Christy Ring Cup (Round 3)
The revival in the fortunes of the Roscommon senior hurling team this year was plain for all to see in Athleague last Saturday as Ciaran Comerford’s men put a highly-rated Meath side to the pin of their collective collars in this highly competitive round three game that would decide who would have home advantage for the semi-finals.
In the end there were just four points between the teams and if Lady Luck had decided to smile on the home side they could have scored two goals in the first half. Yes, it was a defeat, but the most important aspect of this game is that the Royals will hold no fears for Roscommon if the sides meet again later in the championship. That’s a measure of where this Roscommon have risen to this year.
It was a perfect day for a match in Athleague, warm and calm, and it was Meath who looked that little bit sharper in the opening quarter. By the 21st minute they led by 0-7 to 0-3 with Jack Regan and Barry Slevin looking dangerous in attack. Roscommon’s only points at that stage had came from Padraig Kelly and two Cathal Dolan frees.
In the 17th minute Cillian Egan was in on goal but Shane McGann made a great save and in the 26th minute McGann was called into action again as Shane Curley’s shot was batted away by the Meath custodian in spectacular fashion.
But Roscommon were never out of contention and by half-time the margin was just a point (0-10 to 0-9). Padraig Kelly scored a couple of super points from play while Cathal Dolan was unerring from frees as usual.
Meath sent the very talented Damien Healy to full-forward for the second half and he caused the Roscommon defence a lot of problems with his ability to win the ball. By the 50th minute Meath led by 0-15 to 0-11 with Jack Regan top class from the placed ball. But Roscommon were playing well all over the park and the visitors could not shake off a very determined home side. Eamon Flanagan lofted over a free from all of 90 yards in the 52nd minute and the home side were always able to get vital points to stay in touch and with ten minutes to go the gap was down to two (0-17 to 0-15).
Three points without reply in four minutes were crucial for Meath as they led by five with five minutes left. But there was another kick in Roscommon. Cillian Egan, Conor Mulry and Naos Connaughton all pointed from play and with two minutes to go the margin was just two once again.
But Meath came with one last major effort that yielded points from Jack Regan (2) and Barry Slevin and Roscommon had run out of time to effect another comeback. However, there is plenty for the home side to be positive about after this display and the team and management now know that they are more than capable of competing at this level.
The full-back line competed well all through and Pat Nolan in particular had a great game while Eamon Flanagan and Shane Curley did well in the half-back line. Padraig Kelly was outstanding again and is a superb leader of the attack while Cathal Dolan’s free taking was top class. For Meath, Cathal McCabe, Damien Healy, Barry Slevin and Jack Regan were outstanding.
After the match, Roscommon manager Ciaran Comerford couldn’t help feel a little disappointed.
“We definitely left scores out there. We had twelve wides and we missed a few frees as well. We could have got over the line there today, but we are still into a semi-final and looking forward to that.
“We are competing well now and putting up decent scores too. If any of these teams come and beat us they will have earned it that’s for sure. The difference this year is down to the players themselves. The work they have put in this year is phenomenal. They are a tight bunch too and they are willing to do anything for each other and that’s really important.
“After today we would not be afraid of meeting Meath again if that’s how it pans out. Over the last few years there would have been a fear of meeting Meath in Roscommon but not anymore thankfully. But the improvement in our play is down to the players and no one else,” he concluded.
Meath: Shane McGann; Ger Murphy, Darragh Kelly, Shane Whitty; Shane Brennan, Keith Keoghan, James Kelly; Sean Geraghty, Cathal McCabe (0-1); Damien Healy (0-2), Barry Slevin (0-5), Jack Regan (0-13, 10 frees); Callum O’Sullivan (0-1), Gavin McGowan, Alan Douglas.
Subs: Nicholas Potterton (0-1) for McGowan (h/t), James Toher for O’Sullivan (39), Colm O Mealoid for Douglas (57), Stephen Morris for Murphy (62), Jack McGowan for Toher (67).
Roscommon: Noel Fallon; Paul Kenny, Pat Nolan, Hugh Rooney; Alan Moore, Eamon Flanagan (0-2, 1 free, ’65), Conor Coyle; Darragh Heavey, Shane Curley; Naos Connaughton (0-1), Padraig Kelly (0-4), Peter Kelleghan (0-1); Conor Mulry (0-1), Cillian Egan (0-2), Cathal Dolan (0-7, all frees).
Subs: Gearoid Keegan for Heavey (26), Eamon Kenny (0-1) for Keenan (56), Gearoid Egan for Moore (66).
Referee: James Connors (Donegal)