Allianz NFL Division 2: Roscommon 1-17 Tipperary 3-9
Seamus Duke's verdict from Semple Stadium
I don’t know how many Roscommon league games I have attended over the years but it is certainly hundreds, and I cannot recall a comeback like the one we witnessed in Semple Stadium last Sunday. With 64 minutes on the clock, Kevin McStay’s men looked down and out, were 3-9 to 0-12 behind, and it looked like any chance of promotion was going up in smoke.
But for the final six minutes and the five minutes of injury-time Roscommon woke from their slumber and peppered the Tipp goal with attack after attack. Several substitutions, not least Donie Smith, made the difference and 1-5 without reply saw the huge Roscommon following on their feet to cheer home an unlikely two point win.
Michael Quinlivan, Conor Sweeney, Jack Kennedy, Liam Casey and Brian Fox engineered the home side into a winning position but they idled in front and allowed Roscommon to steal up on the rail to pip them at the post.
After the match, Kevin McStay, while understandably delighted with the win, was quick to highlight the opening 60 minutes of the game when Roscommon were guilty of giving the ball away time after time.
“A great win from a losing position but we have been slow to learn the lessons we were taught last week. The win is great and I am very proud of the fight-back but we will not be letting that paper over the cracks of what went on to get us into the position we were in.
“The key thing that is stopping us at the moment is that we keep giving away the ball. If we keep doing that we will find it difficult to build any framework for success. But we fought awful hard in the second half and we won more breaking ball that we didn’t win in the first half”.
Tipperary were able to breach the Roscommon defence time after time with direct running and that is something that McStay and his selectors will have to get to grips with for the rest of the campaign.
But there were plenty of positives too. Resilience and a never-say-die attitude is a great indicator of high morale among the squad and in fairness to the players they never gave up. There were many heroes last Sunday. Conor Devaney had a great match and played a real captain’s part in the comeback. Niall Daly was out of it in the opening three quarters of the game but he played a major role in the revival too. Enda Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh, Niall McInerney, John McManus and Ciaran Lennon were always prominent.
The subs were great too, and what more does Donie Smith have to do to warrant a starting spot? When he came on he kicked a truly incredible sideline kick over in the 54th minute and it inspired Roscommon into a greater effort. It was fitting that the Boyle ace kicked a fantastic point from all of 40 metres in the 75th minute to give Roscommon a two point lead. He is an inspirational player.
McStay highlighted the importance of victory in relation to the overall Division Two landscape.
“Everyone in our dressing room was looking at this game against Tipperary as ‘the game’. We are now in a very decent position and the pressure is now off to an extent. The sense now is that we have a home game next week and we have to get something out of that. If we don’t get something next week then what we did today doesn’t count for a lot. We know that Tipp feel today the way we did last week.
“I thought the game was over after Quinlivan got the third goal but Ger (Dowd) and Liam (McHale) were saying we were still in with a chance but they were in a great position. Some of our guys were out on their feet and we made a few substitutions and it was unfortunate that Sean (Mullooly) had to go off and his injury (hamstring) looks serious. Donie (Smith) put his hand up again with a great display when he came on and the Dalys and all the subs were impressive. But we need to get the balance right,” he said.
It was another amazing ‘get out of jail’ performance from Roscommon but they will have to stop giving the ball away so much as it will cost them dearly against stronger opposition. I was very worried about this game all last week and was proved correct as Roscommon looked down and out for most of the contest until that sensational late resurgence.
But the three points that Roscommon have on the board after two league games is a great start to the campaign and with Down to come to Dr Hyde Park on Sunday next, if the errors can be eliminated five points out of six is entirely possible and would be a great return after three games heading into a mini break.
The margins in this division are so tight. You need a bit of luck on your side and Roscommon have certainly rode their luck so far. Fifteen seconds into the second half Quinlivan’s thunderbolt came crashing off the crossbar. If Roscommon had conceded a fourth goal it certainly would have been curtains. It also looks like Sean Mullooly will be out for the Down match so the selectors will have to find a new centre half-back.
Just a word about Semple Stadium, which is a magnificent venue and an indication of what can be done in terms of facilities for spectators, players and everyone involved.