dr. Hyde Park last Saturday. The Rossies put up a huge score, and with Siobhan Tully back to her best and Rebecca Finan and young Aimee O’Connor lethal up front, it was an impressive display from the home side.

  It’s probably nit-picking to highlight a downside to this performance but it is certain that Michael Finneran and his selectors will not be happy with the concession of three soft goals in the first half which would be very costly against stronger opposition.

  There is, however, much to admire about this Roscommon side. They set about their task with relish from the throw-in and by the 20th minute they led by 3-7 to 0-3. In the 5th minute, after a fantastic run from Rachel Fitzmaurice, Siobhan Tully fisted home Roscommon’s first goal.

  The second goal arrived three minutes later when Tully was again on the mark pulling first time to the net after Natalie McHugh’s shot came back off the post. Then in the 19th minute the impressive Aimee O’Connor got in on the goal scoring act with a sublime finish.

  However, in the last ten minutes of the first half Roscommon fell asleep and Leitrim were back in the match at half-time. Their best player, Vivienne Egan, nipped in behind the Roscommon cover for goal number one in the 21st minute. Two minutes later Laura O’Dowd toe-poked home from close range, and by the 25th minute Leitrim scored their third goal when Egan set up Elise Bruen. Roscommon had been 14 points up at one stage but by half-time that margin was down to just five (3-11 to 3-6).

  Stern words must have been issued to the Roscommon team at half-time because they came out in the second half and really stamped their authority on this match. Leitrim didn’t score for 26 minutes and by that time Roscommon had sped far off into the distance.

  Roscommon’s fourth goal arrived in the 36th minute when Siobhan Tully sent Rebecca Finan away and she finished brilliantly. After that Roscommon kicked some super points with Finan leading the way.

  It’s on to Offaly in Tullamore this weekend now and Roscommon will face that challenge with confidence after this fine display. However, work needs to be done in defence for the bigger tests ahead.

Roscommon: Helena Cummins; Honor Ennis, Amanda McLoone, Niamh Feeney; Joanne Cregg, Alice Kelly, Sorcha Bruen; Sinead Kenny (0-2), Laura Fleming (0-1); Siobhan Tully (2-2), Katie Daly, Natalie McHugh (0-1); Rebecca Finan (1-11, 5 frees), Aimee O’Connor (1-3), Rachel Fitzmaurice (0-1). Subs used: Roisin Wynne for Tully (40), Alanna Hanmore (0-1) for Fleming (40), Louise Brady for O’Connor (50), Amy Curley for Daly (50), Rachel Brady for Bruen (55).

Leitrim: Michelle Hackett; Clare Owens, Louise Maguire, Edel Shanley; Shannon O’Rourke, Aine Heslin, Karen Connolly; Patricia Forde, Laura O’Dowd (1-0); Edel Kelly, Elise Bruen (1-0), Aisling Quinn; Carla LeGuen, Michelle Heslin, Vivienne Egan (1-6, 4 frees). Subs: Eimhin Quinn for A Quinn (35), Natasha McEnroe for Kelly (45), Anne Marie Gallagher (0-1) for Shanley (52).

Referee: Siobhan Coyle (Donegal)

 

Walker crowned Leinster Boys’ Open champion!

 

 

 

18-year-old Roscommon Golf Club member, Simon Walker, joined a very prestigious list last Thursday at Waterford Golf Club.

  Walker had held his nerve to finish on three under par following three days of top-class golf to clinch victory in the Leinster Boys’ Amateur Open Championship.

  Simon joins the likes of Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Des Smith and many more big names in Irish golf having won this prestigious title.

  The final round in Waterford produced plenty of excitement and some fantastic golf as the leaders battled it out for glory.

  Simon had started his final round front nine slowly with three bogies but responded brilliantly on the back nine with three birdies to ensure he finished two shots clear of nearest rival, Josh Macklin of Dundalk.

  The new Leinster Boys Amateur Open champion was presented with his trophy before receiveing a hero’s welcome at Roscommon Golf Club.

  The officers and members of the golf club offered their congratulations to Simon on his fantastic win.

  A statement from the club’s PRO, Jacqueline McCormack, read: “ On Thursday, July 11th, Simon Walker was welcomed back to Roscommon Golf Club as the Leinster Boys Amateur Open Champion, having won the championship on a score of -3 after three days of golf.

  “All the officers and members of Roscommon Golf Club congratulate Simon on this fantastic win. Our congratulations and thanks go also to his parents, John and Carmel, and to all involved in junior golf in the club and across the province, especially Michael Connaughton and Cathal McConn”.

  Harrington, Lowry, Smith and now Walker. Congratulations to Simon on his fantastic win and on joining such lofty company! 

 

Seamus Duke on sport - July 19th

 

 

 

Rossies getting closer to leading lights

 

I drove home from the Roscommon v Tyrone match in Croke Park last year on my own and seldom have I been so disillusioned with what I had just seen. It was hard to see any positives as Tyrone had simply torn Roscommon to shreds. It didn’t take a genius to work out that evening that our season was well and truly over despite the fact that we had still two games to play in the Super 8s.

  But what a difference a year makes. The 18-point gap was down to four last Saturday, and we were unlucky to have lost at all.

  Roscommon looked out of their depth in the Super 8s last year. This year Roscommon are eminently capable of competing with the very best teams in the country. The game against Tyrone is analysed in detail elsewhere in the sports section this week, but a little more street-wise play and a little luck would have made all the difference on Saturday evening. It’s just a pity that we have to play Dublin next!

  We will all be shouting for Cork against Tyrone, however, I will be surprised if Mickey Harte’s men are beaten. Roscommon have made a serious amount of progress in such a short time and with several players to return to the panel in time for next year the future is looking bright. The players can now go to Dublin on Saturday evening and ‘have a cut’.

  Hyde Park was resplendent last Saturday: there was a huge crowd and it was a fine evening. It is a great venue for a big game and there was a super atmosphere, and despite the defeat, I was immensely proud of our players on Saturday evening.

  The other group doesn’t look quite as strong as ours. Kerry looked very good against Mayo although I wouldn’t be getting carried away with the Kerry performance like Joe Brolly did on The Sunday Game: I reckon they still have problems in defence.

  Mayo were very poor and look a spent force. I actually think that Meath will beat them in Croke Park next Sunday. The Royals were very impressive against Donegal and it was only in the last couple of minutes that Donegal pulled away.

  I am really looking forward to the clash of Donegal and Kerry. Michael Murphy, Paddy  McBrearty and Ryan McHugh would get on any team in Ireland and they can lead Donegal to a narrow win.

  In the hurling, what can you say about Brian Cody and Kilkenny that hasn’t already been said? I thought that Cork would be too strong for them but they pulled another fantastic championship win out of the bag. Limerick beware!

  Laois went out with their heads held high and they gave Tipperary plenty of problems in their quarter-final. The future is bright for Laois if they can hang on to Eddie Brennan. Tipp will fancy their chances against Wexford in the semi-final but they will have to improve.

Captain Morgan has Rossie connections

There’s always a Roscommon connection! There I was minding my own business on Monday evening when I got a call from no less a cricket fan than Fr. Liam Devine to tell me that the parents of the World Cup winning England captain, Dubliner Eoin Morgan, have a home in the Lisacul area! It’s a wonder that Hugh Lynn was beaten to the punch on that one! Maybe he can be recruited to play for Éire Óg!

 

Wimbledon final a game for the ages

I would never be classed as a tennis fan but when the hurling was over last Sunday I tuned in to the men’s final at Wimbledon and it was enthralling stuff as Djokovic and Federer battled it out for the title. The athleticism and skill displayed by both men was breathtaking as they slugged it out in the heat for more than five hours.

  The new rules meant that when they got to 12-all in the final set they had to have a tie-breaker for the title and it was probably just as well because if there wasn’t something like that they could be still there.

  Both those guys have more money than they would be able to spend in 20 lifetimes so it was not about the cash. That they can be so fit at well over 30 years of age (32 for Djokovic and 37 for Federer) is a credit to them. It was sport at it’s very best.

The pressure is on Rory in Portrush

By the time you read this the Open Championship will be underway at Royal Portrush. The championship is a sell-out for many months with 40,000 people expected to attend every day. I think that there is too much pressure on Rory McIlroy to perform on his home turf. I have a few euro each way on Shane Lowry, Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter. It is a fantastic sporting spectacular and hopefully there will be plenty of fireworks over the four days.

No blankets in junior semi-final!

Having been around the block a few times I thought I had seen most things in Gaelic football but I have never seen a match like the All-Ireland Junior semi-final between Galway and Meath in Dr. Hyde Park on Saturday. The final score was Galway 7-17 (38) Meath 5-22 (37). That was after extra-time, but remember that the game was just 60 minutes. 75 points, 51 scores and there were a few wides as well!  Twice Meath led by eight points but they ended up on the losing side! It was unbelievable stuff.

Tactics out the window in heat of battle

On Monday evening I was listening to ‘Game On’ on 2FM and Brian Carroll, the ex-Offaly hurling captain, was a guest.

  He said: “When you get into Croke Park for a big game all the tactics, stats and systems go out the window. You have to be ready for the battle and to win every ball. If you are not ready then all the systems in the world won’t make a blind bit of difference”.

  I totally agree. There is an industry of pundits and commentators out there making a good living out of complicating both hurling and football. Tactics make a small contribution but heart, determination and will-to-win are by far the most important ingredients in any team sport and that has not changed in decades.

 

Championship Watch

All-Ireland SFC Super 8s Series (Round Two)
- all games in Croke Park

 

Cork v Tyrone Saturday at 5 pm

Cork are a team re-born and showed scant regard for Dublin’s reputation last Saturday evening in Croke Park. They also put up big scoring totals against Limerick, Kerry and Laois and are much improved.

  Tyrone were glad to get out of Dr. Hyde Park with a win and would do well to take the Leesiders seriously. However, Mickey Harte’s men know that a win will almost certainly put them into the semi-finals. When the sides met in Portlaoise last year,Tyrone won by a cricket score. That won’t happen this weekend but they should still be good enough.

Prediction: Tyrone

 

Dublin v Roscommon on Saturday
at 7 pm

Previewed elsewhere this week.

Prediction: Dublin

 

Mayo v Meath on Sunday at 2 pm

This is a very interesting game indeed and the last chance saloon for both. Mayo were completely out of sorts against Kerry and it looks like this great team is running out of road.

  I was very impressed with Meath in Ballybofey. They were beaten by nine points but that was not a fair reflection of the play over the 70 minutes. I have a feeling that it could be the end of the line for Mayo.

Prediction: Meath

 

Donegal v Kerry on Sunday at 4 pm

Two of the teams that would lay claim to being number two to Dublin clash - and it should be a cracker! The Kerry attack looks lethal but Donegal are strong throughout the field and will want to put down a marker. I still think that Kerry are suspect in defence and Donegal can take advantage.

Prediction: Donegal

 

‘We will have a right crack at the Dubs’

 

 

Anthony Cunningham was in defiant mood following his side’s opening day defeat to Tyrone at Dr. Hyde Park last Saturday evening.

  The Roscommon manager said he would have no problem motivating his players ahead of this Saturday’s showdown with four-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin at Croke Park.

  “I don’t think we will have difficulty in picking the lads up for next week. It is a big challenge to play Dublin but what better challenge would you want in your football career? We are really looking forward to it.

  “These guys have come on tremendously in a year. We’re still in the championship and will prepare for next weekend. We want to get better at certain aspects of our game and drive on from there,” he said.

  Cunningham added that it was a must-win game this weekend and that Roscommon would relish the challenge posed by the Dubs.

  “We need a win on Saturday and there is no reason why we can’t go to Croke Park and have a right crack at it. Every county player wants to be playing top class championship matches and we have another one next weekend and we will relish the challenge,” he said.

Roscommon will aim to rattle all-conquering Dubs

 

 

 

 

The most used phrase among Roscommon supporters this week after the Tyrone game is ‘some change in a year’ – and although the team are travelling to Croke Park to face the all-conquering champions on Saturday, there is a feel-good factor about this match in the county that certainly wasn’t there this time last year.

  In fact, most Rossies were dreading the match against the Dubs in 2018 and those fears were realised with a 14-point defeat in what was a ‘dead-rubber’. This year, following some outstanding displays, the team can go to Croker with the pressure off and have a real cut at the champions. 

  How to deal with this match tactically is a dilemma for Anthony Cunningham and his backroom team. Cork showed last weekend that there are scores to be got by running at this Dublin defence and the Rebels gave it a right old lash for almost 60 minutes of the game. However, the reality is that they were beaten by 13 points in the end.

  The problem with playing the Dubs is that they are relentless. They keep to their game plan and eventually they wear the opposition out. When they empty their bench in the last quarter of matches it is a frightening prospect for any team, and that was the reality for Cork last Saturday night. Dublin brought on Dean Rock, Kevin McManamon, James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper, Eoin Murchan and Paddy Small, all guys who would get on most inter-county teams around the country.

  One thing is for certain: if you play the Dubs 15 against 15 they will eventually wear you down with their constant movement and athleticism, but if you go too defensive they will just play in front of you and wait until the scoring opportunities come up. They can play it either way, thus the tactical dilemma.

  The three most influential players on the Dublin team are Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey and Brian Fenton, and that was seen to full effect again last Saturday evening. Cluxton is the conductor of the orchestra and his kick-outs are key to their success, while McCaffrey and Fenton are arguably the two best outfield players in the country at the moment.

  The goal that Fenton scored against Cork after a 50-metre pass into his chest from McCaffrey was one of the best that I have ever seen in championship football. That’s what Roscommon have to deal with on Saturday.

  But this is a great chance for Roscommon to go and play with abandon. It is worth saying that Roscommon have not conceded a goal in this year’s championship, which is a tribute to the great work being done in defence by Darren O’Malley in goal, the Daly brothers, Davy Murray, Sean Mullooly and Conor Hussey. Dublin will have to work hard for any score they get.

  The picture for Roscommon in this group will become clearer after the opening game when Cork play Tyrone, but the bottom line here is that Dublin will want to win this in order to prevent them needing a win in Omagh in their final game to qualify for the last four. Roscommon need to win to get back into the competition.  

  Last year, I was dreading Roscommon going to Croker to face Dublin. This time I am really looking forward to it. It’s probably a bit too much to expect Roscommon to win against a team that is being talked about as the greatest of all time, but it will be interesting to see how much of a test they can provide for the champions.

  If Cork can be in the game with ten or twelve minutes to go against the Dubs then there is no reason why Roscommon cannot do the same. We will be shouting for Cork in the opener and hopefully we will still be in the championship after Saturday night – one way or the other. Roscommon will be looking for a good performance, but a win is unlikely.

Prediction: Dublin

 

Minors hoping to book final spot

 

The Roscommon Ladies Minor team face Clare in the All-Ireland ‘B’ semi-final this Saturday at 2 pm in Tuam Stadium. Hopes are high in the Roscommon camp that they can qualify for this year’s final against Longford.

  Roscommon have been hit by a number of injuries but still retain some quality players like Aimee O’Connor (fresh from her excellent display for Roscommon last weekend), Kara Earle, Sarah McVeigh, Kelley Colgan and Ellen Irwin to name just a few.

  Clare have been to the fore in this competition for a couple of years past and will provide stern opposition but Roscommon will feel that despite their injury concerns that they have the team to win through.

Prediction: Roscommon

 

‘Players have unfinished business’

 

 

 

 

Seamus Duke talks to Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham

 

 

So now we know what’s ahead of Roscommon in the 2019 Super 8s. At least the powers that be have acknowledged that the winners of the provincial championships should be rewarded by having their first game at home. Until last Saturday evening Roscommon were unsure of who they would be meeting in that opening fixture. Now we know it’s Tyrone. It’s actually the same first fixture as Roscommon had last year. However, this year it’s in Dr. Hyde Park and there is a crackle of excitement around the county as the Rossies prepare to welcome Mickey Harte’s team into our own backyard.

  Anthony Cunningham is one of the most under-stated team managers that I have dealt with in my time covering Roscommon GAA. He is incredibly passionate about what he is doing and is at home coaching players and overseeing matches. He prefers just to get on with it and strikes me as a man who hasn’t much time for a lot of the hoopla that surrounds big occasions nowadays, with the massive media scrutiny that’s involved.

  But he is never less than cooperative and friendly and when I spoke to him last Sunday his enthusiasm at the prospect of getting started in the Super 8s was very evident. “We can’t wait for it, to be honest” were his opening words.

  “We took a short break after winning the Connacht final…we had two very hard weeks of training and now the lads are just resting and preparing for Saturday. Everyone is looking forward to this massive challenge starting on this weekend. We are ready to go again now” he said.

  “Conor Devaney is definitely out but we might see him again before we are finished this campaign. Ultan (Harney) is out long term but everyone else is fine”.

  Cunningham is well aware of the challenge that Tyrone will bring on Saturday. “Tyrone are a formidable side. We saw that last Saturday (against Cavan) and remember that they were in the All-Ireland final last September. They have a team full of experienced top class inter-county players so we know what we are facing” he said.

  “They have reverted to the system that they have had in recent years. They defend in numbers and then break quickly and there are always players coming off the shoulder ready to run hard and set up attacks. It’s been very successful for them over the years and we have to come up with a plan to match that.

  “But we are going into the game in a confident mood. Winning the Connacht Championship the way we did has given us great confidence and it is huge to have our first Super 8 game at home. It goes without saying that we will be targeting a win to set us up for the rest of the campaign and make no mistake our aim is to beat Tyrone on Saturday.

   “It’s very exciting to be at this stage of the competition. They don’t call it the Super 8s for nothing. The best eight teams in the country are left at this stage. We have games to follow against Dublin and Cork so it doesn’t get any easier. But we will concentrate on Tyrone first.

  The Roscommon manager continued: “We are expecting a huge Roscommon following in Hyde Park on Saturday. The fans have been magnificent so far and I know they will be there in huge numbers on Saturday and hopefully we will give them plenty to shout about.

  “The players feel that they have unfinished business after what happened last year. They feel that they just didn’t do themselves justice and they want to put that right. It would be great to put that right against Tyrone on Saturday.

  “It’s a very exciting start to the campaign and I have to say I can’t wait for it. It’s a huge challenge for sure but that’s what we are here for and we will relish it. The players have been magnificent and have worked hard and we will be going all out for a win. I know it won’t be easy but with the home crowd behind us we feel we can go out and produce a big performance and set us up for a trip to Croke Park the following weekend” he concluded.

 

What a difference a year makes

 

 

 

Enda Smith on Roscommon’s chance of Super 8s’ redemption…

 

What a difference a year makes. After the disappointing Connacht final loss last year, Roscommon came back to defeat Armagh in the final round of the qualifiers – but that was only a brief ray of sunshine for the team. The reality of the Super 8s was harsh for the Rossies as Tyrone, Donegal and Dublin swept past them. It seemed like a blur as Roscommon went from celebrating their qualification for the Super 8s to the despair of being also-rans in the group. Roscommon captain Enda Smith is glad for a chance to put the record straight this year.

  He was speaking at the launch this week of the All-Ireland series in Scotstown, County Monaghan. The Boyle man has welcomed the change in the format of the Super 8s which sees the provincial champions being rewarded with a home game in the first round.

  “Had the rules not changed our first game would have been against Dublin in Croke Park which would have been very tough. It is a massive boost to have our first game at home. Having said that it will still be tough for us against Tyrone.

  “The first 35/40 minutes of games in the latter stages are like a game of chess. You are just feeling each other out and then it might open up in the last 10 or 15 minutes, it’s vital to be there within striking distance at that stage” says Smith.

  Looking back at the game against Tyrone in 2018 Enda says that Roscommon made too much of their win against Armagh in the qualifier.

  “I suppose we were very naive to think Tyrone would give us the chances Armagh did, the amount of opportunities we had in that game, and I suppose Tyrone punished us. They are a good team. They made it to the final last year. You can’t afford to do that (give chances) against the top teams”.

  That first foray into the Super 8s in 2018 was one to forget as Roscommon lost all three games – by an aggregate of 39 points.

  “I’ve said it before – it was just real frustration and we were embarrassed by how it went. As players, we really had to reflect on ourselves. You can talk about management or whatever, but a lot of the same players are there this year and we are just looking to really represent ourselves a lot better than we did last year. If we don’t, we really need to look at ourselves”.

  The two heaviest defeats came in Croke Park, but the Roscommon captain insists the players are eager to get back there.

  “Player-wise we can’t wait. Playing in Croke Park, our second game is obviously against Dublin, so pitting ouselves against them, who have been the benchmark for the last four or five years, will be brilliant. Obviously there is a lot of talk about Dublin on the outside, externally, but I’d always say they have an exceptional bunch of players and they don’t get enough credit like they should.

  “To pitch yourself against them, the best players in the country, and seeing where we are really at in Croke Park, in the bear pit, that’s what we want”.

  Roscommon are searching for more consistency and Enda Smith says that the team are getting there.

  “Our consistency hasn’t been there. You think you are getting it after 2017 and the Connacht final then last year we flopped a bit in the final against Galway. You back it up then with a decent performance against Armagh, but then in the Super 8s you are going back to flopping again. I think it is slowly but surely getting there, but we need to gather a bit more consistency. The Super 8s will give us a further chance to get that going and we are really looking forward to it” he concluded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In tune Rossies can rap Red Hand

 

 

All-Ireland SFC Super 8s (Round One): Roscommon - v - Tyrone on Saturday in Dr. Hyde Park at 5 pm

 

 

I always loved the quote from the late Seamus Brennan in 2007 when he told the Green Party, who wanted to get into Government, “Ye are playing senior hurling now lads”. That maxim can apply to the Roscommon footballers when they welcome Tyrone to Dr. Hyde Park to open the Super 8s campaign on Saturday evening.

  Despite having beaten Leitrim, Mayo and Galway already, the intensity is about to step up several notches this Saturday. The value of a win in the opening game of this competition cannot be stressed highly enough. To garner two points from this match would take the pressure off for the trip to Croke Park the following week and would leave the mouth-watering prospect of a trip to Cork to fight for a place in the All-Ireland semi-final.

  There are several interesting sub-plots to this match on Saturday. When the sides met in 2018 in Croke Park, Tyrone handed Roscommon a thrashing that they were not expecting and it started what was a pretty forgettable campaign for the Rossies.

  However, Roscommon are back this year a completely different outfit. The confidence gained from the spectacular wins away from home against Mayo and Galway is invaluable and to have their first game in the Super 8s at home is a serious boost.

  Roscommon’s added steel in their play this year has been the key to their success thus far. Not to have conceded a goal in the championship yet is a considerable achievement. Roscommon have been tigerish in defence, brought about by a huge work ethic that exists throughout the team.

  Midfield has been a problem for Roscommon in the past, but against Galway I was impressed with Tadhg O’Rourke and Shane Killoran. They will need to be at their very best on Saturday. Primary possession is where it’s at in these big games.

  Conor Cox has been a revelation for Roscommon in attack but make no mistake, Tyrone will target the Kerry native from the opening whistle and I am sure Anthony Cunningham knows that too. It means that additional responsibility will fall on the likes of Enda Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh, Cathal Cregg and Niall Kilroy. Roscommon have plenty of talented attackers and I reckon they will need to score about 1-15 to win this match on Saturday. They are well capable to getting to that total.

  In the modern game the goalkeeper is now probably the single most important player on the field. Darren O’Malley has not put a foot wrong so far this year and on Saturday the kick-out strategy will have to be spot-on. Will Tyrone push up? If that happens the long-range stuff has to be accurate.

  One of the journalists that I regularly work with has an obsession with ensuring that whatever way the teams start is the way he will line out the team in his report but with this Tyrone outfit the only certainty on Saturday is that Niall Morgan will start in goals and Cathal McShane will start at full-forward. You could name all the rest of the Tyrone team one after another for all the heed that is passed about positions on the field.

  You could name Conor Meyler at any position from 2 to 15. He was everywhere last Saturday against Cavan and he seems to be the ultimate utility player. Colm Cavanagh will sit in front of the Tyrone full-back line on the ‘D’ as their sweeper. He is very effective.

Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte (who I expect will be playing), Brian Kennedy, Frank Burns and Niall Sludden will do most of their work between the two 45 metre lines as required. Their fast-running counter-attacking game is hard to defend against. This year Tyrone are leaving McShane and Darren McCurry inside to do the scoring damage. McShane is improving all the time. McCurry is a player that I rate very highly and he will require some minding on Saturday. He is superbly accurate.

   Sean Mullooly will have the task of shadowing McShane and that will be a vital clash. I presume that Davy Murray will be detailed to follow McCurry. The three Daly brothers and Conor Hussey will have to be at their very best to stop Tyrone in their forays upfield. I suspect that we will see Niall Kilroy and one or two more of the Roscommon attackers dropping back when Tyrone are in possession.

  Anthony Cunningham will have a definite game plan to deal with Tyrone’s threat and if the Roscommon players are ‘at it’ from the word go they can make life uncomfortable for Mickey Harte’s men. What Roscommon must not do is allow Tyrone to dictate the terms of the game. If they do they will choke the life out of them just as they did to Cavan last Saturday. By hook or by crook Roscommon must be in the game at half-time. They need to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the Tyrone players.

  I am predicting a game that could be very dour – it will require massive patience to wait for the openings to score. But I am so impressed with the passion and intensity that Anthony Cunningham, Iain Daly and Mark Dowd have brought to this Roscommon team and the way the players have bought into their style. Anthony Cunningham will be relishing the chance to pit his wits against Mickey Harte, and especially at home in Hyde Park.

  If Roscommon can tear into Tyrone with intensity from the first ball then it could be a very interesting game. I think there will be a cracking atmosphere in Dr. Hyde Park. The supporters will have a big part to play on Saturday. There is something special going on with the Roscommon panel this year and I have a feeling that the campaign is not over yet by a long way!

  Having hammered Roscommon at this stage last year and having reached the All-Ireland final it is easy to see why Tyrone are the hot favourites to win this match. However, I have a feeling that it will be a lot closer than the so-called experts think. I like the way Roscommon have been going about their business this year so far.

There will be no singing on the Tyrone bus in the way home on Saturday night!

 

Prediction: Roscommon by two points.

 

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